I’m at the age where life forces me to think about retirement. And, frankly, I find it unsettling.
I spent my 20s, 30s, and 40s just assuming I would always be in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. And here I am—55—and thinking to myself, “Damn—12 more years until full Social Security retirement age! How did this happen? I don’t remember voting on this!”
Money is clearly top of mind. I mean, money isn’t the be all and end all of retirement; I get that.
But adequate cash will certainly make retirement less worrisome. I regularly think about whether I have enough cash. With my expected Social Security income and my nest egg, I think so…
And then I see a survey that just came out from the Insured Retirement Institute indicating that more than half of the people surveyed have less than $50,000 in savings for retirement. These are folks between the ages of 40 and 73, and nearly 60% are stuffing less than 10% of their income into retirement savings.
A third aren’t even saving 5%.
Mind you, I’m not pointing fingers here. I understand why retirement-savings rates are so feeble.
The cost of living in the U.S. is astronomical. Wages have been largely stagnant for decades. Inflation (real inflation, not the fairy tales the government writes every month) have pillaged pocketbooks and hollowed out the middle class.
Making ends meet in America is now a national sport.
I truly feel for those who look at their retirement-account balance and feel helpless. Or those who refuse to even peek inside the envelope because they don’t want sadness in their life today.
This is one of the reasons I like to write about freelancing. I know the opportunity it represents.
But I also know that a lot of people in my cohort, or those a bit older, look down on freelancing. We were raised that way. Freelancers were flighty. Couldn’t hold down a real job. Lived on the margins. They were couch-squatters and beggars of a few bucks to tide them over until their next assignment came through.
A totally different world.
As I’ve mentioned various times, I’ve been freelancing as a script-doctor for just over a year. (In later life, I studied screenwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles.)
In that period, I’ve made well into the five figures, and that was all part-time—maybe 15 or 20 hours a month, mainly at night when I’d otherwise be watching Netflix or HBO, or hanging out at a pub.
And, honestly, some nights I am hanging out at a pub near my apartment, nursing a Czech beer, and doctoring a script.
Because of the internet, writers from all over the world reach out to me all the time. I’ve worked with Americans and Canadians, but also Brits and French, Germans and Austrians. Norwegians and Swedes. Russians, Nigerians…and Aussies and Kiwis down under.
As a freelancer these days, the world is literally your cubicle.
Work comes to you. You don’t have to cold call or send out a bazillion queries and proposals, praying one or two actually get back with you.
You list your services online at one of the many—many!—freelancing sites that exist these days and, boom, you have clients hitting you up from all over the place.
Writer, artist, logo designer, accountant, proofreader, translator, voiceover talent, musician, animator, office assistant, programmer, consultant, tutor, language teacher… I mean, there’s just a never-ending plethora of freelancing jobs on these sites that allow you to work whenever and wherever you want.
At an expat British pub in Malta last month, I met a guy from Wales—in his 40s—who was working on a book cover that a writer of a romance novel hired him to design. He was partly drawing, partly drinking, partly watching an England-India cricket match playing on a TV above the bar.
“I had an office job,” he told me. “Hated that office and that job. This is a far better life. Much better pay.” He’d been in Malta three weeks. Planned on staying until the end of September. Then he was heading to Thessaloniki in Greece through Christmas.
“After that… hmmm. Haven’t really thought that far ahead,” he told me.
So, yes, maybe the retirement account balance isn’t as robust as one might have hoped at this point. But that doesn’t have to result in an underwhelming retirement. If you have a skill set of pretty much any kind, there’s someone online, somewhere in the world, who wants to pay you to do what you do best.