Give Me Back My Five Bucks

What does retirement mean to you?

Early retirement has always been my biggest financial goal. I talk about it all the time on this blog: I want to retire by the time I’m in my mid 50’s. But what does “retire” actually mean?

My dad retired this year at age 65. He had wanted to retire earlier, but since he didn’t have a pension with the company he worked for, he had to wait and save. As for my mom, she’s got a nice government pension waiting for her when she retires – likely while she’s still in her 50’s. She worked at the government for almost her entire career, and as I look back at the first 8 years of my career, I haven’t had that kind of stability at all. And without a company pension to look forward to in 25 years, the cost of early retirement stresses me out a bit.

When I do my retirement calculations, I don’t include CPP or OAS payments, because I’m not sure I can rely on that money being there for me 35 years from now. But that being said, the average combined annual payout from CPP and OAS is currently $12,528 and the maximum annual payout is $18,372. So if that money is still there when I retire, it will be a significant amount of cash coming in that I haven’t been planning for. Wouldn’t that be nice?

So when I think about retirement, what does that actually look like for me? Retirement to me means having the freedom to do whatever I want to do, without the obligation to work for a living. I guess you could call it financial independence, rather than retirement. I know myself pretty well, and I know that I likely won’t stop working completely when I retire. But I’d like that option, if that’s what I want to do. Maybe some people wouldn’t consider that actually retiring. But retirement can mean different things to different people. Maybe I’ll volunteer. Maybe I’ll travel (I’ll definitely travel). Maybe I’ll become a landlord, or work part-time in a coffee shop, or maybe I’ll still be earning an income through this blog. Who knows what I’ll be up to! But whatever it is, it’ll be my choice, and it won’t be based on the need to bring in an income. Freedom.

Related: Why 20-somethings might have trouble retiring by 65

I’m 31 right now. I’ve always envisioned retiring back in my hometown, with a small home by the ocean. But, a lot can happen in the next 25 years, and I don’t subscribe to the idea of necessarily needing retirement to look a certain way. I may have this exact lifestyle for the rest of my life, or maybe marriage and kids are in my future. Maybe my retirement will look completely different than what I’m thinking of. So while I have very little financial obligation right now in my life, it only makes sense to try and save as much as possible in case I’m not able to later on in life. Kids are expensive. Emergencies will happen. Big travel plans will appear. Health will deteriorate. I want to work hard now while I’m young(ish) and able-bodied, because when I’m older I know I’d rather be doing anything instead of working for a pay cheque and worrying about money. :)

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my 2014 goals, and since early retirement is still a priority for me, you’ll see that reflected in what I have planned for next year.

What does retirement mean to you? At what age are you looking to retire?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. FI Pilgrim says:

    Krystal, early retirement/financial independence is a high priority on my list, and my definition closely matches yours. “Never again having to trade my time for money”. I’m only 32 but I just started my FI journey a few years ago, and with a wife and 3 kids in tow I’ll probably be well into my 40s before I have a chance of getting there.

  2. It’s a priority for us. We want to be FI, so we can consider other paths, living elsewhere, etc. I do think it’s hard to envision retirement. All I know is that I want the freedom to do whatever I want.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Krystal, I love when you post all the small living space articles. I saw this circulating on my FB feed and thought you might want to take a look.

    After losing her home in a divorce this woman built her own house for $11k. Pretty cool.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Awesome, thanks for the link! :) I’ve always imagined having a small home like that out in the mountains somewhere.

  4. Melissa Caba says:

    As a 22 year old, I am starting out my career. I want to write for a living so I don’t think I am ever going to retire. I have the same mindset as you. I just want to have the abiity to do as please without much worry. I live in New York City so my cost of living is much higher than most so retirement is something I am always thinking about.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Do you see yourself living in NYC for your entire career, and when you retire? If the answer is no, then your cost of living will likely decrease at some point in your life. That’s something to think about for sure. I definitely don’t want to live in Vancouver when I’m retired.

      • Melissa Caba says:

        Yeah I do. I truly enjoy the city life too much to leave it. I have never been the type of person that needs to retire to a nice quiet life. I would get bored a month in. I know NYC is extremely expensive but at the same time, I am paying for a experience like no other.

  5. Micro says:

    If things go well, I’m hoping that I can retire sometime in my 40s. I never seem to have enough vacation time when it comes to visiting friends and family. If I can get to the point of being financially independent though, I will have all the time I could ever want. Which is really useful since my friends and family are scattered across different parts of the US.

  6. I can’t imagine what retirement will look like for me. Right now I work for myself, from home, any hours I want, any time off that I want…I live on half of my income (a comfortable 5 figures, but nothing extraordinary) and travel my butt off all year long for fun, including living abroad because my work is location independent. Given all this, I don’t see the point of not working – I think I’d feel kind of worthless. I’m still 20+ years from the official retirement age and a lot will no doubt happen in that time, but I must admit, it’s not something I’m particularly looking forward to.

  7. Exactly how I feel although I don’t technically want to retire.

    It’s nice not having to think about work or worry about money.. which is what I’d call financial independence, and I’d rather have that than a retirement goal to be honest. You can reach independence before retirement.

    Then the choice is up to you.

  8. SP says:

    Yes, agree. I save as much as I can now (without sacrificing my current happiness).

    I really do want to retire early, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do THINGS. People who say they don’t want to retire because they love work confuse me, but I realize everyone is built a little differently. I love work, but I also like a lot of things that don’t necessarily make money, and I’m definitely imaginative and motivated enough to find interesting and challenging ways to fill my time.

  9. By my calculations, I’ll be able to retire by late 50s. So yes early retirement but not SUPER early. And I will be living a very modest lifestyle. I guess if I wanted to I could retire later and travel MORE… But I would probably like to just stop working. heh.

  10. cvivien says:

    Interesting comments above. When you talk to your dad who has retired does he not worry about money now that he’s officially retired? Is he financially free because he doesn’t have to go to his day job anymore?

    Sometimes I think retirement / financial freedom is akin to a mindset, because as long as we’re living, expending, and consuming without knowing exactly when that day ends we’ll never be sure enough is enough.

    It also comes down to how secure one’s mindset is towards finances IMO. I do agree with putting aside for rainy days and building nest eggs of course.

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