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The Wealth of Our Labor

Most of us are saving for retirement. Whether retirement is a few years ago or still a long ways off we save for it as much as we can throughout our careers. The financial experts advise to have a million dollars or more saved up by the time retire in order to take care of ourselves. That can seem like a lot of money and it really is, but if we save a little over time it builds right? The labor we put into that though is where I question how logical it is to think that wealth should only come from a job we dislike or at the very least promises us no security in building that nest egg.

I remember when companies used to have pensions and if you worked there long enough you could retire and have an income for the rest of your life from that company. I wasn’t lucky enough to be in a place where that existed but I heard they were pretty lucrative for most people. When companies realized one day baby boomers would retire they also realized the pension system wouldn’t be able to support everyone. 401k(s), IRAs and other retirement tools came on the scene with the promise to be a great replacement for the pension. It gave the employee the power to control their future money and not lose it if they changed jobs. There have been a lot of benefits to this strategy but in the end the premise is still based many times on depending on an employer for that 401(k) and perhaps even the matching dollars they provide as a benefit.

The truth is we should be in control of our destiny, including retirement and all the things that lead us to our place of dreams. We spend a lot of lives working and saving for that time when work isn’t needed anymore or we simply can’t do it. However, why is retirement the only place where we think we should have control of our lives? What about the 40 plus years we spend working for that retirement? Shouldn’t the labor of our hands during that time matter for our wealth of living today? I think so.

It is not easy though is it? As in there is a lot of work, time, creativity and energy required to pull that whole destiny driven life off. There are days too it really doesn’t seem possible. Yet the alternative is giving away our very power and being dependent on corporations in hopes they don’t fire or lay us off too many time before we get to retirement. With over 70% of people disliking their jobs it also doesn’t sound very motivating. Our labor in those situations is soon forgotten as we are overlooked for promotions, raises or even just being saved from the latest round of restructuring that eliminates jobs.

I’m not saying quit our jobs, at least not yet. Jobs are important and we need them not only for retirement savings now. What I am suggesting however is the wealth of our labor is undervalued and we deserve the opportunity to pursue a life that is beautiful now and when we are done with working. It shouldn’t be one or the other! What worked for me was finding the path that led me to starting my own business while I still work at my job. It is at times stressful and I have to choose one over the other at points but it is the start of that reclaiming for my life.

Before I made my first dollar I had already made something else. I felt empowered for probably the first time in my career. For the first time I felt free to do all the things I kept telling the companies I worked for was the right move but was ignored or rejected. Now I could do those things and see the results myself. I could make decisions without 5 layers of approvals and scrutiny of my ideas. Admittedly, it was liberating and intimidating. The wealth of my labor was now two-fold though and that was something my job or the jobs before that had never given me.