Thursday
Oct112012

Plan your retirement by unwinding attachments

 

Retirement planning today is based on a combination of two visions of what we want. First we visualize what we want based on fears of lack of material support as we grow older when we may not be able to work to earn a living wage. And at the same time we have a desire to live a comfortable life without having to exert to work for a living wage.

The solution prescribed (for most of us, which excludes those who are either independently wealthy through their own efforts or through inheritance) is to save from one's earnings today and hoard those earnings for use when we retire. So we have to control and manage what we consume today, so that we can consume in the future: delayed gratification. That is the moral lesson - be frugal today and live frugally in the future.

The underlying driver in both is still this notion of consuming that which can be acquired with money.

Is there an alternative to this pattern of living and planning for retirement? Advaita Life Practice helps you explore answers to this question. We talk about it at our group and individual coaching sessions: how to play our social roles excellently without getting attached to them. To step back and learn how to act the roles without having to buy into the consumption patterns that are supposed to go with those roles.

What is it that we want to consume? Each one of us can come up with long lists in response to such a question. We will look at three kinds of consumptions: for physical well-being, for pleasure and for social identity.

Let’s look at these three in the reverse order and see how consuming social identity drives what we consume for our physical well-being and pleasure.  An example of social identity is being a successful scientist, doctor, lawyer, business owner. Success means that over time professional status improves, money net worth increases and your children (if you have any) are also on their way to acquiring social identities that provide a path to a similar success. You then have to consume in keeping with your social identity: house(s), car(s), vacations, wardrobes, schools (for your children), membership of clubs, cultural entertainment and hundreds of other consumables that go with each social identity. And in retirement you carry the social identity with you and you consume to reflect your social identity in the past.

Do a thought experiment on your own social identity along the lines of the example and gauge for yourself how your thought and action patterns are driven by your current or evolving social identity. And how that in turn drives how you to plan for your retirement.

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

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