This article is meant to discuss the “opportunity cost” of life and how our social structure consistently supports so called “economic benefit” at the expense of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being – not to mention the wonders and experiences the world has to offer that you will never see. An opportunity cost is defined as the lost benefit one receives of something over something else. It is the consequence of choice for better or worse. You want a candy bar, your spouse tells you to get an apple. You remain skinny but still crave chocolate. When we look at the fundamentals of most modern societies in the world they are characterized 100% by financial functions – debt, net worth, material possessions, or bought social status at a country club… you get the point. You are personally a financial function for economic projections – buying vs. renting, unemployment statistics, wage inflation, among many others.

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Very rarely does society encourage anyone to believe in themselves or challenge groupthink. Want another easy example? If you are in the US, ask someone where they vacation and I am pretty sure Mexico comes up regularly as the only international destination. FYI, Puerto Rico is not an international destination. Why is the focus of this article on retirement and what does this mean? An “acceptable retirement” is one of the largest and most controlling variables and the biggest risk of opportunity cost, mainly regret, of who you are and who you will be as a human being.

Currently, the social structure is set up so you are forced to live beyond your means in order to be accepted in society and to save in anticipation that you will continue to live beyond your means. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Now, let me explain very simply without turning this article into an analytical mess. I have read that for most people to retire, the minimum dollar value requirement is at least one million, though some say two million and others say more. Let us assume that one million dollars is necessary for retirement, without which you will be homeless when you hit 62, as most financial “experts” will have you believe.

Also, let’s assume there are no external factors such as political, financial, or currency risks to consider. How do these forecasts of a comfortable retirement even relate to most occupations in society? They don’t, and that is what the bulk of the population fails to realize, and this is the critical point. You are force fed this reality, but if you are passionate about your occupation, doing something like working as a school teacher, police officer, social service worker, nurse, or anyone else earning less than $100,000 year, it is nearly impossible to reach this benchmark. It might as well not even exist, yet everyone adopts it. This is not to say, of course, that someone making more than that cannot also be passionate about their job, but the majority of working adults are not pulling in that kind of salary.

However, there is a counter argument for you analytical minds and it is this: what if I live very minimally on only the basics – say just rice and milk, for example – and save everything I earn? This would be called the opportunity cost of life, your life. Would you really want to eat rice and milk for thirty years to have that million in retirement, only to find out that it isn’t as great as you thought, because you missed out on everything else life had to offer? You may have reached this pinnacle of false “success” but you never learned to play the guitar and you can’t learn now because you have arthritis. You also never learned to scuba dive, paint, or speak another language (or five). The list of regrets is endless and you are an empty vessel.

What is the solution to this dilemma? Instead of changing a materialistic mindset overnight, the short version is to stop listening to so-called experts who are far from being an expert on anything. Just because someone is on TV or in the newspaper giving financial advice doesn’t mean they are competent. They repeat what everyone else is saying and then everyone else starts to believe it without hesitation. You have all the answers and knowledge you need and you will begin to define your comfort zone according to your preferences and experiences, not someone else’s projections of your financial function. Listen to yourself, follow your intuition, and enjoy every moment you have.

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Take that trip you have been dreaming of for the last seven years, because in another seven you will still want to go. Ask the girl out at the coffee shop you see every Tuesday afternoon. Stop in the animal shelter you see every day driving home from work to see if they can use some help. Start focusing on experiences and passions, not items, or a bank balance that creates a false sense of security. The world, believe it or not, is a safe place with an infinite amount of stories and experiences. True success is how you empower the people around you.


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