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Senior Correspondent

Average or Above Average: It’s Your Choice

Satisfying Retirement

Being average means doing what is expected, following the ordinary path or making the usual choices. Few people decide they'd like to grow up be be average. But average is what most of us become. Don’t rock the boat, don’t stand out, don’t make waves, reduce your risks. It is the safe choice. It is the average choice.

I’m guessing you want more. You want each day to be special, to mean something. You’d like your life to follow a path that you create. You aren't looking forward to an average retirement, you want a truly satisfying retirement. If so then here’s my answer: ignore common wisdom. Just forget it. Common is average. Your life can be more by being different. Here are four things to consider if you truly want to break from the pack and create a satisfying retirement lifestyle that is under your control.

Short cuts can will get you lost. Too many people think they have figured out how to get something for nothing. Hard work is for other people. The path to glory and greatness lies through other's efforts or money. Don’t bother perfecting your skills. Don’t waste time learning what you need to know. Look for the easy way to your goal. Look for the shortcut.

Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a forest with no easy way out. I am afraid there are no shortcuts on the road to a non-average life. You have to want that life enough to be willing to work hard for it. There is no bypass on this road. You see the sign for the shortcut, and choose the other path.

Experts often know less than you. Our society worships experts. If someone is an expert, whatever he or she says must be right. It is certainly better than what you think or believe. You can save a lot of time and worry by just doing what they say, buy what they think is best, and live how they have determined is best.

Bunk. An expert is often self-identified. That label may not be backed up by a track record or experience. That person has no idea what works best for you in your unique set of circumstances. Is it possible that maybe you are the best expert in figuring what is right for you? Stop blindly listening to every "expert" talking head. Start listening to yourself more. After all, you are more than average.

Newer isn’t always better. Isn't it true that we sometimes upgrade, replace, or redo out of boredom with the old? Commercials have convinced us our life will be a whole lot better with the latest…whatever. Newer is always better. Our clothes will be whiter, our teeth brighter, and our home life more pleasant if we just replace this with that.

I don't believe that. Today’s appliances are made to fail, whereas the stuff from 20 years ago would last forever. Getting most home appliances or electronic equipment is impossible. You will be told it would cost more to fix something to just replace it.

But, guess what? Sometimes you can resist that siren call and be just fine. Computers will work years after Microsoft wants you to upgrade to Windows 10 or 11 or whatever. Often all those updates do is make your other equipment like printers or disc drives obsolete. With decent care, your car can easily go 125,000 miles or more and be fully paid for. But, to resist the constant call to buy what is new and improved takes above average will power.

You can’t spend your way out of debt. This is not what our consumer society wants you to do. In 2006, back before our last one (or is it now two) recession the average household spent 133 percent of what it earned. I haven't seen any more recent figures but I’d suggest there is a very direct correlation between that kind of mindset and the economic mess of of the last few years. Our entire average way of life is built on  credit for housing, cars, giant TVs, vacation, just about everything. Waiting is just so…unnecessary.

Sometimes credit is helpful and necessary. Few of us can buy a home with cash in our checking account. The problem arises when we attempt to fund our day-to-day lives with credit we can’t pay back. Suddenly your life is out of your control. Decisions you make are predicated on how you can balance this bill against that credit card, against that obligation. Your entire lifestyle can collapse in a week or two if you lose your job. The solution seems rather obvious. But, with the average American household having total credit card debt of $15,000, apparently not. 

Do you want to be more than than average? Do you see the flaws in the four ways of thinking and acting listed above. Do you have the desire to excel and exceed expectations. It does take above average will power, determination, and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. You will have to ban average from your vocabulary.

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