If you approach retirement as a time to pursue your art, then saving for retirement becomes a personal goal. Blogger Shannon McNay shares how she’ll be using her retirement to write.

When I dream about retirement, I see myself sitting at my desk and doing the work I love the most: writing books.

However, since it’s incredibly hard to get published (and even harder to become a successful author), I’ve found other ways to use my art to survive financially. My dream of writing great novels and going on book tours never goes away. When I think about retirement, writing stories is the picture I have in mind—and here’s how I plan to make it happen.

Determining My Retirement Strategy

Sometimes I consider myself lucky that my goal is such a moonshot. While it can be frustrating that there’s no clear, direct path to my dream, I enjoy strategizing the plan for my success—mostly because of what I get to discover and learn along the way.

To help visualize my goal, I entered it at the top of a triangle. Nothing fancy, I just drew a compartmentalized triangle on a blank sheet of paper and then filled it in from the base up.

For example, I know my ultimate goal is to be a published author who’s successful enough to continue getting published and to live off of the royalties. Since that’s a lofty goal, I had to figure out what I can do now to help me get there.

Through research, I learned that authors are more likely to get book deals if they have active social media platforms (many Twitter followers, a large email subscriber base, etc.). The best way to gain that platform is to write online, so I devoted a section of my triangle to grow a platform.

But I had a more pressing need to address first: How do I get paid to write until then? While I already had a job that would have supported me for years, it wasn’t an optimal position for gaining the experience necessary for success—I needed work that would help me grow as a writer.

That’s when I realized what should make up the base of my triangle is writing gigs that pay well enough to survive until I become a published author. Writing online will also help me start building a platform and establishing my brand.

To make a very long story short, I moved from New York to San Francisco, learned about content marketing, got a job at a startup, and eventually worked my way up to becoming an (almost) full-time writer. Then, when I moved back to New York, I became a full-time writer and launched my own business.

Now, the two bottom sections of my triangle are in play:

  • Get paid to write all day every day
  • Build a platform (I don’t have 20k Twitter followers yet, but I’m working on it)

Fill in Your Triangle

An artist must share their art just like a doctor must work in medicine. When we feel called to do something, we’ll never feel fulfilled until we answer the call.

That’s why it’s so important to figure out how you’ll answer your call. Is your goal a moonshot? What are the things you can start doing now to make it more realistic? In a perfect world, the work of achieving your goal (no matter how fantastic) will be as fulfilling as the goal itself. But if not…

Use Retirement to Meet Your Goals

Here’s the deal: I may never become a successful author. It’s a hard career to break into, and much harder to become successful enough to earn a living. That’s why it’s so important for me to find fulfillment in the lower steps on my triangle. That’s also why I don’t think of cruises and piña coladas when I think of retirement.

When I plan for retirement, I’m not planning for the day when I can finally stop working, and jet set around the world. I love working, and I have no desire ever to stop.

When I dream of retirement, I dream of being able to stop working on my business and start writing books—whether they get published or not. I imagine waking up, making coffee, and writing until my hands and mind are exhausted for the day. And if there’s a way to save enough to retire early and do that sooner, then I’m all over it.

Start Saving for Retirement

The reason so few Millennials save for retirement isn’t because we’re flaky or irresponsible—it’s because our jobs don’t always come with retirement savings like they have for previous generations. Trying to save on our own while also tackling the student loan debt monster makes retirement feel irrelevant.

There is no rulebook for retirement. You can plot your retirement as a goal itself. And once you do, you might find it worthwhile to save aggressively and reach that goal before you hit your sixth or seventh decade of life.

So how can you do it? Start that retirement account now—and remember you’re not doing it for cruises and piña coladas, you’re doing it for your art. Think you don’t make enough to save? That’s where the magic of compound interest comes into play. If you put away even as little as $25 per month now, compound interest means that you’ll earn more in the long run than you would if you doubled that money 10 years from now.

Set up that retirement account and invest it into mutual funds for a conservative, relatively safe way to grow your wealth. You can even do this automatically through robo-advisors, though you still may want to consider an IRA for the tax benefit. When you get into the habit of doing that, you can grow your contribution as you grow your income. This all amounts to getting that much closer to your goal of living off your art.

I may have never thought retirement was relevant to me before, but the more I realize it’s just more time I can devote to my art, the more I want to make retirement happen. Do you think it’s worth putting a little bit of money away each month to get you that much closer to your moonshot?

This photo shows freelance writer Shannon McNay

Shannon McNay is personal finance writer who loves to talk about the emotional side of personal finance. Her work has been published in Business Insider, DailyWorth, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, ReadyForZero, Yahoo! Finance, and more. You can follow her on Twitter.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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