Editor’s Note | This month we explored growing wealth for retirement, which is a substantial limiting factor when considering our nation’s wealth gap. When done aggressively, early retirement is possible -although difficult- to achieve. Although the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement is intriguing, we doubt its feasibility for most young adults. Health, family, work, and systemic institutional limitations prevent many of us from saving enough for ordinary retirement, let alone “early” retirement. So we asked Nav.igators in our community to consider retirement and the wealth gap, their motivation for financial independence and our principles of FREE (financial resilience, empowered early) as an accessible, achievable goal for all.
By Emily Korteweg | 26 June 2020
In all honesty, I never understood the idea of retiring. Though I of course respect the notion, the goal of not working by a specific age has never, and I do mean never, crossed my mind. What I do might change, but “doing” will not. So when Nav.it asked me to talk about that exact topic, it took me a moment to think of what to say.
Why do I not want to stop working? I think the explanation is threefold: 1) Nurture: I was raised with the concept that your work defines you. Something I do believe, but that I had to find the right balance in as I grew up. 2) Nature: I love it. I love the grind. I love the challenge. 3) My work gives me purpose. Especially in the past weeks, I realized how grateful and fueled I feel by the current potential of our company. In my case – through filmmaking, TV, and the bigger vision beyond that – I believe that the stories we tell, the people that tell them and the ecosystem of people that brings, generates growth from the inside out.
I love this work, and am fulfilled by it. I’ve had the fortune to have access to education and pick my direction, my own path. I am acutely aware that too few people in this country, and globally, have this opportunity or even dare to dream of it. For many, financial confidence and freedom through a budding pocket of savings and low to no debt, is unattainable. To tackle this, we have to educate ourselves and fight for better education for others. As a non-citizen I cannot vote in the US, but I can listen, learn, and I can buckle down and work towards that.
Though there are many macro issues to confront when it comes to education, what I can best speak to is my individual experience. I studied Finance and have a Master’s Degree from a top business school in London. I would crack econometric models. One of my proudest papers was on the IPO of Saudi Aramco, and another on the intended acquisition of Time Warner by Comcast (note, my thesis was to abort it!) I thought I knew my shit. When I handed in those papers after a sleepless night, I even felt like the shit. Cut to a few months later out in the real world…like many others, I discovered that I was not the shit.
Financial reality is hard.
This world involves credit and taxes. And unbeknownst to a young woman coming from another continent, this world means living on credit gets you ‘points’ and ‘scores’, and this system is practically your only way to get a lease or a home in an ever-more globalised, automated and bureaucratic society. Despite my fortunate background, I struggled. And If I struggled with this on some level, then how does that look for others? I wondered why formal education omitted classes on everyday financial literacy. Why is it not a mandatory component of any schooling at any level? And why do we not make this – the system and access that influences what our life will look like – a bigger topic of discussion than retirement?
The idea Nav.it’s co-founder Maia proposed – from FIRE to FREE – immediately clicked: Financially Resilient, Empowered Early. This is a mindset. Having the freedom to choose your path, unburdened by the system that (currently) exists; and maybe even having the tools to change it. So when we say “retirement” in a modern context, let’s talk about the idea of financial independence as its own goal, vs the goal of “not working”. In that way, we can aspire to achieve through work the opportunity to do things that further contribute and make us feel purposeful and thereby happier – be that work, volunteering, traveling, spending time with family, or creating.
To quote the endlessly eloquent and insightful James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.”
Emily Korteweg is the Head of Development at Watch This Ready, an LA based production company with a first look deal at Topic Studios. Formerly at Verve Talent Agency, Emily is leading the development of several adaptations and commissioned projects at Watch This Read, across film and TV. Emily was a producer on THE CLIMB (Cannes Un Certain Regard 2019 / Sony Pictures Classics) as well as several short films. She has a relentless appetite for the power of storytelling, at the intersection of art and commerce.
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