Imagine the following scenario. You are 57-years-old and have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. Realizing that you have less than a decade before “retirement age,” you decide that you are going to do “whatever it takes” (literally!) to get your retirement dreams back on track. So, you set out to find a part-time job with the intention of saving every penny of extra income.

After several months of fruitless searching, you are frustrated, sad and even a little bit angry. Then, one night, you are passing by the local bowling alley on your way home and you see a “help wanted” sign on the window.

Sighing, you turn around and, after a quick conversation with the manager, decide to take on some part-time cleaning work 5 evenings a week.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “This is the most depressing article on retirement that I have ever read!” And, you would be right! But, hang in there, I’m about to make a larger, more positive, point.

A Story of Lemons and Lemonade

One night, at you are scraping a particularly stubborn piece of bubble gum off of a chair, you remember the old saying, “when life throws you lemons, make some lemonade.” So, you decide that, since you are stuck cleaning gum off of tables 5 nights a week, you are going to become the best damn chewing gum cleaner in the history of bowling alleys.

So, when you get home, you log into Google and start searching for articles on “how to remove gum.” What you find changes your life forever.

First, you discover that thousands of people are searching for ways to remove gum from everything from their hair to their car seats. Gum, as it turns out, is a universally sticky problem.

Second, you find that most of the information that the so-called “experts” have put out there is badly written and incomplete.

So, you make a decision…

You ARE the Chewing Gum Guy

After four weeks working at the bowling alley, you decide that enough is enough. You hand in your notice and decide to become “The Chewing Gum Guy.”

You’re not too keen on connecting your personal brand to the gum removal process. After all, you still have a day job. So, you start a blog and set your author profile to “The Chewing Gum Guy.” You also start a YouTube channel where you give demonstrations (showing only your hands) of how to remove gum from carpets and shoes, (fake) pet fur and even your own skin.

On your YouTube channel and your website, you try out home remedies and cleaning supplies. You even contact companies that make gum removal sprays and scrapers. They are more than happy to send you their products to review.

Success is Sweet

After a year of being the Chewing Gum Guy, your website is getting 100,000 page views per month and your YouTube channel is the go-to place for all things gum removal. You join an advertising network and start making an extra $700 per month. You even get a sponsor for your YouTube show, who pays $1,000 a month for a 30-second mention in each episode.

Over the next 10 years, you reduce the time that you spend on gum-related content to 2 hours per week. And, by consistently saving your extra income, you stash away an astonishing $300,000 for retirement.

The Moral of the Story

This is not a story about gum (of course!) This is a story about positivity, creativity and grit. It is a story about making lemonades out of lemons.

One of the great things about being in your 50s or older is that you have perspective and life-experience to draw on. Right now, no matter where you are and what you are doing, I promise that you are surrounded by a gold mine of opportunities. But, to strike it rich, you may need to stop breaking rocks for a few minutes so that you can take in the shiny metal deposits all around you.

This story wasn’t pulled out of thin air. While I don’t know anyone who has built a chewing gum removal empire, I have talked to hundreds of 50 and 60-year-olds who have found ways to make extra money. Here are a few things that tie them together:

  • They are problem solvers
  • They understand the difference between a hobby and a business
  • They see life’s hardships at lessons
  • They have grit
  • They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty
  • They are doers, not talkers

One of my pet peeves is the way that retirement planning books offer simple advice like “Start saving early, invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds and don’t touch your money for 40 years.”

It’s so easy to give up on building your dream retirement if you haven’t “made it” by the time you reach your 50th birthday. The truth is that it is never too late to take massive action and to build a better future.

You may not have as many years to benefit from compound interest. But, you have other multipliers: experience, discipline and perspective being among the most important.

If you are reading this article, chances are you don’t have to scrape gum off of bowling alley tables. But, even if you do, there is nothing stopping you from building your dream retirement. You can do this!

What one action are you going to take today to build your dream retirement? Let’s have a conversation!  

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