Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Retirement planning

I’m in my late 40’s, and it appears that I’ll have at least another 15, but with hope, not more than 20 years more to work. Much like everyone else my age, retirement planning is taking more and more importance in my view of things.

One item that I think a lot of people don’t think much about, and leave to chance is the question of what will be their “retirement job.” I want to get a notion of what I could do in retirement that I might be able to get a start on much earlier to see if I like it, and get good enough at it that I might be able to make a little money, which is the ultimate goal.

I know some guys who could finish basements or build decks, but I don’t have those skills or really the interest. Working in a bookstore sounds interesting, but the main skill required in a bookstore is the ability to lift heavy boxes of books; and besides, I’ve worked in retail before, and I don’t really want to do that again.

I don’t even want to think about ending up at a McDonald’s or a Home Depot.

Without any immediate answers, I resolved to let the question stand, revisit it from time to time, and turn it over from as many different viewpoints as I could.

Last New Year, I took a job with a new company. I am now working for a large Japanese corporation. Something I noticed was that the translations of our technical documentation was in pretty rough shape. They are either done by software in Japan and shipped over here to be proofread, or translated one of two people with whom I work (neither a native English speaker).

I’ve always been interested in Chinese and Japanese things, especially martial arts and philosophy. I decided to make an opportunity for myself to learn Japanese. If I could get my fingers into some of the translation work, I’ll have secured another hook into my long term viability with the company (with things being what they are these days, we don’t want to take our job security for granted). Also, being able to communicate with the Japanese in my company well in their own language could only help me.

To tie this back into retirement planning, with 15 to 20 years to polish my Japanese language skills, having a technical marketing background, and certainly being in the right place to learn the technical jargon, I can see myself as some sort of business consultant and free lance translator.

It may not be perfect, but it’s a plan, and I’ve been following it. I’m almost through the first of five “levels” of lessons at

Right now, I have a basic grammar, a growing vocabulary, and can read hiragana, one of the four types of writing used in Japan. I’m about to start on katagana. I’m also about to subscribe to a bilingual Japanese magazine to put my study to work, making me apply what I’ve learned, which will make it stick.

If nothing else, I will have learned something interesting.

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