The headlines on the magazine in the airport bookstore caught my attention: "Will You Be Able To Retire Comfortably? Take Our Quiz!"

I was waiting for a flight to Florida in January. One of the benefits of my network marketing business is traveling to my downline in warm parts of the country during winter months. Since I live in Maine, this was an important and motivating goal when I started my business, and is still one of my favorite benefits, 16 years later.

Lately, I've had occasion to think about "retirement." My husband is semi-retired, and I'm only about seven years away from traditional retirement age. So I was curious to "take the quiz." Carefully adding up all the figures, according to the method they provided, I discovered I would need to invest roughly $1000 a month for the next seven years to give myself the income level I wanted (80 percent of my current income) at retirement.

Of course, the authors of the quiz were assuming that my working income would cease at retirement age! Even with Social Security and a pension, a working woman of my age and comparable income would need to put away a considerable portion of her paycheck (probably more than she could afford) in order to live well in retirement. At that moment, I gained an entirely new appreciation for my network marketing business! Being able to "retire" on residual income is one of the best benefits of network marketing.

Or is it?

In fact, while we position our industry in opposition to the old "work hard for 40 years, get a gold watch and retire" kind of business, we often tell our prospects that long-term residual income (so we can retire and still have the money coming in) is a realistic goal. The question is, how exactly does one "retire" from this business?

Throughout my networking career, I've constantly "reinvented" myself and my business (see Networking Times, January 2003). Downline distributors and customers can be notoriously unreliable; marketing realities mandate inventing new business strategies on a regular basis. I've come to understand that "retirement" in any traditional sense may be neither possible nor desirable. So what does "retirement" look like to a network marketer?


Redefining Retirement

Ray Cassano, the highly successful networker who created a famous prospecting audiotape back in the mid-90's, believes that retirement is "a frame of mind." Says Ray, "If I can do what I want every day--that's retirement!" When a distributor achieves enough income to change lifestyles--from a nine-to-five job to setting the hours and working from home, for example--that's redefining retirement.

Few people really want to do "nothing." Retirees from the traditional workplace are often disoriented until they find a meaningful way to occupy their hours; many turn to community service. Networkers find that making a contribution is a built-in benefit of this lifestyle. Why wait until age 65 to do what you love? If you have found the right company, and the right business, much of what you do is not really work. When I'm asked how many hours I "work" at my business, I'm always a bit hard-pressed for an answer! Was that trip to Florida "work"?

One way in which we can redefine retirement is to incorporate into everyday life more of the lifestyle rewards that we traditionally postpone--I like to think of it as "semi-retirement." Often networkers fail to appreciate what can be accomplished with even a relatively small commission check. A few hundred dollars every month can be more rewarding when it's used to satisfy lifestyle goals, rather than just rolling it into the household checking account, where it may have little impact. If your long-term goal is to have freedom to travel, use a percentage of every check to save for a vacation, or take a getaway weekend.

The additional income from a networking business can be a big contribution to "semi-retirement" long before it is sufficient to create complete lifestyle freedom.


Retiring From a Full-time Business

Once you are successful in creating full-time income through your networking business, a time may come when you wish to step away from full involvement. As Robert Kiyosaki points out, successful networkers are business owners, not just self-employed entrepreneurs. As a responsible business owner, you will have put certain safeguards in place that make decreased involvement practical. Here are a few, mentioned by the most successful distributors in the industry:

Sponsor and mentor those who are really connected with your company, product and opportunity. They will be more reliable long-term. Don't try to persuade the unwilling.

Maximize your compensation plan--and then some. Be sure you fulfill the requirements with a cushion so you don't risk your benefits.

Don't leave all your eggs in one basket. Set aside a percentage of the income and invest in other assets such as property, trust funds, securities, and your own retirement and Social Security funds.

Pave the way for your downline to follow you. Put strategies and trainings in place so those coming along behind you have the same chance for success. You will benefit in the long term, too!

Have support in place for your customers and distributors, perhaps a paid employee (make him or her a distributor, too!) or family member who can work at your direction.

Enjoy every day, whether you are working hard full-time, or are semi-retired, or are...however you define "retired"!



HANNAH INESON is a seasoned network marketer who lives with
her husband John in Damariscotta, Maine. She was the featured
"Master Networker" in our January 2003 issue.