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Finding Financial Independence

You may have seen this headline: "Bush Parachutes for 80th Birthday." On Sunday, June 13, former President George H.W. Bush dropped out of a plane at 13,000 feet in tandem with a six-man Army team. He did a 60-second free fall, floated down another five minutes, and landed on the grounds of his presidential library, near where he will one day be buried.

"I think it sets an example for older people... [just] because you are 80 years old that doesn't mean you are out of it, out of the game," he stated, according to CNN.

I don't know what you make of this, but my first thought when I read the story was that this is a living, real-world demonstration of our Motley Fool beliefs -- best exhibited in our new Rule Your Retirement newsletter service -- about so-called "retirement." We began our new book, The Motley Fool's Money After 40, by simply asking, "Why Retire?":

Let's please agree not to refer to any period of our lives as "retirement." We should almost always shoot for its exact opposite: engagement. Engagement will make you forget to ask yourself, "What are you retiring from?" Engagement asks the very much more relevant and interesting question: "What are you living for?" (p.5)

For the 41st president, a very clear answer to that more relevant and interesting question is apparently, "I am living for the purpose of challenging myself, and at the same time reminding my generation to stay engaged. Whatever your age in life, stay engaged, and aim pleasantly to surprise yourself."

I did once jump out of a plane myself, a mere 3,000-foot jump with no free fall, and, while I enjoyed it at the time, I must say that I'm not real psyched about ever going back. So the courage that it takes to drop out of a plane more than once (as Bush has done), especially embarking upon one's ninth decade, will always impress me.

But this isn't about courage. It's about engagement. Engagement, not "retirement," is the end that we should seek.

Now, what are the means to that end? Money is a large part of those means. If you truly want to engage the world, and on your terms, you're going to want the financial resources to be able to act freely, according to your truest desires... according to your very own best-imagined picture of engagement.

To act freely, you'll need Freedom.

I capitalize that word because it is my favorite word in the English language. I truly believe, as we celebrate July Fourth, that this kind of Freedom is the very soul of the "American Dream." Oft-mentioned, infrequently defined, the American Dream is being able to do whatever you want to in life, within the bounds of common law and common decency. And the greatest lives led are those that don't just enjoy Freedom, but take the fruits borne of it and share them around so that others might partake. That's what I want to do with my life. And "retirement" has no role to play in it, at any point, whatsoever.

This Dream is no stranger to our fellow Americans. The New York Times wrote it plain, recently: "In a global poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2002, 65 percent of Americans said their success depended on forces within their control, more than double the percentage in old world countries like Italy and Germany, and triple that of India, Turkey, or Pakistan." There is something inherently and powerfully good about this. We are a people who believe far more than other peoples of the world that we shape destinyfar more than destiny ever shapes us.

So God bless former President Bush that he continues to live such a life. This has nothing to do with his politics. It has much to do with character.

And it has much to do, of course, with our Rule Your Retirement service, where we aim to help you achieve the Freedom of engagement -- now and throughout the second half of your life.

Happy Independence Day. Happy quest for Freedom.

David Gardner is co-founder of The Motley Fool, which has a disclosure policy.

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