ALEXANDRIA, VA (Dec. 14, 1999) -- Fools, one day, it is going to look you square in the eye and say, "Brother, what were you doing all those years?" Or it will say, "Sister, great job! You're ready to play the retirement game with pizzazz."

"It" is retirement, and in one form or another, the faster that we run through life, the faster that "it" chases after us. Finally, we'll stop running, turn, and it'll be right there at our heels, ready to smack us hard in the jaw. That is, unless we plan ahead of time. Unless we learn to accept time's inevitable sweeping wave now (melodrama is underrated, no?) and face the fact that one day we won't want to get up every day and go to work, retirement is going to hit us with hard realities when we finally consider it.

For many of us, the day that we will want to retire will arrive long before the age of 62. In fact, the fateful day has been known to strike in my family at the age of 22, 24, and again at 26, and that's just in my case, not to mention my three siblings. Each time that the desire struck me and was heeded, I soon had to come out of retirement because you can't live very well on a few hundred bucks a year, even when living in hostels. So, I'm now saving for a lasting retirement.

The precise age that each of us finally enters a lasting retirement will differ greatly, but planning for retirement early and then later investing Foolishly throughout your retirement is vitally, critically, and indisputably important.

The first order of business, though, is to define retirement. Like direct investing, the term "retirement" is being redefined as our lives change. Rather than seeing retirement as a time to sit under a palm tree, many of us now see retirement as an active endeavor. In fact, many of us see retirement as a "working" retirement. You may not be working for big money, or any money at all, but you could be working on personal ambitions. In this sense, most of us will never "retire" from life.

Given this, an updated definition of retirement, and a more positive one, is necessary. The following is how I now define retirement. See if this helps you define it, too.