This is What Retirement Could Look Like if You’re Ready

5S and Muda – Crucial Tools for Just-In-Time Retirement

For the older worker, a wage-paying job or career has no future. Using it to build an inventory (waste) of wealth to provide for an unknowable future hampers one from adding value to the life that ultimately follows the demise of the regular job.

Do you need the job, or is it a vehicle for increasing your portfolio in advance of your impending “permanent unemployment”?

From a business perspective, this non-Lean thinking is equivalent to accepting that, as it is now run, your business only has a number of years before it is obsolete. Instead of funneling profits into new value streams, you concede defeat and plan on living out your days, surviving on those wasted profits.

A business is an asset. It generates wealth just by being a (viable) business.

A savings account (stocks, banks, real estate) generates no wealth and reflects more the state of the currency than any growth in value. I compare a financial portfolio to building a house and not insuring it.

They both seem to have value, but one day a fire comes, and then they do not.

Be smart. Treat your retirement as your Lean business enterprise and let value pull you into a satisfying future.

In order to grasp how Lean thinking works, I’ll briefly describe the concepts of 5S and Muda (the seven wastes) from the Toyota Production System.

5S Describes how to organize for efficiency and effectiveness.

No. 1 – Sort: Check all items in a location and evaluate whether or not their presence at the location is useful or necessary. Remove unnecessary items as soon as possible.

No. 2 – Set in Order: Put all necessary items in the optimal place for fulfilling their function.

No. 3 – Shine: Clean up and restore order each day.

No. 4 – Standardize: Establish procedures to ensure the repetition of the first three “S” practices.

No. 5 – Sustain: Develop the self-discipline to ensure that 5S procedures are followed habitually.

Muda – The Seven Forms of Waste

No. 1 -Transport: Moving products in a way not actually required to add value.

No. 2 – Inventory: All work in progress or finished product not currently adding value.

No. 3. – Motion: People or equipment moving more than is required to produce value.

No. 4 – Waiting: Time wasted waiting for the next production step.

No. 5 – Overproduction: Production ahead of demand. Demand always pulls the value stream.

No. 6 – Over Processing: Poor product or process design, requiring extra activity.

No. 7 – Defects: The effort expended on not doing the job right the first time.

Creating Abundance with a Lean Retirement

Using the principles of 5S, create a virtual workspace inside your mind. Since it’s only imaginary, instead of naysaying, try to let good things come into your workspace.

-Sort based on value (everything else is waste).

Learn to eliminate the “buts”.

I would like to retire, “but” I don’t have enough money.

I would like to fish, “but” I don’t have a boat.

Truly practice visualizing only the value and discarding the waste or storing it away from the workspace.

I would like to read books by the beach. In this exercise, in our mind, we eliminate waste.  As you progress, you can bring Lean thinking to the physical world.

What do we need in order to read by the beach?

  • Books
  • Beach
  • Comfortable chair
  • A place to eat, bathe and sleep that is close to the beach

What we don’t need in order to read by the beach and will remove from our workspace.

  • Money in the bank
  • A house in the suburbs close to the old career
  • Hawaii (the Bahamas will do just fine)

These items may have value in another project, but not here. If they are not sorted out of the picture, they will drag down and destroy any chance of success.

-Set in Order

Now that we have removed waste from our exercise, we can focus on those necessary items. What we will find is that books, beaches, chairs and beach houses are very doable! It is only waste that prevents one from achieving what they value.


Clean up and re-evaluate every time you work on your value stream.


Establish procedures to guarantee that all projects are evaluated using the same methods.


Develop a Lean mindset to allow your virtual projects to flow into your “Just in Time Retirement”.

This is the 3rd installment in the series, Just in Time Retirement. To get up to speed with this method, please read:

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