Can Work Make Your Retirement Better?

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Imagine driving down the highway at 70 mph, radio blaring, with the wind in your hair. Then suddenly slamming your car into reverse.

Leif Kristjansen

I recently heard this analogy used to describe the transition from saving aggressively for retirement one day to spending down your assets the next. This is implied with a traditional retirement.

Since my first blog posts on this site, I’ve been writing about the idea of redefining retirement in a way that makes sense for you. This week I have a guest post from someone who did just that.

Leif Kristjansen blogs at FiveYearFIREescape.com. He shares what gave him the confidence to make big life changes sooner, retiring with few financial worries and plenty of social connection and fulfillment. Take it away Leif….

Overcoming Retirement Anxiety

Are you excited for retirement? What if I could make it more fun and remove any anxiety that can come along with it? I had an epiphany in my last few years of working that has made my post-retirement life amazing and I really want to share it. 

That epiphany especially removed all my financial anxiety, so that even when COVID was coming early 2020 and the stock market was dropping I was able to play it cool. It felt very good.

Let me clear this up first, becoming retired is actually amazing for a number of reasons. Taking care of your children and grandchildren, teaching them and living or reliving the whole parenting experience, are some of the best ways to spend the rest of your life. Then doing other activities that you didn’t have the time to do while working like growing your own garden make it even better. 

But the thing is… With retirement comes many other issues which are best avoided.

That’s why in this article, I will walk though why keeping your current job in a very specific fashion can be the best retirement decision you can make.

Retirement Dilemmas

Retirement can be great. But there are some issues you could bump into.

Lack of purpose

What is being retired all about? Having no work. No one to tell you what to do.

Well, yes but there’s something more. Living that life might get kind of boring eventually. People always want to be occupied with something because that’s human nature.

You’ll want to work towards a goal, get better at it and evolve overall. Working was an easy way to provide that purpose. Post-retirement you need to fill that gap somehow.

Social life

You were working 8 hours a day so it’s just reasonable to have friends from your work environment. Hopefully you even really liked at least a few of them!

Once you retire though, all your work friends disappear. Even if you want to hang out with them, they’ll probably be busy working.

Financial anxiety

If you haven’t saved well north of one million dollars to spend while in retirement, will things get tricky? Maybe they won’t but you’ll still have piles of self doubting questions. 

What if you run out of money? How will you remake the money that you need to have a comfortable life? Many retirees agonize over these. I was certainly plagued by this before I pulled the trigger.

Related: Retirement Mindset Shift — From Saver to Spender

The best fit for you at this stage of your life is something that pays and doesn’t require that much time. A job like that actually exists. And after working for many years of your life, after acquiring a set of skills and after developing them, it’s actually the easiest thing to find.

My retirement job epiphany led me to the best retirement job you can have which solves all those issues!

No, it’s not a delivery job or some side hustle that you found on the internet. Strange enough… it’s your current job but minimally part time. The one that you’ve been working on for decades, just for 1 or 2 days per week.

4 Reasons staying on part-time makes for a great retirement

Let’s cite some reasons that make this work so well….

Pay rate

You’ve been working for your entire life. And considering the fact that you didn’t get fired, you must be good at what you do. You must have skills that are unique or else you wouldn’t be where you are.

And do you know what unique skills create as a result? A high pay rate.

Now, your income will not be the same as it was before retirement, that’s obvious. Maybe you’ll be working only 1 or 2 days a week. So you can’t be getting paid the same as before.

1 to 2 days? Isn’t that very limiting? Never forget that you are retired. Going back to work doesn’t mean you’ll start the 9-5 again. 

Without the need to save, working only 1-2 days per week may be more than enough to cover your needs and at the same time have a comfortable life. When having enough money and time, a lot of paths unlock.

Job Upgrade

There’s a big possibility that your job involves tasks that you hate doing. Tasks that weren’t meant for you, but you do them anyway. Well, now you have the chance to cut them off. 

Your valuable time at work is limited and YOU have the leverage, not your boss. You’re basically doing them a favor by letting them keep your knowledge and experience around so you can gain a few things in the process.

Therefore, cut off the parts that you don’t like and only keep the pleasant ones. That way not only will you be happier but you’ll also find your purpose again. The same purpose that made you take on that job back in the days.

Invaluable Perks

You probably know that jobs come along with perks. And while some of your job’s perks might seem useless at 30, when you’re 60 they suddenly become much more valuable. 

Let’s take Health Insurance for example. When you get older, health problems start knocking on your door one after the other. The amount of money that you spend on medical bills, treatments and other medicine can be enormous. 

But when you work part-time while being retired, all these bills can be paid by the health insurance that your job offers.

Related: Retirement Healthcare — What Are Your Options?

While health insurance is one of the most important perks you can get while being retired, other perks like paid holidays can also come in handy. Never underestimate your job’s benefits. You never know when you’ll need them the most.

Work Friends

I mentioned this before. It’s time to elaborate. 

Working the same job for years and years has probably resulted in you making a lot of connections and friendships within your work environment. Friendships that really matter and you certainly wouldn’t want to lose. Well, speak no further because your dreams are coming alive.

By keeping your current job and working on it part-time, you also get to keep the friendships you made. That means you can still meet the people you like hanging out with every week. You’ll even have time for some long lunch outings.

In addition, by meeting them only a few days per week, you can also keep the atmosphere fresh. You won’t get bored of them and they won’t get bored of you. You will actually be excited to meet each other.

If there’s nobody that makes you happy in your workspace, you should probably give this whole idea some second thoughts. 

And that brings me to the most critical question….

What is retirement all about?

The answer is simple. Retirement is about returning to your priorities. The priorities you had before starting your career. I’m sure they are much different than the ones you have now.

Priorities might also mean dreams. And by only working 1 or even 2 days, you ensure about 4-5 vacation days every single week. That adds up. You’ve bought bake most of your time.

Remember all that you wanted to do back when you were younger? Back then you had eagerness but less time and money. Right now you have the eagerness, time, and money. What’s stopping you?

Retired and Working?!

After reading this entire article you probably have a question in mind. Am I actually retired if I still work? It’s very reasonable to ask that since society has linked retirement to not needing to leave your beach life. Nonetheless, this question is answered in one word… Yes! 

As I mentioned above, retirement is not about doing nothing all day, it’s about setting your priorities. If your priorities are to keep your close friends close, continue growing, and do what you love, then you have your answer. You are retired! Even though you show up to an office every once and a while.

Related: What Do We Mean By Retirement?

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Leif Kristjansen is the co-founder of FiveYearFIREescape.com where he and his wife write about finances and early retirement for busy people. They felt that most investing advice in the world did not work for them, as busy professionals with kids, so they made a site that focuses on the actions with the smallest time commitments and biggest impacts.

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. After achieving financial independence, Chris began writing about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. Chris also does financial planning with individuals and couples at Abundo Wealth, a low-cost, advice-only financial planning firm with the mission of making quality financial advice available to populations for whom it was previously inaccessible. Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He has spoken at events including the Bogleheads and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants annual conferences. Blog inquiries can be sent to chris@caniretireyet.com. Financial planning inquiries can be sent to chris@abundowealth.com]

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13 Comments

  1. This of course depends on being able to find part time work in your field. In my case the option was work 4 days a week or not work at all. Not everyone can just work a few days a week, especially if you want benefits.

    1. OK completely fair. Some people will not luck out in their field. I work in tech so I think it’s pretty high bar to go part-time. I could imagine some other fields being harder (I guy I know in textiles comes to mind).

      I do think it’s possible to do some pretty amazing things if you scrape off the more day-to-day parts of your job and you have a boss/management that is motivated to keep you on.

  2. I enjoyed reading the article. I’ll note, though, that most employers don’t offer health insurance for those working 1-2 days/week. The minimum tends to be 3 days/week.

    1. Agree. My company requires 20 hours per week. However, this is one of my plans, continue to be valuable and then ask for a part time schedule, but expect that I will have to be flexible. I hope to do this for 1 – 2 years after I pull the plug from full time work. Healthcare is the dependency that not many can cover before 65. I believe I will be able to do so, but want to hedge the bet a bit.

      1. Love the plan! I was definitely flexible in allocating my days around. I do realize I’m getting something pretty awesome so I gave back as much as I could without it messing up my lifestyle. I think it made a win-win for everyone 🙂

  3. Sounds good, but in my profession (plant manager of large auto facility) not possible. Also, if you were a go-getter, you will still be a go-getter. In my case getting in at 4:45 am and outworking my subordinates. No thanks- don’t miss corporate life. especially now with all the PC crap.

    1. Oh yeah I am 100% a go-getter (not an early bird though). In my time off I’m up to all sorts of strange projects not relaxing on a beach, but it’s on my time and no one is on my case about any Gantt charts.

      Some of my projects are just kids and fitness-oriented too which feels…holistic.

  4. I no longer work full time and haven’t since 2016. I do a 50% job share. So 50% of salary, benefits etc. There is a bonus in that I now pay less tax as I drop down the tax bands. I chose this path as I was no longer prepared to work excessive hours and wanted the extra time to travel and do my own thing. However I am NOT retired! I am working part time. For me being retired means not working.

    1. I’ve never heard of a 50/50 job share but I am fascinated!

      I think I’m retired because I’m doing what I want to do every day but I am playing a little loose with the terms. I don’t have a degree in English for a reason 🙂

  5. I doubt many employers allow part-time work and if they do, it’s hard to get benefits. Most likely it will be contract work which isn’t bad but you will have high health care costs. However, this is a great idea if you can get it.

  6. The hours of my Office Manager job were cut many years ago so I started a side hustle that I really enjoy. That has worked out great and now that I am retired provides enough income (along with my real estate investments) so I won’t have to take anything out of my IRA until I’m 72 or so. Yay me!

  7. I think corporate America is missing an opportunity to tap into this type of work, especially for those over 50.

    I am not yet 50, but have a job that while classified as full time, is results oriented (100% commission sales) and thus allows me to tailor my lifestyle. It’s not what my manager wants I suspect, but he is fine with the results and won’t have to pay me if I am not productive. My goal is to optimize my time while maximizing my pay on that time, which has led me to shed most of my clients, focus time just on them, which has led to lots of free time while making more money. Weird I know, but removing the bullshit really has a positive effect.

    My wife has a part time tech job, salary based. Her challenge is tech companies do not respect this boundary, and often she works full time hours. This is common for full time workers as well, full time means 60+ hours per week. It’s tough to check one’s ego and delegate or say no.

    I think the idea of leveraging your career for a lifestyle, even pre FIRE, is a great way to go.

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