Today we’re continuing our discussion of the book Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement which I started in Early Semi-Retirement: An Alternative to Full Retirement.
If you want to catch up, I suggest you read that post first because I’m going to jump in quickly with new topics from the book.
Plus that post was pretty interesting if I do say so myself. 😉
Today we’ll focus on what the book has to say about spending your time once you semi-retire. Specifically, we’ll get into work options as well as how to make the most of your newly found free time.
How Work Evolves in Early Semi-Retirement
As we get into the book they discuss how work evolves during early semi-retirement (or at least their take on it). They list the following stages:
- More money in less time. Most early semi-retirees initially seek work that produces the amount of money they need in the shortest possible time on the job. Staying close to former employers or industry contacts where your network skills are still strong will likely deliver the biggest payback and most opportunity.
- Cutting ties to past work. [At this point] many early retirees begin to drift away from their former work, finding it uninteresting or even toxic. You may start to be drawn to new ways to make money, preferring something as pleasant as possible, often something that requires a challenging shift of gears. You may not mind working longer or earning less if you can truly enjoy what you do.
- Being paid for doing what you love. Those who become proficient in new areas of interest usually come to trust that there may be a way to earn some income through them, and gradually switch to seeking them. Income will have stopped being the defining driver in your thinking; now, you would rather do what you love and live within the income you can comfortably derive from it.
A few thoughts from me:
- I think a key way to pull off #1 is to become a “consultant” to your former employer (you could strive to set this up before you leave your job) or another company in the same industry. It’s not hard to imagine that doing this you could make a higher per-hour rate than you could at your job — you just can’t get as many hours doing it (and would likely lose benefits like healthcare).
- If I had to do it all over again I would start developing other areas of income (like side hustles at night, weekends, etc.) that I enjoyed before I left my job. I wouldn’t wait until after I had started early semi-retirement. Then, hopefully I could move straight to step #2 (or even #3) in this list upon retiring.
- Some people (I know, a small number) are already being paid for doing what they love. Even if they take early semi-retirement (why would they if they really love their jobs?), they could simply cut back their hours and skip all these steps, couldn’t they? Very few people, even those that supposedly adore working, love their jobs more than they love free time, so going part-time is an option.
Hearing Your Calling
Next the book offers some great insights into the sorts of jobs you might want to take in semi-retirement, giving the following perspective:
Knowing what you might want to do as an avocation or second career often takes some doing.
Sometimes the things we would like are hidden in plain sight, since a part of us, conditioned by years of pragmatism, drapes a little “not going there” cloak over them.
In early retirement, you can afford to be impractical at last. For example, if you’d love to be a swimming instructor but hesitated about exploring the possibility in the past because the post pays too little, take a fresh, unbiased look and give it a try. You may later decide it isn’t right, but you’ll decide from that position of knowledge, not reflex. And you’ll then be free to try the next thing on your list of intended activities.
I really like this line of thinking. IMO it not only works for those who are semi-retiring, but the reverse as well — semi-retiring might be a solid path for people wanting to make a career change.
If I asked everyone reading this if they had a different career they would at least consider, I bet the vast majority could name something almost immediately.
So here’s the chance to take the leap — whether you want to move to pet training, accounting, fitness trainer, or anything really.
I talked to one of my pickleball buddies the other day and he had made the move from IT (high stress) to being an executive pastor (the guy who runs the administrative side of the church). He described it as a “75% pay cut but so much more fun and fulfilling” as his initial career. My guess is that most reading this have a “dream career” inside them that they just can’t get to because of their current financial commitments. Perhaps semi-retirement offers a way to bridge the gap to something new.
Food for thought…
Common Work Options for Early Semi-Retirees
One of the main questions with semi-retirement is how you can earn enough money to make the concept work. The book gives some work options for early semi-retirees as follows:
- The filler job. This is the job you take on with the goal of making a modest amount of steady money in a comfortable, usually casual environment. Examples: Counselor at a kid’s camp; greeter for a professional sports organization.
- The avocation. The work you might do even if you didn’t get paid for it. Examples: Becoming an associate pastor at a church; substitute teaching at a local school.
- Your former job, but less of it. You downshift from your old job to a lighter, flexible schedule working for the same company or doing the same type of work you did previously with another employer or work arrangement.
- Consulting or freelancing. Using your expertise and contacts to work as a freelancer or consultant in small, project-based doses, either for your former employer of for one or more new ones.
- Dealer, agent, or broker. If you put together a deal, you get paid; otherwise, nothing. Example: real estate broker.
- Angel investing. Making direct investments in small private companies, often working closely with the company’s management to help with introductions or other advice to make the company more successful.
- Real estate. Investing in real estate.
- Innkeeping. Owning and operating an inn or bed and breakfast.
- Artist or creative worker. Examples: painting family portraits; teaching musical instruments; creating/designing jewelry.
- Hobby turned business. Examples: scuba diver cleaning the bottom of boats; car enthusiasts selling vintage car parts; coin collectors opening up a shop.
- Teaching. Could be with a public school, college, or even tutoring.
Some of these are a stretch and are not useful for the majority of people IMO.
For instance, being a dealer/broker, becoming an angel investor, innkeeping (though AirBnB would work), and being a creative worker seem unlikely for most to me — and some seem counter-productive. You’re supposed to be conserving funds in early semi-retirement, so exactly how/why are you going to get the money to be an angel investor (which is very risky)? These just don’t seem very likely.
Personally, my favorites would be developing an avocation (my wife currently does this at our church — gets paid even though she’d do it for free), doing less of my former job as noted above (assuming I liked it), turning a hobby into a business (or any side hustle really), and teaching (especially with the growth of online studies these days).
I view real estate as more of an investment than a job bot it could work as well if the right opportunities present themselves.
Aim High for Semi-Retirement Activities
The book offers this line of thinking when suggesting what non-work activities to consider in retirement:
You are going to be retired for a very long time. Chart a course for audacious challenges that you secretly believe have your name written on them. Then take frequent, small steps toward those goals, finding the fun along the way.
Think big. If you have decades to make goals happen, you won’t want to choose something that you could completely master in a matter of a few months. Work on something in stages over a long period of time — some activity that will keep your brain fresh and your heart light.
I also like this sort of thinking though I must admit it can be intimidating. A few thoughts here:
- I’m not sure I have a big idea like this (in fact I know I don’t). But I also don’t know if I have to have one. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this subject.
- I have been asking myself “what would I do if I could do anything?” to see what I might like to try in life. I have the financial resources to do almost anything I want in life (within reason) so what would that be? I don’t have the answers yet, but if you’re a regular reader here you can subtly see me working through it in posts like Is Retiring on a Cruise Ship an Affordable Option?, The Costs of Living on a Sailboat, and Retirement Housing Decisions.
- TOTALLY agree with the idea of taking small steps towards something once you know what you want to do. If you make small progress every day you can accomplish huge things.
- In a way, this blog might be the answer to part of my “what do I want to do in life?” question. After all, I enjoy it, I can see myself doing it for years, it keeps my brain active, and I think it’s helping a lot of people. So it could be part of my answer, though I’m sure it’s not the complete answer.
Anyone else have thoughts on this subject? Anyone come up with a great idea for an audacious challenge? I’d love to hear what you’ve developed.
What to Do in Semi-Retirement
The book offers several pages of suggestions/ideas for filling up your time in semi-retirement.
There’s no way I could include all of them here but I can do a couple things: 1) list all the categories they suggest considering and 2) share a few of the ideas that sound especially interesting.
Here are the categories of ideas they offer:
Under each of these they list many different ideas worth considering. Here are some I liked and might try myself:
- Becoming an active member of a board of directors. I would LOVE to do this for a non-profit, but I have not found the right opportunity yet.
- Raising money for a non-profit. I have done this in the past and done it quite successfully, so I wouldn’t mind helping out in this way. In fact I have something along these lines planned for this website later in the year, so stay tuned. 😉
- Their travel ideas aren’t my cup of tea and travel is a double-edged sword, especially when you live in a great place like Colorado — few places compare to it. But I know that when I do travel, I want to go first class all the way — I want it to be fun, convenient, amazing, and as devoid of as many issues as possible. I’ll probably elaborate on this in an upcoming post.
- Be part of a community production or play. I used to act in high school and college and enjoyed it tremendously. Should I try it again?
- Ride a bike or take regular walks. I have this one covered in spades. I am averaging about 19k steps a day so far this year. They also suggest “starting a regular tennis game with some doubles partners”. I think my pickleball covers this.
- A few “learning” ideas they suggest which I’ve considered include learning a foreign language, researching my ancestry, and taking a gourmet cooking class. Things they didn’t suggest but I would like to try are learning to sail and scuba diving.
I love this sort of “what could I do?” dreaming. What would make it on your list?
The Benefits of Semi-Retirement
The book gives a few awesome benefits of semi-retirement in the following:
While there are no large, academically rigorous studies assessing the impact of semi-retirement on the population, some smaller polls of semi-retirees were done for this book.
The results showed that:
- 62% of semi-retirees feel their marriages are stronger now that they have semi-retired, while only 10% found them worse.
- 65% feel their overall fitness and health is better, while just 12% feel it is worse — notable since these semi-retirees are older now than during their working days.
Most impressive of all, but perhaps least surprising, fully 95% feel their stress levels are lower after semi-retirement.
As you might guess, I have several comments on this:
- You know I’m a HUGE fan of retirement and these are just some of the reasons. I detailed my (larger) list in Ten Things I Didn’t Expect in Early Retirement.
- I think our marriage is stronger simply by the sheer fact that we spend more time together and communicate much more. Hour-long walks are great for that. 😉
- I am in the best shape of my life by far. The reason is that I dedicate 20+ hours a week to some form of physical fitness. There’s no way I could do that when I was working. In addition, I can eat healthier food as I’m in control of my time and food, something that can be difficult to do when you are working and have to “go with the flow” or garb a quick meal often.
- Haha! Yep, the stress thing is real. I covered this as well in Ten Things I Didn’t Expect in Early Retirement. I was talking to my brother-in-law about how the stress melts away in retirement and he said he’s really looking forward that happening.
I’m wondering if there are any negative feelings about retiring that over 50% of retirees have. Anyone have any idea if there are?
Seven Simple Steps for a Life Well-Lived
The book closes with a list of seven things to do to make sure your retirement is a great one including:
- Healthy body. Regularly do some sort of stretching, walking, or other more vigorous activity. Eat sensibly.
- Healthy mind. Engage in some sort of calming, reflective activities.
- Healthy relationships. Make time to participate in activities with family, friends, neighbors and other people in your extended community.
- Meaningful activities. Have regular activities — not necessarily paid — that you deeply enjoy.
- Healthy attitude. Feel gratitude for all you have been given.
- Fun. Do things just for the sheer joy of it.
- Home. Create physical surroundings that help you stay connected and comfortable.
Here’s how I address each of these:
- Healthy body. Best shape of my life as noted above. Also have lost 20 pounds to be at the weight I was in college. This is the lowest I’ve weighed in three decades. Three days of cardio, three days of weights, and 15 hours of pickleball each week help — as do 19k steps per day.
- Healthy mind. When I think of having a healthy mind I focus more on keeping sharp. Having a website like ESI Money, doing chess puzzles every day, and tackling Sudoku puzzles each week all help in this effort.
- Healthy relationships. Walks with my wife, movie days and trips with the family, and all the new friends I’m meeting at pickleball help me here.
- Meaningful activities. The “fun” items below would fit here, but I think they also mean tasks that have a positive impact on others. If so, my volunteering at the church would count but I’m also looking to up my game here (the site will help this fall.)
- Healthy attitude. I do feel quite grateful. So thankful for this life. It’s been a blessing.
- Fun. Video games, blogging, pickleball, etc. I’ve discussed most of these in covering this book.
- Home. We will likely be remodeling part of our home in the near future. We’ve decided to stay put for some time and we’d rather make changes now and enjoy them for ten years versus invest a ton of money when we eventually sell and simply let someone else enjoy them.
That’s it for this awesome book. I hope you have enjoyed reviewing it and if you’re looking for a good money book to read, check it out.