Work While You Play, Play While You Work: The Case for Semi-Retirement

By Kate Smalley on March 30, 2017

    Posted in: Retirement

    “Time doesn't stop just because you no longer work full-time at a corporation. You still have to fill up 24 hours of the day.” 

    I know what you’re thinking, “Well obviously!” But let’s be honest, when you’re in gridlock traffic or stuck beside someone drooling on the subway, daydreaming about retirement, how you’re going to fill that time is the least of your concerns. You just want out. 

    I get it, but do you really imagine yourself doing nothing but watching Netflix or exploring beaches for 30 years? Chances are your drive, passion, and desire to do interesting work won’t go away just because you no longer need a paycheque. So how will you spend that time? 

    Perhaps semi-retirement is the answer. That’s what financial journalist Jonathan Chevreau and I talk about in the second part of our interview. If you haven’t had the chance yet make sure you read the first half, work because you want to, not because you have to.

    What’s one thing you think people overlook when planning their retirement? 

    “Time doesn't stop just because you no longer work full-time at a corporation. You still have to fill up the same 24 hours of the day. We spend about 2,000 hours a year working, and that’s not including time spent commuting to and from the office. When you retire it’s not like those 2,000 hours disappear and you have 2,000 hours less stress. You still have to fill that time. 

    If you’re not active and engaged and passionate that time can weigh heavily on you, even though you may have convinced yourself you want to retire because you’re exhausted and sick of the rat race.”

    I guess we also don’t consider how important the social aspect of work is, it must be hard going from being around people all the time to being at home.

    “You have to start building in the structure you had when you were an employee. You’ve got to make sure you’re getting out of the house, interacting with people, and doing things that bring you joy. I play hockey on Sundays and go to yoga three times a week. I’m a member of Toastmasters and my wife and I go to church every week, where we also volunteer. It’s important to have that routine and social interaction, otherwise the transition from work to retirement or semi-retirement can be really difficult.”  

    Retirement feels like it’s been boiled down to finding your ‘number’, either you have enough to retire or you don’t. What do you think about that?

    “There’s definitely an obsession with figuring out whether you have enough to retire. You see columns in the paper about it every week. The problem with these columns is that the underlying assumption is your job is some horrible thing you need to be relieved of. Retirement is almost portrayed as a release from prison. Whoever said work was prison? 

    As far as I know in our society you study what you want to study and you choose a job based on something you like to do. There are of course people who fall into jobs by default because they didn’t take the time to figure out what brings them joy, and we’ve all had jobs we didn’t like, but we’re able to change them.”

    And those columns all seem to conclude we need a couple million dollars before we can ever hope to retire, which is a pretty scary goal, is that true?

    “You don’t necessarily need a couple million dollars to retire. Well, you might if you plan on living a very lavish lifestyle and see retirement as a permanent vacation on a yacht, but as we’ve discussed retirement shouldn’t be all or nothing. You shouldn't be going from 100% work mode from 100% play mode. 

    Everyone’s worried about not retiring with enough and running out of money. Aside from all the other benefits we’ve talked about, a Victory Lap or semi-retirement can be a great way to bring in extra income. If you can make even $1,000-$2,000 a month working part-time between age 65 and 75 your nest egg is very unlikely to go to zero, even in the worst case scenario of a market crash. 

    So no, if you’re open to semi-retirement or have a traditional defined benefit pension you don’t need that much to retire. Otherwise $1-2 million isn’t a bad target.”

    Well, that’s a relief! What are some of the most interesting things you’ve seen people pursue in semi-retirement?

    “A friend of mine decided in his late 50s he didn’t want to be a financial advisor anymore, he wanted to be an actor! Now he’s got an agent and he’s been on the silver screen with shorts and does TV commercials. I actually just saw on his Facebook he’s in Marrakech filming and having the time of his life. He was simply tired. He was ready to retire from financial services but he wasn’t ready to retire from life. He could now easily have a 20 year run as an actor.

    Another guy I know retired from the oil business at age 52 with a defined benefit plan and got bored quickly. Now he works at a local bicycle shop to keep busy and make a little extra money. He enjoys the routine and the people he gets to meet there.

    I think the only thing you can really do 8 hours a day of in this world, apart from sleep, is work. Work that you’re passionate about.”

    So, what about you? Would you consider semi-retirement? Tweet us or share a comment on Facebook, I’d love to know! 

    Thanks to Jonathan for sharing and taking the time to speak with me. If you’d like to read more from him head over to his website, Financial Independence Hub, and check out his books Findependence Day and Victory Lap Retirement

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