The Funny Thing About Early ‘Retirement’

In Articles, Income Planning, Retirement Thinking, Weekly Articles by Adam Cufr

Who hasn’t dreamt of an early retirement? Images of walks on beaches and life without an alarm clock flood the mind, bringing into focus an endless montage of leisure and contentment. For many people, this is the real result of a quest to cast away all work and worry, with nothing left but the fun stuff. But is that what really happens?

Having had the opportunity to work with so many people who’ve retired from their careers, I see a few common storylines that are worthy of a closer look. It seems that beaches and sleeping in can and do become a more regular occurrence for many during retirement, but there’s also something else taking place that cannot be overlooked: work is still happening.

There are more and more retirees who are choosing to work part-time after leaving their primary career. We see it all the time. Whether it’s a part-time gig at the Home Depot, cutting grass or driving a bus for the local school, or answering that call to do another project for the company that employed them for decades, many people are finding satisfaction and some income from formal work after work ends. Others find themselves responding to the calls from children who need projects done around the house, or looking after the grandkids so Mom and Dad can catch up on their own chores in an overscheduled house (thanks, Mom). Either way, there’s a lot of ‘work’ happening after retirement; it may have shifted to a different type of work.

While this may not sound all that groundbreaking to read, it is worth mentioning that a lot of people are finding retirement to be a bit different than they imagined. And you know what, it’s often better than they’d imagined. After all, who doesn’t want to remain useful to others? Who wouldn’t mind a little extra walking-around money without the stress of impossible deadlines and corporate bureaucracy always looming over one’s head, day in and day out?

In reality, there is no ‘retirement’ at all, just a shift to other forms of work. While that could sound ominous to some, most of us secretly enjoy work. We secretly enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, and a simple “thanks” from time to time. The great thing is, our brains are hardwired to find satisfaction in serving others. Endorphins flood our brains when we’ve been helpful, giving us life-sustaining juice to get up and do it all over again. Sometimes we have to be reminded of this serving-serves-us relationship, because we’ve traded service for dollars for so long that we often allow that connection to be clouded by dollars.

In the end, you may choose – and have saved enough – to stop serving others for money after your ‘retirement’ date.  But let’s not pretend that we’re done working and serving others just because the economics change. For others, a part-time income for a few years in retirement can make an enormous difference in the numbers. Each dollar earned can allow a dollar to remain in retirement accounts, potentially growing, while social security benefits can be delayed and grow. It’s a powerful strategy for those who are open to considering part-time work.

With a slight shift in perspective, many retirees are living a more full retirement than they dreamed while staying engaged in work. It’s just a different type of work than they did previously. It’s a fun thing to witness and a great benefit to us all when we stay engaged in meaningful ways.

All the best,

Adam Cufr Signature

Adam Cufr, RICP®