Countdown Series #5 – The Four Day Week

In Income Planning, Retirement Thinking, The Insider by Adam Cufr

In our continuation of the Countdown Series, I’m speaking again to the aspiring retiree, but you may wish to read on even if you’re already retired. The focus that this week’s question offers may transcend one’s place in the timeline of retirement and offer a thought for even the retired person to consider.

If you worked one less day per week at your paid job, what would you do with your time?

This can be a fun exercise, but it can also feel like asking you what you’d do if you won the lottery. You imagine all of the wonderful things you’d buy and become caught up in that fantasy only to snap out of it to realize you don’t have all of those things and you’re suddenly more miserable than before. Let’s not do that. Instead, let’s just imagine for a moment that you’re granted an extra day of the week; after all, when you do retire, you’ll get that. I can’t say the same for your future lottery win. In other words, we have better odds at you eventually getting the ‘free day’ than winning millions.

So, if you have this free day, how would you spend it? Would you use it to run errands, to clean out the closets, to install the new shelves in the garage, take the grandkids to a movie, or to snuggle up on the couch to read a good book? What is it that you wish you could do if you just had more time?

It turns out that your answer to this question may help shape what you’d like retirement to look like, at least initially. I don’t know how many closets you have but eventually they’ll all be cleaned out. Then you’ll have to find other things to do with your time. But whatever your free-day wish is, how you imagine investing it may have a real impact on the satisfaction you derive from retirement. Thinking ahead and doing a bit of advance planning may help you determine the ways in which you’d like to structure retirement for yourself. After all, we’re not talking about just a day a week here, we’re talking about week after week after week, for decades. That’s a long time if you’re not somewhat prepared.

Having the opportunity to talk with so many retirees is fun and quite interesting. While everyone has their own unique retirement story, there are some patterns that emerge, not necessarily in any particular order.

Blissful Surprise – Wow, I can’t believe I don’t have to set an alarm clock!
Closet Cleaning – All those years of work and I finally have time to clean this place up and get organized!
Travel, Travel, Travel – We’re in Florida for a month, then to Alaska this summer, followed by the Caribbean later this winter!
Restlessness – I think it’s time for a part-time job. Some structure and walking-around money would sure be nice.
Volunteerism – The church/food pantry/grandkids need us so we’re spending two days per week helping out.
Health Scare – Reality sets in and managing health issues occupy much of our time now.
Slow Down – We may skip Florida this year and stay home. Maybe we’ll go back next year.
We Need Help – Inevitably, there’s a permanent health decline that requires outside help or even the death of a spouse.

All of these patterns can and do have moments of joy as well as deep frustration. What strikes me about talking with folks in these various stages of retirement is the need for planning of some sort. In other words, looking ahead and mindfully planning for these aspects of retirement makes most of them seem a bit sweeter. “We saw it coming and we were ready, at least as ready as we could be.”

If you had an extra day each week to do what you chose, how would you spend it? When we take the time to plan ahead for the free day – or free decades – we open ourselves up to the possibility that retirement could be lived a bit more deliberately and possibly joyfully. Adding just a bit of structure, it turns out, can actually enhance the freedom we experience. We help you do that financially, but the rest is up to you.

All the best,

Adam Cufr, RICP®