Balancing Work and Play in Retirement

There are a couple easy rules to understand about when to retire from wage-earning work. The earlier you retire from work (the younger the age), the more money you must have saved up by that point in time. The longer you work for an income (the older you are), the less you need to save up for retirement.

Clearly work that generates income is a key variable in the retirement puzzle. That work doesn’t necessarily have to be your “career” work either. Wage work in retirement can be part-time, can be consulting, or can be a hobby that pays.

The point is, if you want to retire from you career work at an earlier age, it’s probably wise to have some other source of wage work in mind before you actually retire. Continuing to work takes the pressure off of your savings, allowing those savings to keep growing. There may be other benefits, such as health insurance from an employer, but that’s probably not a realistic expectation for part-time or self-employed work (such as from a hobby).

So an important retiree lifestyle question to ask is, what would you like to do to earn a little money in retirement? The time to ask that question and figure out the answer is before you quit your full-time job. Planning ahead can make the transition into “partial” retirement that much smoother and enjoyable.

Remember there are other benefits to work besides a paycheck. There can be the social interaction of working with other people. There can be the time management benefit of having a set schedule (more or less) that often helps define a sense of ongoing purpose, especially if you’re looking ahead to retirement as a “month of Saturdays.” Just how will you spend that time?

Which leads back to balance. Anecdotal evidence from current retirees indicates there’s a healthy balance between work and play, even in retirement. All work makes Jack a dull boy, but all play leaves Jack with no sense of purpose. Ideally, financial freedom in retirement means you can do what you want when you want to. For today’s retirees (and tomorrows as well, so it seems), wage work of some sort will be a key part of financial freedom throughout the retirement years. It really can be an ideal time of life: you get paid to do work that you really enjoy doing. Now that sounds like a happy and healthy retirement!


About Mike Wilson

Michael L. Wilson, MBA, CFP®, CRC®, is the owner of Integrity Financial Planning. Prior to founding Integrity in 1998, he worked for two years as a faculty member at the College for Financial Planning in Denver, training other financial advisors. Mike has 10 years of experience in the mutual fund industry, having worked with Fidelity Investments and Invesco Mutual Funds. He holds an MBA in Finance from Baylor University. Learn more about his work at
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