What is Semi-Retirement?

Recently I was thinking back to my lifestyle design posts and it occurred to me I left something out of my options: should I just work less now?  Which got me thinking about what is semi-retirement? It is hard to nail down since so many different things could be part of a semi-retirement, but typically you work part time in order to have more time to do what you love and partly live off your investment income.  That last part is somewhat optional since it is possible to have enough income that you don’t really need your investment income at the start.

So with that in mind I recently thought: why don’t I just drop down to part-time work at my day job?  I could basically semi-retire not in a few years, but rather in a few months.  After all I don’t really need my day job anyway, so why not accept more time and freedom for less pay?

Thus I decided to try and have booked a meeting with my boss toward the end of the month to discuss the idea.  My proposal will be simple: I’m drowning in work from two jobs and I’m stressed out.  My solution is to drop down to working 80% of the time.  I’ll still come into the office five days a week, but I’ll just be leaving each day by mid-afternoon.  The company will save money on my salary and benefits and will get a more productive worker when I am there.

Will it work? I don’t have the slightly idea if this will fly or not, yet I have nothing to lose in trying.  Life is too short to spend it in office building doing work that someone else decided was ‘important.’  I want more time NOW, so I’m willing to push back my full retirement dreams a bit to get that.  There is little point being ‘free at 45’ if I’m burnt out when I get there.

So what would you do?  Would you being willing to work less now, but accept a later full retirement date or not?

16 thoughts on “What is Semi-Retirement?”

  1. What a exciting step. Good luck with your meeting!

    I am currently working part time and I do consider myself semi-retired.

    Being self employed makes it easier to cut back on work hours and I started reducing my hours 6 months into starting my business and currently I’m at 16 hrs/wk.

    My next move when our mortgages are done in 2 1/2 yrs is down to 12 hrs/wk.

    I must qualify though, I can still make a “full time” income with my part time hours. I realize that not everyones’ situation will allow that.

  2. The nature of my job prevents me from scaling back my workload. So for me, it looks like seven more years of the grind, then I’ll have the option of full retirement at 45… maybe sooner if my investments do particularly well.

  3. Sounds like a plan. A good plan.
    But does your company agree your second job is a good idea?

  4. As you know from my guest post last year, I worked part-time for 7 years (2001-2008) after working 16 years full-time and before I retired in 2008 at age 45. My company needed me because of some big ongoing projects so half a loaf was better than nothing from their perspective. And I was saving them monsy by forgoing half my pay.

    In most of those part-time years (2001-2007), I worked 20 hours per week, just enough to retain most of my benefits such as eligibility for group health insurance, matching funds for 401(k), pro-rated paid time off, and receiving additional (and fast-growing) company stock. I was still able to live off 60% of my wage income after taxes (which were also lower) and invest the excess into my taxable accounts.

    But the tiring and awful commute to my office, expanded from 1 day a week to 3 days a week in 2003 after the mostly telecommute gig was taken away, was too much for me – I was still burnt out from the commute. In 2007, I switched to 2 slightly shorter days a week, eliminating most of my remaining benefits. I could still live off this even lower wage income but was no longer adding to my 401(k) (no matching funds) and adding little to my taxable investments. I did this with the knowledge that I would probably retire soon thereafter so it was also a good test to see how I could manage on wage income which would be about the same as my retirement investment income.

    Having 16 years (in 2001) and 22 years (in 2007) experience gave me the leverage to get the reduced hours I wanted, but losing the telecommute gig was a corporate policy, not a division one. I knew even in 2003 when the telecommute gig was taken away that that would be my undoing eventually.

    I don’t know if your choice of part-time hours (working 5 days but fewer hours per day) will end up being the right kind of part-time arrangement. I always thought being away from the office the entire day was better. But if it works for you, so be it. You probably have a better commute than I did.

  5. I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now, and I’ve been in much the same shoes as you. I’m in my early thirties and I’ve worked very hard and lots of hours ever since I graduated highschool. I had a full time job throughout University (so school was part – time) but it meant I graduated without debt and a house with only a small mortgage.

    After 15 years of working and scrimping and saving in order to retire as early as possible, I came to a similar conclusion last summer as you just have had. I was completely burnt out and while I enjoyed my work, it was becoming work, not something that I loved to do. I realized that I was going to retire early, but that I’d likely end up taking about 5 years to recover from it, which sort of negates the whole retire early idea. The other thing that helped was the arrival of our first child.

    I ended my contract this past April and I’ll be staying home with the baby until further notice. My wife will be returning to work later on (she’ll take an extended mat leave), but we are looking at part time work options. You only have this time once so you might as well enjoy it.

    I had a grandmother who was quite wealthy but was bed-ridden for the last 10 years of her life. It really struck me that all the money in the world isn’t going to do you much good if you can’t enjoy it.

  6. It will be interesting to see how the meeting goes – good luck! As a consultant a schedule like that (or even summer hours most of the time) doesn’t work, with the tight deadlines we’re on and the team element of what we do. Not that my bosses would go for it anyway, I agree with dlm that they’d tell me to drop the second job if I wanted to keep the first ….

  7. I’ve considered something like this in the future as well.

    To be honest though if an employee came to me asking to cut their hours because of a second job. They would be the first to go if there are layoffs.

  8. Assuming that your day job pays more, and that it is more secure than your school trustee job…could you not just step down from your school trustee job for health reasons? And health includes mental health but don’t tell anyone that.

    Suggestion…take a blank piece of paper, generate alternative work reduction plans. Write down the musts and wants of each alternative. Most important part…think about the worst thing that could go wrong with each alternative and decide if you can live with that possibility.

    You don’t want to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

  9. Also…you work for government as I recall. Keep in mind that government supervisors don’t want any hazzels and they don’t really care about how much things cost.

  10. I agree with others that you need to have a better plan to present to your company. Are there others there that would also like reduced hours? If five of you wanted to work at 80% (with the associated 20% pay cut), the company would be able to hire another full time employee to replace the hours lost. Or will your suggestion mean that others will have to work overtime to make up for your time off, creating resentment among your coworkers?
    You might want to explore other options as well. Could you take a leave of absence in order to charge back up? (Since you don’t need your day job anyways)
    Remember, also, that trustee work in the summer is virtually nil, so if you hang in there for another month and a half, you might get the time you need to recoup.
    You could also quit altogether and help your wife with the dayhome (you could take on a few more kids that way – maybe just before/after school kids so you still have most of the day available for you).
    Take a look at your investments and see if they are performing optimally. You may be closer to freedom than you think.

  11. This is definetely something very interesting to try. It is a tough call to work less now and end up retiring later. It is something that I have often thought of as well. I think for myself, I would rather work more now and then enjoy my full retirement later on. I hope it all works out though. Good luck!

  12. WOW, lot’s of comments. I’ll try to address questions and common themes.


    My second job is a school board trustee, I was elected last fall. My boss signed my nomination paper so he knew exactly what I was doing.

    @ dabcan

    I agree you have to balance today with the long term. In my case I didn’t expect the board job to consume as much time as it has. As such I’m feeling a little stressed out from it all.

    @ Mike

    I’m actually not worried at all about being laid off. We have so many retirements in the company that they would be crazy to ditch the younger staff at this point. Besides if it happened I would have no control anyway.

    @ CM

    Out both jobs I would rather keep the trustee job. I like it better, hence the idea to cut the day job down. But thanks for the ideas.

    I work for a crown corp and there is a major push in the company to find cost savings of $2 billion in the next 10 years. So I think my boss might just consider this a good idea.

    @Dividend Lover,

    I’ve only been at the job for 1.5 years so I’m not shopping for a new one yet.

    @Mom of 3 kids,

    My work proposal is actually about 1.5 pages long and I deal a lot with how to carve up my existing work. There is a company policy on what I’m proposing that has all sorts of useful points to cover. I’m also proposing a lot of work that in the long run will eliminate about 10 to 15% of my work load. Hence they only need to shift some work around for now and the rest I can make up in efficiency in the long run.

    I hope that covers most of it folks. I’ll keep you posted on how this turns out and then what it would mean to my long term plans.


  13. I think this is a great question. For most of us in our 30s/40s, I think retirement will be fundamentally different come the time we hit 70 years old…as will the workplace. Trying to guess now vs then is aiming for a seriously moving target. That said, I do think many folks can improve how they live / spend time now to relieve stress and increase quality of life. More isn’t always better, sometimes it’s just…more.

Comments are closed.