By John O. Andersen
This is my proposal for a new entry to be added to career reference books which young people use when trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up.
Nature of the Work
Lifelong semi-retirement is an exciting career especially suited for people with wide interests, a preference for living deliberately, and an uncontrollable passion for learning. It's available to nearly everyone, not just the wealthy.
Semi-retirement refers specifically to a person's relationship to paid work. The semi-retirees work for pay only enough hours to meet their monetary needs. After that they spend much of their time in non-paid work like strengthening relationships, pursuing hobbies or performing community service. Semi-retirees arrange their lives so that they can afford the "luxury" of not having to work for pay from sun up to sun down.
They operate on the idea that people should enjoy life to the fullest throughout life. They feel that not giving ample time to dreams, hobbies, or close friendships until after the traditional retirement age is unwise. Although they make provision for their declining years, they unapologetically enjoy many of the fruits of retirement in the present. Life to them isn't a big meal followed by a big nap, but rather a nibble here, a catnap there.
There is no typical day for a semi-retiree. On a few days they may work for pay for six to eight hours. Other days, not at all. They might spend three weeks caring for an aging parent, followed by three months of paid work. They may choose to participate in a project at the local library, volunteer for a community awareness campaign, or raise funds for a non-profit organization. Unattached to one specific full-time career, they are free to pursue a variety of interests, and maintain or develop expertise in several fields. The possibilities are endless.
For instance, a semi-retired young husband and father could run a small handyman business for his primary income. Occasionally he might tutor struggling algebra students. He could also be a soup kitchen volunteer, and perhaps a member of a search and rescue team.
Another semi-retiree with specialized engineering skills may earn money through a string of freelance consulting contracts. After a well-paid assignment, she may choose to spend six months as a volunteer consultant in another country. During that stint, she could pursue other interests such as becoming fluent in a foreign language, developing expertise in that country's cultural history, or even taking a cooking course.
Such varied "careers" are within reach of many people whether married or single. Those with meager financial means, often discover that voluntary frugality enables them to pursue a career in semi-retirement. They decide that not waiting until traditional retirement age to control how they spend their time is a high priority. Hence, they structure their lives to safeguard that prerogative. They happily exchange a lot of small and immediate pleasures for a few grand ones.
Suppose, for instance, that our semi-retired engineer decides to buy a house. She has a flawless credit record, and is pre-approved for a loan large enough to purchase a home in a swanky suburb. Although she can afford this financially, she decides she cannot afford it in terms of her top priorities. Consequently, she opts for a considerably smaller, and less expensive home. She thus retains the freedom to not have to spend most of her day working for money. She sees frugality as a small price to pay for the flexibility to fill her life with all sorts of interesting experiences: to travel, pursue a hobby or self-educate to her heart's content.