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Options for creating a life of less work and more play

· Money

Early retirement is still a distant dream for many people, so the appeal of profiling these people is obvious. They’re anomalies! People want to know “how did you pull that off?!”

But in our world, they’re not anomalies. They’re just regular FIRE (financial independence / retire early) members: a sub-group on the internet that focuses on financial independence and retiring early.

If you read enough FIRE blogs, you’ll notice a binary pattern: your retirement options are either at 65 (traditional) or super early.

  • Traditional: Retire at age 65
    • Advantages
      • You only have to save a small amount of money per month (10%+)
      • Requires minimal research planning; 401k/403b and IRA’s are designed for this 
      • No impact to Social Security payments
    • Disadvantages
      • You have to defer your plans outside of work almost 45 years
      • You’ll likely be in a declined state of health by the time it’s time to start living
      • Assuming you live to 85, your work to living ratio is 2:1 – you spent twice as much time working.
  • Early: Retire between the ages of 30-55
    • Advantages
      • You reduce your working career by 10-35 years.
      • You balance out your work to living ratio to be more equal.
      • Financial independence – permanently!
    • Disadvantages
      • Requires a savings rate upwards of 50%
      • The high savings rate means that you’ll have to delay gratification for 10+ years

When you compare the two, early retirement is the clear winner. Who wouldn’t sacrifice for a few years to get decades back in their lives to fill with whatever you want to do with your days / weeks / months / years?!

But there are more options than the ones the headlines show: semi-retirement and mini-retirements.

  • Semi: Work part-time perpetually (10-30 hours / week)
    • Advantages
      • No delayed gratification: start living today.
    • Disadvantages
      • It can be challenging to create or find high-paying, part-time work. 
  • Mini: Alternate Work with Long Periods of No-Work
    • Advantages
      • Alternating cycles of work and play throughout life is invigorating, rejuvenating and you’ll likely complete your best work by refreshing your mind.
      • No delayed gratification and relatively affordable compared to saving up for one long retirement
    • Disadvantages
      • Spend -> Work -> Spend -> Work = No financial independence (potentially) or end in sight

Semi-retirements or mini-retirements could be the perfect solution to burnout: you don’t have to completely abandon work that you may love and travel around the world, but you have the opportunity to gain more freedom, more flexibility and security in a short amount of time.

For many of us, the goal isn’t “never work again.” The goal is to gain freedom to choose how often, where and when you work, and what you work on. These alternative models for retirement could be the solution to that, especially if your post-retirement plans involve making any amount of money.

The optimal lifestyle for you is a personal choice.

I personally enjoy a hybrid mix of semi-, mini- and early retirement. While I still invest over 50%+ of my income for my early financial independence timeline, I opt for a balanced ~10-20/hours of work a week, although I allow myself to go on “sprints” for projects that excite me. In spite of this relaxed schedule, I also take long periods away from work to restore myself and enhance creativity.

This is the best choice for me for a few different reasons:

  • I don’t want to delay all pleasure spending for a decade. 
  • Traveling the world in your 20’s is a different experience than in your 30’s, or 40’s or 50’s. The world is constantly changing and I want to be able to take advantage of relative health and youthfulness. 
  • I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and if that happened, I would hate to regret not living to the fullest sooner because I wanted to save a few more dollars. 

I’ve also worked long enough to know my strengths: I work well when I can alternate cycles of intense work and complete relaxation that align with my natural energy cycles.

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So next time you come across an article about a 25-year-old who retired to travel the globe / start a business / volunteer in disaster relief, instead of going “ psh, must be nice.” and then dismissing it as unrealistic, lean in a bit.

Get curious. Ask questions. It may not fit your exact scenario, but ask yourself what elements you can apply to your own life.

Know that there’s an entire community of us who are living these “unrealistic alternate fantasy worlds” and there are 100 different ways to do it, if you choose it. In fact, my upcoming book is detailing the exact who / what / how of these alternative early retirement lifestyles. Which way sounds the best to you?

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