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What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

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What would you do if you don't have to work?

This week, I’m reading Ernie’s How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. I really like it so far because it makes you challenge the idea of traditional retirement. Most people only think of retirement as the end of a journey. We feel useful when we are working and retirement tends to signal the end of that usefulness. However, that’s not necessarily true. Ernie encourages us to think of retirement as an opportunity to find yourself and rekindle your zest for life. The transition is not always easy though and we all need to do some preparation before taking that leap.

Today we’ll just focus on one topic. Ernie asks early in the book – what would you want to do if work was abolished in this world? I interpret this as – what would you do if you don’t need to work for money? Would you occupy your time with the same job/career you are in currently? It’s a great question because the answer will tell you whether or not you’re in the right job/career.

What would I do?

If you asked me that question 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have had a good answer for you. Sure, I knew that I didn’t want to be a computer engineer forever. However, I didn’t really know what I would do for the rest of my life if I quit my job at 35.

Now that I’m a stay at home dad/blogger, I have a much better idea. I am having the best time of my life. Would I keep doing this if money isn’t an issue?

The answer is a big YES. I love being a SAHD (for the most part.) It’s great to spend a lot of time with RB40 Junior and we have a ton of fun together. Sure, we butt heads sometime, but that’s just natural. I’m sure he’ll grow out of it soon enough. It’s a privilege to be able to spend this much time with our kid and I really appreciate my good fortune.

As for blogging, I probably would continue doing this even if I didn’t have to. It’s good for me to put my thoughts down and the process keeps my mind sharp. However, it is a lot of work to write 4 times per week and I’d probably cut back a little. Overall, I really enjoy what I do right now and I’m very grateful for it.


Of course, life keeps changing and we all have to adapt. In 2½ years, RB40 Junior will start kindergarten and I’ll have more time on my hands. I have been thinking about this a lot lately and I want to start some kind of micro business. I just need to come up with a good idea and run with it. Oh well, I have a few years to keep working on it.

Non work

Well, this is all nice and good if you don’t have to worry about money, but is it realistic? What if you’re not quite happy with your career, but you still need to bring in some income to pay the bills? Here is what you need to do:

  • Save and invest as much as you can to start making some passive income. Even a little passive income will give you something to fall back on if you decide to make a change.
  • Explore the alternatives. Ask yourself, what you would like to do in a non work world. Everyone has different passion and interest and we all have something to contribute. Spend some time exploring what you can do with your interest. I like blogging, personal finance, traveling, photography, reading, and music. I was able to convert blogging into a little side hustle and it grew from there.
  • Make a jump to doing something you enjoy. This is hard, but it’s not impossible. Over the past year, I met a bunch of people who are pulling this off so I know it is not impossible. You don’t have to follow the rigid office drone lifestyle that society imagined for us.

The possibilities are endless  – yoga teacher, personal coach, pet sitting, freelance writer, roller derby, ecommerce entrepreneur, landlord –  These are just a few of the people I met. There is a whole world of possibilities out there and you just need to go outside of the box to find it.

What about you? If you don’t have to work for money, what would you do?

photo credit: flickr castgen

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{ 64 comments… add one }

  • Greg@Thriftgenuity August 5, 2013, 5:52 am

    Being able to answer “what I am currently doing” to that question is likely the goal for everyone. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that way just yet. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I sometimes think music, but I get soured by the attitudes of many musicians. I also think travel, but I’m not sure how to get paid to travel just yet. So, I think, for me, it is doing a little of a lot of things. I tend to get somewhat ADD if I am only focused on one thing, so I think I would try to work on multiple micro-businesses.

  • Thomas | Your Daily Finance August 5, 2013, 6:09 am

    I would honestly keep doing what I am doing. Be at home spending time with the family and maybe traveling more. I don’t see myself ever retiring completely and i really enjoy blogging and digital marketing so that is something I wouldn’t stop. I would however spend more time in real estate. The micro business ideas seems good as well.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:01 am

      Real estate? That’s such a big topic. Rental properties? Buy, fix it up, then sell? I’m not handy enough to do all that.

  • cj August 5, 2013, 6:26 am

    “Save and invest as much as you can to start making some passive income.” That is precisely what we are working on, RB40! Great post too! The other stuff, we have down. I know how the hours of the day would pass: composing weird classical guitar pieces, fitness/hiking, reading great books, blogging. No-brainer for me. Looking forward to it and working feverishly toward it;)

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:01 am

      Good luck! It sounds like you’ll have a great time once you get there.

  • Mom @ Three is Plenty August 5, 2013, 7:12 am

    I really like my job – So I’d probably continue working just where I’m at, although I’d probably try to reduce my hours. I’ve tried reducing my hours before, but that didn’t work out so well – I just kept working past when I said I would stop – money wasn’t the issue. I could use a sabbatical every once in a while though, and that’s my first goal when I “retire” – a sabbatical for a few months, then go back to what I am doing as a consultant (or full time depending on my boss :) ) Honestly, I could ask my boss for an unpaid sabbatical and he’d probably give it to me, but we’re not at a point where I can just not get paid for more than a month.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:03 am

      It’s great that you like you job though. Hopefully at some point you can really cut down your hours. :)
      Good luck! Sabbatical is a ton of fun.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules August 5, 2013, 7:44 am

    I believe that we would still do some of the same things that we do now as we really enjoy running our own business. That said, I think we’d be much more entrepreneurial focused and do more things to give back to the community. We do some of that now, but it doesn’t always pay the bills, so we’re limited in it. We’d also love to be able to pick up and travel more as we really can work wherever we want.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:06 am

      I would like to give back more too. It’s tough right now because we’re still trying to pay the bills. Once we are more comfortable and have more time, we’ll figure something out.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor August 5, 2013, 7:51 am

    The main thing that keeps me energized and interested in life is learning. So I’d take courses and teach myself new skills to stay vital into my ‘senior years.’ I’d also annoy my relatives by visiting more often. :)

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:07 am

      That’s great. Taking some classes sounds like a great idea. I’ll definitely take more classes when I have more time.

  • Dear Debt August 5, 2013, 8:00 am

    Teach, learn languages, travel, volunteer a whole lot.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:07 am

      I need to volunteer more…

  • JayCeezy August 5, 2013, 8:38 am

    Big reader of these books, and I read this one a couple years back. Really like this Ernie Zelinski’s book, but there are a few ‘flags’ in his story. For instance, he went on ‘extended vacation’ for six months and was surprised to learn he had been terminated? Something doesn’t really add up in his story; I believe in a follow-on book, he throws himself a ‘retirement party’ 25 years after leaving his job and invites his boss and co-workers (he loathes them, and didn’t stay in touch) to come. Seems like he was just sending a big “F U!” to them 25 years too late. Personally, I enjoy my grudges too and believe it is never too late to say “F U!” as long as you can get away with it.:-)

    But the subject of this post (and partly of this book) is a great one, and one that has me stumped at the moment. I know what I don’t want to do (blog, work for someone else, travel, volunteer, etc.). This is a problem for me; the absence of ‘bad’ does not equal ‘good’. I do stay busy and constructive, but my ‘to do’ list is finite. Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy RB40’s work, will continue to follow in hopes of inspiration, and wish you continued success, Joe!

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:09 am

      Heh heh, that’s pretty funny about the retirement party. I don’t know how to contact my boss and co-workers and it’s only been a year. I’m only about a third of the way through the book.
      Good luck finding something worth while to do. I will be looking as well.

  • krantcents August 5, 2013, 8:47 am

    I have been there for 28 years. It affects everything you do! I am able to pick what I like to do vs. what I have to do. It helps that I keep a relatively low profile lifestyle. I enjoy what I am doing for the most part. The only issues are budget cuts, overcrowding and lack of parental support. Many things I have no control over.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:11 am

      Ahh.. Sorry to hear about the issues. I can’t imagine low parental support, but I guess it’s hard for lower income families. No time.

  • Simon @ Modest Money August 5, 2013, 8:51 am

    Interesting question. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be doing what am currently doing right now so I suppose there are crucial changes to be made. So what would I be doing? Not completely sure but am thinking running my own business and helping as many people along the way ranks high up (haven’t completely figured it all out yet). Travelling more with family is something I’d want to do more of!

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:11 am

      Personal coaching? Traveling is a lot of fun. We just need to figure out how to get paid for it.

  • No Waste August 5, 2013, 8:51 am

    I daydream about this too often.

    The short answer is that I would do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

    If retirement happened today, I would spend more time with the little ones at home, more time reading, and more time losing twenty-five pounds!

    I’d also become a regular somewhere, doesn’t matter where. Just somewhere where everyone would know my name.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 9:12 am

      I need to lose a couple of pounds too. I just have time to exercise right now.
      That’s interesting about being a regular.

  • Mike August 5, 2013, 9:07 am

    I would plan to spend more time on learning Korean and Chinese. Maybe spend 1 to 2 hours a day on Ruby on Rails (the framework that powers Twitter and Groupon) M-F, then spend Saturdays on Android apps and adding stuff to a virtual world. Then take a day off completely and do nothing but enjoyable things to me-like reading or writing!

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 2:41 pm

      I’m terrible with languages. I would love to spend a few months in Korea and then learn in an immersive environment.
      Ruby on Rails? I have no idea what that is. Sounds like a great plan overall.

      • Mike August 5, 2013, 2:45 pm

        Ruby on Rails=Ruby programming language with some relational databasing. Like associating a blog post with a particular user. For the most part, learning foreign languages is an interest (could be a worse hobby I guess).

  • Michelle August 5, 2013, 10:11 am

    If I didn’t have to work for money, I would definitely still be doing most of my side hustles. Would I be doing my day job? NOPE!

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 2:42 pm

      Side hustles are a lot of fun, aren’t they? :)

  • MonicaOnMoney August 5, 2013, 10:33 am

    I’d volunteer and find something that I love to do. I’d also teach yoga to stay in touch and work part-time!

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 2:43 pm

      I like practicing yoga, but I’m not sure if I’m good enough to teach though.

  • Beat The 9 to 5 August 5, 2013, 10:38 am

    Spend more time on what I love doing. I will also have more time to learn new things and write about them.

  • C. the Romanian August 5, 2013, 12:12 pm

    If we’d live in a society where nobody would have to work, I think I’d do pretty OK raising chickens and growing potatoes and spending my entire day on the porch. If I had the millions to be able not to work a single day in my life, I’d probably live a life of traveling around the world. But like you said you would’ve been 5 years ago, I don’t really know how I would feel if I didn’t have to work anymore… and I don’t want to get dreamy about this because I really have to focus on working and make sure that when retirement comes, I can enjoy it!

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 2:43 pm

      That sounds like fun. I wouldn’t mind a few chickens and a little garden. I don’t want to spend all my time weeding though.

  • Mr. Utopia August 5, 2013, 3:08 pm

    I’ve posed this question to myself way too many times! If money were absolutely not a concern, there is a 0% chance I would continue on with my current job. Nope, instead I’d focus my time on living as healthy as possible, traveling the world, getting in tune with nature (camping, getting outdoors more, etc), and spending more quality time with family/friends. If I felt the need to be “productive” then I’d challenge myself by learning some new skills that I felt were worthwhile and enjoyable to undertake.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 10:12 pm

      That sounds great. I would also try to spend more quality time with friends and family. They are all busy with work though. :)
      Traveling more sounds good too.

  • Tortoise Banker August 5, 2013, 5:06 pm

    I’d like to get more involved in my Church community, and take my Wife travelling as she hasn’t been able to travel as much as I did before we got married. We’d like to have kids so spending lots of time with them, like getting involved in sports teams… that would be great.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 10:13 pm

      Sports team… I don’t know. I guess we’ll see if our kid is any good at a sport. I was terrible so I’m not holding out much hope for him.

  • Tonya August 5, 2013, 6:50 pm

    I would be a full time anthropologist. I would incorporate traveling the world changing other peoples worlds into that. For instance I would build a school for girls in Afghanistan and Uganda.I know this is the reality for some, I’m just trying to figure out how to best make it my reality.

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 10:14 pm

      That’s a great plan. I have read about a few people who are doing that and it’s tough. Good luck!

  • Ankit | Getting Money Wise August 5, 2013, 9:46 pm

    I am nowhere close to making blogging into a career but i would definitely more of writing. I have always dreamed about backpacking my way across the globe, trying (eating and cooking) new food, meeting new people and then sit by a beach and write away my experiences. I hope that over the next few years I am able to generate a healthy passive income stream which will allow me to do it :-)

    • retirebyforty August 5, 2013, 10:15 pm

      I would love to go backpacking again. An around the world trip is a big dream of mine. Perhaps when our kid goes off to college. I’d have to convince Mrs. RB40 to go though. She likes the comfort of home. (Or maybe she’ll let me go for a year…)

      • Ankit | Getting Money Wise August 8, 2013, 12:14 am

        Ha ha! I wanna do it before I meet my better half. I wanna backpack absolutely empty and soak in everything that i come across the way as an individual. But i agree, backpacking remains a goal that I need to achieve sooner than later. Wish you also get to go around the globe with Mrs. RB40 :-)

        • retirebyforty August 8, 2013, 9:27 am

          It’s a lot easier when you’re going by yourself. With two people, it’s too much of a democracy. :)

  • Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle August 6, 2013, 3:42 am

    I would have slept later today if I didn’t have to go to work this morning.

    I would like to learn things just for fun. Languages classes then immerse myself in the language by visiting the country it is spoken in. Classes in how to write fiction and start on that novel idea that is in the back of my mind.

    • retirebyforty August 6, 2013, 3:37 pm

      I’m going to sleep later and getting up later now that I don’t have to go to work. :) I like it much better than getting up so early.
      I would love to take some photography and maybe a painting class.

  • Pretired Nick August 6, 2013, 10:06 am

    My biggest problem is there is so much I want to do that I’d have trouble narrowing it down. But for sure, once Pretired Baby goes off to school I’ll have some additional time on my hands so I’ll also do either part-time work of some sort or start some sort of business. Or not — who knows? (:

    • retirebyforty August 6, 2013, 3:37 pm

      You still have 4 years to figure it out. No hurry. :)

  • FI Pilgrim August 6, 2013, 12:04 pm

    I think I would try to teach. Whether it would be in the technology arena or through my local church I’m not sure, but I enjoy teaching when I get the chance now, so I can only imaging that it would be more fun if I had way more time to prepare and no paycheck consequences to worry about.

    • retirebyforty August 6, 2013, 3:38 pm

      That sounds good. I’m a terrible teacher. I’m not very patient and I have the tendency to tell the students what to do…

    • Marissa @ Finance Triggers August 11, 2013, 12:21 pm

      Oh yeah I also would like to teach, apart from traveling and blogging.

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply August 6, 2013, 12:38 pm

    I’d definitely like to volunteer, travel the world, spend more time with family…maybe all three combined! I’d probably want to start a business too…but that sounds too much like work. I don’t know…the options are limitless and I haven’t put much thought into it as it doesn’t seem likely in the near future. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be at the day job though…that’s for sure.

    • retirebyforty August 6, 2013, 3:41 pm

      I would like to volunteer in a less developed country for a while. Peace Corp. is an option, but not sure if I can handle it when I’m 55… Good luck!

  • Rita P @ Digital Spikes August 7, 2013, 12:04 am

    Well I have already quit my regular job and now I am enjoying my time with my family along with blogging. I am also trying to find alternatives for income which can suffice my monthly budget needs. Would also love to travel around the world and have some great experience

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2013, 8:40 am

      Wow, that’s great. Enjoy your time with your family.

  • [email protected] August 7, 2013, 12:16 am

    I like what I do at work – tech dept in K-12, and have been able to continually change up what I actually work with there – programming, networking, web work, SANs, etc… – which has been very helpful, as I get bored doing the same thing day after day, year after year. They were trying to get me into management recently… no way Jose, not a direction I want to go in, thank you.
    I have a side business as well where I can do what I want if they don’t want me doing it at work, so that’s been helpful as well, and made a little money.
    But if I didn’t have to work for money, I probably wouldn’t be at at the school district.
    I’d open an online brownie shop – heck, if I don’t have to make money, somebody’s still gotta eat those brownies :-)

    Had a guy at my previous job that had a unique and, I think, good strategy for how he went about it. He was a programmer consultant. He’d get a project that would normally take a year to do. He’d work his butt off to finish it in 6 months. Then would take 6 months off – a couple months to take the family travelling over summer, and then four months spent in more tech/business learning and also in getting that next big project for the next year. He charged double what the inhouse programmers made, and then did it in half the time.

    If you’re looking to put your engineering skills to use in that microbusiness, maybe we can partner as businesses in the future. I’ve been trying to find wireless sprinkler valves for years, and the only place I’ve found them is http://www.remconix.co.za/
    He’s in South Africa and doesn’t have a distributor in the US, so can’t/won’t sell to me.
    If I can find somebody who can design/build the wireless device to go on the sprinkler valve side, powered by a battery for up to a year, with a little bit of memory to hold on to a schedule for run times, then I can probably write the app to manage the schedule from a PC/web/mobile device. This would be if it’s WiFi. The other option might be to have it just be RF, and just local. A few more details – but you probably get the gist of it. I wouldn’t suggest setting up a test environment inside your place though, at least not with Mrs. RB40 around, or she may be going on that trip around the world instead of you.

    I might also try doing work on sites like http://www.elance.com, etc… if I didn’t need the money to pay bills. Hard to compete at the prices some in other countries charge, but it seems to be getting a little better as an option.

    I’d probably also foster a couple pooches.
    Although I was watching a series called Animal Hoarders on Netflix recently. I don’t want to go that crazy – one lady had something like 250 cats.
    I have no interest in becoming the next CatManDooDoo.
    But 3 or 4 pooches I could probably handle.

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2013, 8:44 am

      It sounds like you are having a great time. I should have just said no to management right from the beginning. I didn’t know it was going to be such a pain though.
      I don’t like that guy’s unique method. That’s too much work in 6 months. Does he get to see his family at all during that time?
      At this point, I’m done with engineering. I want to try different things and see if I like them better. Engineering was fun, but I’ve had enough for now. Good luck!

  • Paula / Afford Anything August 7, 2013, 8:01 am

    Seriously, I’d do exactly what I’m doing now. I buy rental properties, I run a blog, I do some freelance writing and digital marketing (social media/blog consulting). It’s pretty awesome. I don’t think I’d change a thing … though if I had an extra $100,000 in annual revenue, I’d hire more people so I could get rid of some of the more administrative work (invoicing, etc.)

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2013, 8:55 am

      Really? I wouldn’t be a landlord if I’m rich. It’s too much work. :)

  • freebird August 7, 2013, 9:40 am

    I remember the stories about Roman gladiators who saved their pennies from their victories to buy their freedom. I think this method still works for the modern day wage slave. The less you spend and the more you earn, the sooner your emancipation, it’s that simple. But don’t sacrifice your health to spend less and earn more. It’s a trap to eat cheap junk food and pile on the overtime while sleep deprived. That’s not the way, instead it’s (1) stop buying useless junk and (2) learn how to earn passive income, stuff that gains value or produces returns as you sleep. Neither of these steps is quick or easy for most people, just have to do the best you can.

    In my case I hit FI awhile back and have vacillated about quitting. I applied for a buyout package that my employer offerred last year but was turned down because what I’m doing was deemed critical to the business. I could have walked out anyway even without the bonus payout but I chose to stay. I realize that what brings me to work is more than the paycheck, it’s the sense of being able to solve problems that others around me find very difficult or perhaps impossible. In short maybe it’s an ego thing. So for now I’m stuck doing what I’m good at.

    The secret of life: vita est lavorum

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2013, 10:25 pm

      I didn’t think the gladiators get paid at all. From the movies, they just have to earn the freedom from their owner by goodwill.
      Good point about getting to FI though. It sounds like you could benefit from a sabbatical to explore your passions.
      Try reading Ernie’s book. It might help you out. Thanks for reading!

  • payitoff August 7, 2013, 9:44 pm

    you can always travel and it will be even for free, just google vacation for a cause or volunteer vacation, you can pick a location you want to go, and do some volunteer work, like clean up a beach in Asia, or if you like camping or trail, clean up or plant trees in the mountains of South America.

    this is definitely what i am planning to do when i retire, you help and get free vacation.

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2013, 10:32 pm

      Really? I thought you’d have to pay airfares for those volunteer trips. I’ll do some research. Thanks for the tips.

  • Marissa @ Thirty Six Months August 11, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Hmmm probably travelling around the world and writing about it.

  • Dividend investing Martin August 11, 2013, 9:41 pm

    If I didn’t have to work for money, because I would have a plenty of them to support myself and my family, then I would probably stop working for a while and started traveling. After some time I would go back and worked on what I would feel like I want to do at that moment – starting a business of my dreams, investing, buying property, who knows what else. But whatever I would be doing, it would be because I wanted to do that and not because I had to do that.

  • Harry August 13, 2013, 2:06 pm

    I’d just love to reach that point where it’s up to me completely to decide if I want to work or not. As for the things I would do, I think I would mostly engage in recreational activities and some part time work may be in order to keep myself occupied.

  • Misha August 19, 2013, 10:18 am

    I am currently facing this decision, trying to decide if it’s the right time to quit my job. I work part-time for a cause I feel strongly about, but it’s stressful work and my schedule doesn’t mesh well with my husband’s. If I quit, we could probably survive just fine, but I don’t know what I would do with myself. I am planning to devote the next few months to considering this. Any books you can recommend on the subject would be appreciated. Thanks!

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