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Work is NOT Optional After Retirement


Work is NOT Optional After RetirementWhat do you think about work after retirement? Lots of people hate that idea. After 6+ years of early retirement, I still get emails and comments saying you’re not retired. These people say, “You’re blogging and your wife is working, therefore you’re not retired.” Sure, they’re entitled to their opinion. I’m used to the criticism so I shrug it off and keep on blogging. To me, retirement means retiring from my engineering career. Life improved tremendously after I quit full-time work to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger in 2012. It’s a win and to me, that’s early retirement. As for working after retirement, I have always said it’s optional. If you can work on something you enjoy, why not?

Most, if not all, FIRE bloggers (financial independence, retire early) agree with me. After all, blogging takes up a ton of time. Yes, I admit blogging is work. Oh, the horror! I guess people don’t want to work after retirement because they’ve endured their job for too long. They dream of more leisurely days. It’s a mistake to think this way.

Work is good for you, even after retirement. Work gives you purpose and challenges to overcome. Not working is the real enemy. It’s bad to hang out at the pool and sip margaritas 24/7. There is no growth and you will get bored. I think that’s why so many people have trouble with the retirement transition. They think retirement = not working. That is the wrong approach to retirement.

*Oh, lots of people also say being a stay-at-home dad isn’t retirement. I say it’s pretty darn close. The first few years were tough, but we’re through that phase now. RB40Jr is in school full-time and life is awesome. I have plenty of time to do my own things. I love it. It’s okay if you don’t agree with me. Retire by 40 is just a blog, not a cult in Colorado.

Work after retirement

The real problem with work is that it’s a mix of thing you like and dislike. For example, I loved being an engineer when I was in my 20s. It was fun learning how to build a computer chip. At that time, I did mostly technical work and the job was great. I also didn’t mind working 60-80 hours per week, so the company liked me. However, working became much less enjoyable after 16 years. I had to go to a bunch of meetings, deal with all kind of corporate BS, and by that time, I wanted to spend more time with my family. The pain eclipsed the pleasure and I had to get out. If I could just do the things I enjoyed, I’d probably still be an engineer.

The key to work after retirement is to do something you enjoy. You need to get rid of all the stuff you don’t like and focus on the good parts. Once you do that, it won’t feel like work anymore. That’s why blogging feels like a hobby to me. It’s 90% fun, 10% tedious, and 0% corporate BS.

What is work?

We often associate work with a job. However, work is bigger than that. Working means expending effort to achieve the desired result. We do this at our job, but we also do this in other areas of life. Think of it more as working on something. Here are some examples of work and projects that fit the bill.

  • Taking care of the family and running the household.
  • Fixing up a house.
  • Improving the local community through volunteering and helping others.
  • Writing a book.
  • Earning a Ph.D.
  • Joining a band and playing a few gigs.
  • Running for office.
  • Becoming more engaged with church.
  • Starting a blog and building your brand*.

Many of these aren’t considered jobs. They are projects people work on because they’re interesting and stimulating. All of these are good options for after retirement.

*See my guide –  How to Start a Blog and Why You Should.

The perfect work

While we’re here, let’s think about all the things that make work great. Here are my criteria.


It has to be something I enjoy. If I didn’t like blogging, I wouldn’t be doing it. Now that I’ve achieved financial independence, money doesn’t matter as much. The work has to be interesting or else, I wouldn’t do it. You can follow your passion after retirement.


I need to have some talent for the work. It’s no fun to work on something you’re no good at. For example, I like playing my ukuleles. However, I haven’t improved even with lots of practice. So joining a band isn’t going to work. On the other hand, I’m a much better writer than when I first started blogging. You need to see incremental improvement so you can stick with it.


This is a big one for me. I need autonomy on whatever project I work on. At this point in my life, I can’t deal with a boss anymore. That’s why I love blogging. Nobody tells me what to do and I don’t have to boss anyone around. Being my own boss is the best.


Work also needs to be challenging, but solvable. If a project is too easy, it won’t be any fun. If it’s too hard, it will be too stressful and discouraging. Work needs to be the right level of challenge. Solving a difficult challenge gives you a ton of satisfaction.


This one is tough. The ideal work should give you purpose, a reason to get out of bed every morning. If the work isn’t meaningful, then you won’t like it for long. It’s hard to describe purpose. I guess you’ll know it when you see it.


Work should be flexible. Blogging fits the bill pretty well here. Some bloggers publish just once per month and spend the rest of their time on other projects. I keep a more rigid schedule because it works better for me. I still have enough time to do other things, so it’s good. Most regular jobs aren’t very flexible.

Little to no BS

There should be little to no negatives with the ideal work. Whatever you don’t like about your job put it here.

  • Meetings
  • Annual reviews
  • Quotas
  • Coworkers
  • Business trips
  • Office politic
  • Etc…

Improve the world/help others

The ideal work should improve the world or help others in some way.  This ties in to the purpose where your actions are larger than oneself.


Do you get into flow at work? This means you get lost in the work, in a good way. When you’re in the flow, you’re productive, everything clicks, and time flies by. That’s how you know the work is right for you. Personally, I think you should get in the flow at least once per week. If you don’t, then something is wrong.

Learn about flow, read more from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

I wrote down quite a few things here. Let me know if I miss anything. Who wouldn’t want to work if all these criteria are met with work?

Work is NOT optional after retirement

I used to think work should be optional after retirement, but I changed my mind recently. Now, I think work is necessary after retirement. We all need something to drive us. If you stop working completely and don’t have any project to work on, then it’s not going to turn out well. Work is exercise for your brain. Your muscle will atrophy if you don’t exercise. The same is true for your brain. If you don’t challenge it, you’ll slow down and increase the chance of developing dementia. To have a good retirement, work needs to be an integral part of your life.

Okay, what do you think? Did I convince you that everyone should work after retirement? I’d be bored out of my mind if I stopped working completely. What about you?


Why is it important to continually challenge your brain throughout life?

How I hacked the happiness curve

Image by Mohamed Ajufaan

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he couldn't stomach the corporate BS.

Joe left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle. See how he generates Passive Income here.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 73 comments… add one }
  • Michael @ Financially Alert November 28, 2018, 11:45 pm

    I love how you say work is NECESSARY after retirement. I agree!! If not working was so great then why in the world do almost all billionaires keep working, right? Working for enjoyment and to fulfill a purpose is ultimate freedom in my mind. But, we’ll always have the skeptics. 😉

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:35 am

      Thanks! The whole post was predicated on that word. This one was difficult to write. Just getting everything in order was tough.
      Yes, I came around. Now, I think work is a really good thing.

  • BusyMom November 29, 2018, 12:08 am

    This is how I see it –

    You are a dad whether or not you still went to your corporate job every day. Being a stay at home dad is retired when you compare working full time and being a dad. Even though you only do a fraction of dad-y things when you work full time (compared to now) because you don’t have the time.

    And once you discover blogging and you like it, you are going to do it. Blogging is retired when you compare working full time and blogging. And again, you only do a fraction of everything you want to do – you don’t have the time.

    And on both counts, for a change, I know exactly what I am talking about 🙂

    To be able to do all of what you want, because you have the time to – what more can you ask for?

    You are retired, dude, no matter what anyone says! Just sour grapes…

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:36 am

      Exactly. Compare to what I was doing before, this is a cake walk. I love it.

  • Dave @ Accidental FIRE November 29, 2018, 1:45 am

    Yep so true Joe. I’m personally tired of the “trope” that says FIRE people want to retire to sit on a beach with a drink in hand. Nobody is striving for that. It’s so old.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:37 am

      Right. This applies to regular retirees too. You shouldn’t retire to sit on a beach with a drink in hand 24/7. It’s not good. You need to find something to work on.

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene November 29, 2018, 1:52 am

    Definitely need something to keep a person going. It doesn’t matter if it’s a video game or blogging, people need to feel something. I think I wanted to FI so I could play video games all day maybe a few years ago but now it’s more FI in order to do something more tangible then Sim myself x)

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:38 am

      I don’t know about gaming. It’s fun, but you don’t produce anything. 🙂
      Maybe if you make YouTube video with your games…

  • Joe November 29, 2018, 2:39 am

    Hi Joe, Ihaven’t worked in the 11 years after early retirement… you’re scaring me! 😀

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:39 am

      What are you doing with all your time? Do you have some long-term projects that you’re working on?

      • Joe November 30, 2018, 1:32 am

        I moved overseas for a few years and lived an entirely different lifestyle.

        I was single when I retired, now I’m married. I’m also a dad now. Does that count as work?

        I haven’t made a dime of active income.

        If I break down my time, I spend about 10% working through an incredibly complicated tax code, 10% on health related issues such as appts for the family, dealing with health insurance, etc, 15% on exercise, 15% travel, 25% on keeping the household running such as cleaning, bills, groceries, cooking, 10% on extended family, 15% on child development such as homework, extracurricular activities, play. I have no time to read, watch TV, or rest, and very little personal time. Does any of that count as work?

        • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:12 am

          How are you keeping mentally stimulated? Are you challenging yourself in some way?
          Child development is a big project, but the other things don’t sound too difficult.

          • Joe November 30, 2018, 8:08 pm

            Like you, I used to be a hardcore chip designer. Doing my own taxes is very mentally challenging since my tax return is well over 100 pages. You’re right though, I don’t get much mental stimulation otherwise since my schedule is packed just trying to survive.

            When I first early-retired as a single, I taught myself Chinese (HSK level 5+). But I haven’t had time for anything else as challenging as that after having a kid.

          • retirebyforty December 3, 2018, 9:54 am

            Being a dad is a lot of work. I’m sure you’ll find time for other things as your child grows.
            Life improved a lot for me after our son started school.
            I’d love to hear more from you. Best wishes.

  • Xrayvsn November 29, 2018, 3:58 am

    Joe, you are preaching to the choir here.

    The internet has too many retirement police and does it really matter if they voice an opinion contrary to how you feel? You are doing what you want to do and it honestly doesn’t matter who thinks if that qualifies as being retired or not.

    A lot of studies show that retirees, contrary to what you would think, actually have more risk of dying early than people who work longer. If you dive into the results, the main thing is that these folks with early demise tend to be the ones who become bored, have lost social interaction, become physically inactive, etc. You are quite right in saying you need to keep he mind sharp.

    That is why the best saying is you need something to retire TO not FROM. I do hope this blogging thing for me continues well into my retirement because you are right in saying it checks a lot of boxes. It keeps you socially engaged, keeps you mind sharp, gives you something to do, etc. It is a lot of work, yes (I have realized that and I’m only 7 mo in) and I know I could have made a lot more money if I put my time into something else, but it is incredibly satisfying and fund to create something on your own and see people enjoy the product.

    I prefer retirement to be referred to as W2 Independence. I want to get to the stage where I don’t need to work to get a paystub. I work on my own terms and that would really be my retirement goal

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:41 am

      Retirees who aren’t working and don’t have projects to work on aren’t living a fulfilling lifestyle. You a motivation to keep enjoying life.
      Good luck with blogging. You’re doing really well, but you’ll run into the burnout sooner or later. Just power through it. 🙂
      Thanks for your input.

  • Stephen November 29, 2018, 5:01 am

    1) I think part of the difficulty is the definition of retired is not precise. If it just means being free from the necessity of working, isn’t that the same as FI. So in that case FIRE is redundant.
    2) It is also situational. I practiced medicine for 23 years. I’m a modest landlord, so am I retired? It covers 1/3 of my expenses. If it was in stocks would that change the definition? If I went and taught school, I’d still be a retired doctor, but would I be retired?
    I told my patients that I would have vocation, that I don’t golf or watch tv, I just didnt know if it would be paid vocation or not.
    3) I think people fill in the blank. I am retired is heard as I am retired from ‘_____’. Some think you mean ‘I am retired from working’, some hear ‘I am retired from my career.’ Maybe there would be less pushback if we all tried to be clearer with what we mean when we say ‘I am retired’.
    Someone this past year commented that they say they have ‘retired from full time work.’ Maybe that’s a compromise that leaves room for variations.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:43 am

      Holy cow! You got it. People will fill in the blank with their hope. That’s a really good point.
      Retired from full-time work is much clearer. But then, Retire from full-time work by 40 is a mouthful.
      That’s not a good blog name 😀

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance November 29, 2018, 5:33 am

    I agree with you. Even if I could retire today, I’d want to pursue something, and it’d be great if it could earn me some (or LOTS of) cash. Why should we say no to money when we can easily make it doing what we enjoy? You have the net worth to show that you can now retire and indeed are indeed. Haters will always hate 😉

  • Mike Drak November 29, 2018, 5:55 am

    Totally agree with you Joe. FI gives you the freedom to do what you want to do and continuing to work doing something you like is the choice for many. One other benefit of working that needs to be mentioned is that it delivers on the need for socialization. We are all social animals at heart.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:44 am

      Ah… I forgot about the social aspect. That’s a big one. I’ll add it to the list.

  • LazySod November 29, 2018, 6:04 am

    I fully agree with you. Remember that even cleaning up snow at your front door or washing the dishes is work. Work is not only paid employment, what you used to do before FIRE. Someone said he/she had not worked in 11 years – I really doubt it. As for blogging, many folks say it is not worthwhile anymore, there are gazillions of blogs about everything and it is just a waste of time. What is your take on that ? Good job !

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:46 am

      I’m not sure about blogging. You could get lucky and hit a home run. New bloggers eclipse older blogs all the time. I agree that it’s a lot more difficult now because it’s saturated. Also, most people start blogging for themselves. It fulfills a need to share. Even if only a few read the blog, it’s a good thing. It’s like keeping a diary in the olden days.

  • Jason Fieber November 29, 2018, 6:39 am


    Couldn’t agree more. This is something I’ve been talking about quite a bit over on my own blog lately. You can’t just run away from a job. You must run toward something that you’re passionate about.

    This is why the “early retirement math” is mostly moot. If you’re driven enough to FIRE, you’re not going to be content just sitting around. You’re gonna go out there and work on something (or many things) you’re passionate about, and you’re going to make money in the process. It’s practically inevitable.

    Best regards!

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:48 am

      That’s a great point about “early retirement math.” Most people who became FI will do something else afterward.

    • WTK December 2, 2018, 8:41 pm

      Hi all,

      The buffer (though it may not be 100% for some) will equip one to take some calculated risk.

      The option to taking such risk is great and one will not have to be fearful of the outcome with such buffer.


  • teddykgb November 29, 2018, 6:44 am

    “Cult in Colarado”…..I like that one, nice!

  • Jim @ Route To Retire November 29, 2018, 8:09 am

    I agree that I wouldn’t be able to sit on my butt all day long without having some challenge or purpose in life. For me, I have a number of projects I plan to be working on including expanding my blog and writing a couple of books.

    I would think though that a lot of this might depend on age. As you start to get older, I’m guessing that many folks start to lose that desire to have something going all the time. I’m a little young for that still (yes, 43 is still young!), but I would imagine that in a couple of decades I’ll be ready to wrap some of this stuff up.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:50 am

      That’s great! I’m sure you’ll complete those projects and have some new plans afterward. FIRE is awesome.
      I disagree about age. I think you still need some kind of project when you’re old. Otherwise, life would be boring as heck.
      We’ll see if I change my mind when I’m 70. 🙂

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify November 29, 2018, 8:26 am

    Joe, I’m “retired”. But I really don’t know what I would do if I didn’t blog part-time and teach part-time. Like real work, these activities can get in the way of exercising more, cultivating personal relationships and preparing healthy food, but that’s my problem to manage. I think at the end of it all, if you have choices day by day, hour by hour, a person gravitates to “who they are” and “what they enjoy”. Although a full time job working for someone is a choice. After you make that choice, much of the day to day, hour to hour flexibility is gone.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:52 am

      Thank you for supporting my theory! Work is a good thing especially when you have autonomy.

  • Randy @ Emusements November 29, 2018, 8:27 am

    I FIREd in June (after two decades in Software Engineering), and I had anticipated spending some of my free time during the day (while my kids are at school) catching up on movies and peak TV. Turns out I have not watched any more than I did while I was working.

    Instead, I have learned WordPress, rebuilt my personal website, started blogging, written a new draft of my 20 year old screenplay, and started volunteering at two animal shelters (not to mention exercising more and shuttling my kids around). Tell that to the retirement police!

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:54 am

      That’s great! You’re doing it right. Enjoy your retirement! 😉

  • PJ November 29, 2018, 8:32 am

    I think anyone who has the ability and discipline to get to FI before 50 is going to do something. Just the nature of the beast. Whether that something is defined as work is open to question. In my case I have no intention or expectation of monetising or earning any money from my something but it is taking up all of the time I used to spend at work. Frankly I don’t care whether anyone deems what I am doing as work or not.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:55 am

      What would you call it? Something that’s taking up all of the time you used to spend at work. 🙂

      • PJ November 29, 2018, 11:55 am

        It is a hobby and an obsession. As a kid I loved playing sport. I then went to work in a sit down job and got totally out of shape. About 7 years ago I read outliers by Malcolm Gladwell where he talked about mastery and the need for deliberate practice for 10,000 hours. So roll on a few years – I was ready to go part time so I thought let’s do an experiment on myself. Tennis was chosen as the subject because it requires you to learn technique rather than just be super fit, you can play at any age ( they have aged competitions over 50s over 60s and so on) and as a one on one sport it is easy to measure progress. I literally could not hit a barn door when I started. I recently decided to totally quit my job and now do more training than I have ever done in my life. Coaching, gym, stretching, reading, analysis, mental training and oh of course playing lots of tennis. They have an aged world championship once a year where the winner of each age group ( generally a top ex pro player) gets a whopping $800 so pretty clear no one is doing this for the money but there are many people out there who make me look that I am not that comitted to my game – great for discussions with Mrs PJ on my obsession level! Some may consider this madness, but I do not think it can be described as work and, man, it is fun and I have learnt so much more about myself than I ever did in the business world.

        • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:09 am

          That’s great. Thanks for sharing. I would call that working on your tennis game. It’s an ongoing project.
          Good luck with the championship!

  • freddy smidlap November 29, 2018, 8:47 am

    i came here for the colorado cult material to be told what to think. 90% of the negative of a job is the rigorous schedule. work is good. we don’t know what our work will look like yet but it will be something to remain useful.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2018, 9:56 am

      Sorry to disappoint you. 😀 The schedule wasn’t a big problem for me. Traffic sucked, but I dealt with it. The office politic and meeting really killed it for me. I should have found a better company to work for, but I don’t regret quitting. Life is great now.

  • Adam @ Minafi November 29, 2018, 9:43 am

    > It was fun learning how to build a computer chip. At that time, I did mostly technical work and the job was great. I also didn’t mind working 60-80 hours per week, so the company liked me. However, working became much less enjoyable after 16 years. I had to go to a bunch of meetings, deal with all kind of corporate BS.

    This sounds all too familiar for me. I love the idea of spending your 20s (or as long as you’re working) having someone else pay you to develop your skills and enjoying it. It’s when things transition from that into bureaucracy that things took a turn south for me.

    The idea of working on something is needed for my personality. I can’t imagine not having something that I’m growing and investing time in – whether that’s learning something new, building something, or creating something. I wonder who is turned off by that message though. I suspect that the same group of people who are working extremely hard to retire early and optimize everything are the same group that most needs to continue working.

    Agree completely though, that having something you’re passionate about to put your time towards is essential – whatever it’s called.

  • David Michael November 29, 2018, 10:29 am

    Thanks for another great article, Joe.

    I’ll be 82 in a few weeks. Many in my generation just assumed we would work until 55-65 and then travel, pursue our hobbies, and create adventures until we die. Funny thing, when I retired at 56, it opened a whole new world of possibilities. I thought work in retirement was a capitalist plot to keep the oppressed working for the corporate machine until one dies. Thus, I was reluctant to pursue it much. However, after we spent ten years of building a dream house and travel the world on biking vacations, I realized at age 65 I had the opportunity to start all over again, especially since our annuity company went bankrupt leaving us way short of retirement funds. I invested $30,000 in myself and went back to a small college in Vermont and earned a Master’s Degree in ESL, and started teaching university classes overseas in the Middle East for the next five years. It was an incredible experience which also allowed us to travel that part of the world with our teaching salary while banking our social security funds.

    During our subsequent seven years of RVing full time, my wife and I started volunteering for the Oregon State Parks that eventually led to seasonal jobs in the summer or winter Holdiday Season with organizations like Amazon, Costco, National Forest Service, etc. My specialty now is working as a sommelier (wine steward) for Costco during the Christmas season. Besides adding a little money towards our travel account, it keeps me mentally and physically
    sharp as I work with customers that shop in our department. I love the camaraderie of returning to a place where I know most of the staff. True, it’s nothing like my professional days when I earned a six figure salary, but it adds a great balance to my retirement life.

    In summary, life presents all kind of possibilities if one is in good health. I realize now that work is a life long pursuit that balances out those more relaxing days fishing, playing golf, biking the world, and being a grandad to our grandchildren.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:01 am

      I think you’re doing it right. You have to keep busy and be productive throughout your life. Life is better that way.
      Thank you for your comment.

  • CSH November 29, 2018, 10:52 am

    I think the problem is the “R” in FIRE. I really don’t think people dispute the potential benefits of work or your right to continue working. I think some people stumble on the notion that you are retired when it appears that many bloggers/ authors, life coaches, etc. are clearly working harder, longer and in a more disciplined way than many guys with regular jobs. If, for example, one could substitute the “retire” with “work for yourself” I don’t think you’d hear any criticism.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:03 am

      The FIRE bloggers I know aren’t working harder than when they were working full-time. If I was working that much, I wouldn’t consider myself retired.

  • jim November 29, 2018, 10:59 am

    The word “work” has more than one definition.

    1. Any physical or mental activity that requires effort .
    2. Doing a job for money.

    #2 is NOT necessary after retirement. And really its NOT retirement. If you still have a job then you’re not really retired.

    Work in the definition #1 as far as simply keeping active in retirement is pretty good and common for people to continue to have a purpose. But I wouldn’t say its exactly necessary or at least not to the degree some would think. Everyone is different..

    My grandpa had a garden and he would “work” in that garden. That was really all the “work” he did as far as I know. He lived into his 90’s.
    My uncle is retired and has been for over a decade. I can’t think of much he does that has significant purpose or is defined as “work”. He helps his girlfriend with her projects and mostly does lots of nothin. He’s good at doing lots of nothin and always has been. He’s perfectly happy, has a great attitude and is going strong in his 80s. He keeps active enough but a lot of it is recreational things like skiing. Skiing is not “work” in most peoples opinions, but it keeps him active. I’m sure he spends 5+ hours a day watching the news, reading the paper and playing soltaire.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:07 am

      Then you’ll have to define a job. 🙂
      I think the #1 definition is good for retirees. Working on projects will help keep your mind sharp.
      If you don’t challenge your brain, it becomes more susceptible to dementia. This doesn’t mean your uncle will have dementia. It’s just a higher change. Similar to exercise helping your health. Keeping active is good.
      I wonder if doing lots of nothing takes a lot of effort.

      • jim November 30, 2018, 9:58 am

        The standard definition of ‘job’ is a “paid position of regular employment”. Most people I’m sure consider a position with a W2 and regular paychecks to be a job. I’m assuming most of us would think a contract position with a 1099 also a job.

        While it doesn’t exactly fit the dictionary definition, I’m sure most of us would say that a sole proprietor running their own business also has a job even though they’re self employed. But then it might get into a gray and debateable area depending on the nature of the business and how much you really work. I’m sure many people consider owning rentals to be a ‘job’. It sure aint’ a vacation.

  • Mr. Tako November 29, 2018, 11:23 am

    Some people are more self-motivated than others. I’m always working on various projects and learning new things. I blog about these projects all the time. I guess you could call that “work” even though they don’t technically earn me much in the way of money.

    Other people would sit around and watch TV all day if they were retired. Those are the kind of people that really need a boss, and who’s health fail them after they retire.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:08 am

      Learning and working on projects keep your mind sharp. I call that working on something.

  • Mike H. November 29, 2018, 12:53 pm

    Spot on. I used to tell people that you need an idea of what you’re retiring *to*, instead of what you’re retiring *from*.

    “I’m retiring to be a SAHD, blog, and get healthier” is a plan; “I’m retiring from my computer engineering career” isn’t.

  • Caveman November 29, 2018, 1:43 pm

    A fascinating post and and equally interesting comments. The thing that strikes me is that the contention is around your choice of the word “work”. I think that I’m with PJ in that what you’re actually describing is a hobby.

    If you think about those people that spend hours ballroom dancing, or building Lego models, or practising an instrument. All of those can, if you choose, fit your description of the perfect work.

    For me this leads me to a place where I think that I want hobbies, but also that, like ordinary people I want to make sure I pursue that hobby now before I FIRE. For me the point is about happiness and contentment and I want to do what I can to achieve that now, not wait for the future.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2018, 9:10 am

      I count hobby as working on a project. You’re challenging yourself and continually improving your skill. That’s working on something, right?

  • Susan @ FI Ideas November 29, 2018, 2:00 pm

    A lot of the comments are about word definitions. It’s clear we all have issues with the words “retire” and “work”. After 8 years out of the workplace, my husband and I have been very busy doing lots of things that easily could become a side hustle. We personally prefer not to monetize them, probably for your reasons stated as autonomy and flexibility. And we like to have the option to quit anytime and take up another challenge.

    Because we value variety, it can be challenging sometimes to have the creativity to come up with what’s next and still make sure it is stimulating and fun.

  • Lance November 29, 2018, 2:29 pm

    There is one sentence I heard years ago that still sticks with me today. You might appreciate it. It goes “quit your job and find your work”. Job and work are not the same thing, which is essentially what you are explaining here.

  • Helen November 30, 2018, 4:34 am

    Hi Joe, yeah, if we define work in the broad sense as you listed, retirement life is a work life, the work with more choices, purpose and fun. I agree, retirees shouldn’t sit there and just do nothing. That’s not a healthy living. Being active is great for us physically and mentally.

  • WTK November 30, 2018, 6:00 am

    Hi Joe,

    The most important thing is to be happy what one is doing. One has such option when achieving FI. He/She can still remain in the present employment and retain the option to quit at any point of time. Flexibility is the way to go.

    My two cents worth of views.


  • Steve @ Think Save Retire November 30, 2018, 6:47 am

    I just like to think of this as “being productive”. You’re retiring from full-time jobs, but not from filling your days with whatever makes you happy, productive and full of purpose.

  • Ray November 30, 2018, 11:06 am

    This is the american mind. Work is the only thing that fulfills life ! ?!?!??!!

  • steve @ familyonfire.org December 1, 2018, 9:26 am

    Although we are not doing anything monetized, we are still “working”. Between volunteering, running the family finances, blogging, cooking, volunteering at school and exercising we are always busy.

    I’m surprised we got anything we done when we were both working.

    • retirebyforty December 3, 2018, 9:54 am

      Exactly! You need to keep busy. Volunteering at school is a great way to give back. You’re working to improve the community. Thanks!

  • Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto December 1, 2018, 3:56 pm

    Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, I’ve been on vacation the past 10 days and haven’t been active on my screens. Yep, I’m retired, but I still need the occasional vacation from work!

    • WTK December 2, 2018, 5:20 am

      Hi Fritz,

      This is one of the perk of retirement. There is no pressure of having to reply to the comments at all. No deadlines and stress akin from the job. One can take his/her time to do things he/she likes on his/her term and schedule. It’s terrific to be in such position.


    • retirebyforty December 3, 2018, 9:55 am

      I need a vacation too. It’s hard to get away when you’re a blogger. 🙂

  • FIRECracker December 2, 2018, 9:56 am

    “It’s okay if you don’t agree with me. Retire by 40 is just a blog, not a cult in Colorado.”


    Interesting take on work being necessary. I think it depends on the person. If someone wants to volunteer for the rest of their lives after retirement, does that constitute as work? Or maybe some people just want to hang out with their friends, play sports together, travel and hang out. That’s fine too. Maybe the people who become FI are the high-achieving types who have to find problems to solve and create things after retirement. That’s why we’re obsessed with “working” even when we don’t have to.

    • retirebyforty December 3, 2018, 9:56 am

      Volunteering counts. That’s working to improve someone’s life/community. It’s a big project.

  • Gasem December 2, 2018, 5:08 pm

    So is this the virtue signaling of the champagne socialist or the armchair revolutionary? “I’m feeling a bit bored Pinkie, think I’ll git me a PhD, maybe start a movement, change my name to Napoleon and become king of the world!” Pass the shrimp please. That’s a good fellow. I have zero interest in work or wrapping myself in someone’s else’s guilt at their lack of productivity and wasting half of their human capital typing “shoulds” and “musts” and “need too’s” and “nots” into the ether. I already did my time in the dunk tank. Seems like this futzing about the legitimacy of “not working” is rampant in FIRE land. Seems the issue lays in the FIRE’d not in some straw man “other” whom they perceive as accusing them. The “others” are too busy working to care.

    • retirebyforty December 3, 2018, 9:57 am

      I don’t think you read the whole post. I’m just saying you need a project to work on.
      If you just sit around, it’s not good for your health. What are you doing in retirement?

  • Gentleman's Family Finances December 3, 2018, 3:14 am

    I suppose the big shift in a FIRE scenario is that work will be something that you do because you want to not because you are being told to, coerced to, forced to, only doing because you need the money…
    If more people did what they wanted to do, it might actually mean better managers (because you’d have them using more carrot and less stick) but happier and more productive people.

    • retirebyforty December 3, 2018, 10:36 am

      Exactly. As I said, work doesn’t have to be limited to a job. I think working on a project or volunteering counts too.

  • Roderick Mills Jr. December 13, 2018, 6:55 am

    I agree with you that solving problems naturally creates happiness as humans and we don’t have problems to solve we are not growing. We should always be growing and working on ourselves in some capacity.

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