Should You Enjoy Retirement Now and Work Longer Later?

One of the more interesting concepts I’ve heard of in recent years is that of “lifestyle design.” I’m a big fan of lifestyle design because it encourages you to think of what it takes to live the life you want. Versions of this idea are working their way into retirement planning.

It used to be that the question “When can I retire?” was answered by figuring out how much you had to invest into a nest egg at an assumed rate of interest to hit a target retirement year of your choice — usually somewhere between age 60 and 65. Some individuals are interested in a more aggressive path and putting much more away in their younger years to retire at age 50.

My question is this: Why are we putting off enjoyment until our 50s?


Photo by Chris McClave via Wikimedia Commons

Live Life to Your Own Design

This is where lifestyle design comes into play. I first heard about this idea while reading an interview J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly had with the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss. The subject was using lifestyle design to create mini-retirements throughout life rather than working away the prime years of your life to try and enjoy retirement later. My husband and I haven’t exactly had a mini-retirement (it’s kind of hard to do with an eight-year-old), but we do make it a point to take small trips when we can and enjoy some of our money now.

I’ve thought about retirement and lifestyle design off and on, and it jumped to the front of my mind again after reading an article from CBS MoneyWatch recently. The article addressed a strategy espoused by a T. Rowe Price financial planning director: At age 62, instead of retiring, start going on cruises and trips during your vacation days. Keep working until age 70. Then you will have enjoyed yourself and reap the benefits of allowing more time for your nest egg to grow. Plus you’ll get a higher Social Security benefit by delaying when you file to begin benefits.

Fun Throughout Life? Or Crammed In At the End?

My first thought was: wait until you’re 62 to start taking cruises? (Or doing whatever it is you want to do.) I think I would rather work until 65 or 70 with fun things interspersed throughout than stop working at 55 for an early retirement and try to figure out what to with my time. And there’s also the issue of what happens if the stock market crashes right before you retire at age 55. You won’t have enough to stop working anyway.

If you are going to engage in this form of lifestyle design you have to plan for it. In my mind it doesn’t give you an excuse not to put money in a retirement account. You are still responsible for planning for the future.

Another consideration is the kind of work you are doing. It’s easy for me to say I don’t mind working longer. I love what I do: working out of my home as a professional blogger and freelance writer.  I can adjust my schedule to suit my goals and financial needs. However, for someone in a job they hate prolonging the agony might not be worth it. Putting in 30 years of work and saving every penny might be the way to go for the relief and freedom afterward.

What do you think? How do you plan to spend retirement? And when do you plan to retire? Have you considered mixing in mini-retirements in your life?

This article was featured in the Best of Money Carnival at DoNotWait.com.

About the Author

By , on Mar 9, 2011
Miranda Marquit
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.

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Leave Your Comment (11 Comments)

  1. Freddy says:

    I want to retire now, my kids are 11 and 9. I have ten years then they will be gone why would I want to retire at sixty? I would be bored. I could work part time now then when my youngest graduates put the hammer down.

  2. Bill says:

    Somehow I don’t believe these people commenting that they retired so early. Where do you get money to do this? What does it mean to you to be retired? Living in your parents basement and slacking off? Or? I don’t know, I try taking 2 to 3 weeks vacation a year and my employer gets all worked up about it. I have seen people loose their good jobs once they are back from their “sabbaticals” – read “mini retirements”.

    With steady income I can’t keep up with all the expenses and if I take 2 to 3 months off without pay what than? Sounds good but it is hard to do except if you are single, no kids, good health, can stay rent free with your parents, and don’t care about your future.

  3. Kevin Mulligan says:

    I’m impressed with the number of people saying they retired at age 44 and age 38… how did you manage to earn in 20-25 years enough income to last 40+ years? Impressive.

  4. Charles Baratta says:

    I think I would never do that. I’m just afraid of getting too old to work and unable to get back the life that I should have. So, gotta work hard today for an earlier and better retirement,.

  5. DIY Investor says:

    @Kevin My previous career was as an investment manager for institutional funds – pension funds etc. Now I work with individuals and families. I have my own practice so it is a bit different – actually more satisfying.

  6. Sydney says:

    I retired (for real) 3 years ago and loved it. But about 6 months ago, an old colleague of mine asked me if I would come work for him part-time. I figured I have a bunch of time, I might as well try it. I’m having a lot of fun. When it’s not fun anymore, I’ll go back to the full-time retirement thing.

    Even in retirement (especially if you retire at 44 like I did), you gotta go where life leads. Down the road, maybe it will lead to some volunteer opportunities, who knows, but I have the flexibility to just explore as things as they come up.

  7. krantcents says:

    I retired when I was 38 years old I definitely recommend it. I was not prepared for the non monetary part of retirement. I became bored after 7 years and returned to work. I have never been happier in my latest career of teaching. It is almost stress free and somewhat rewarding. This time, I am prepared for retirement. I realize I need a vision for retirement, not just staying busy.

  8. Kevin says:

    DIY Investor, I would be curious to know: have you been able to jump right back into your old career or did you start something new?

    I think we can all agree it would be nice to take mini-retirements and then retire… but that’s easier said than done!

  9. Shaun says:

    Interesting concept and one I have given a lot of thought to after reading the 4 Hour Work Week myself. It’s funny, but most people that ‘retire’ end up doing part time work anyway to keep busy, or because they are so used to doing it. If you are going to keep working anyway, then you may as well take some time for yourself now. Start planning your next extended break now I say 🙂

  10. DIY Investor says:

    I semi-retired at 52. Taught part time (still do) and did some coaching. This came me time with my father who was aging and my children who were finishing high school.
    My father has since passed away and my children are off living their adult lives.
    Leaving a full time job to spend time with family was one of the best moves I ever made. You can’t get time back and it goes by quickly.
    I agree that the whole concept of retirement needs to be rethought.

  11. tmgbooks says:

    I’m thinking that true retirement is going to be pushed way out for those lucky enough to be healthy enough to keep working.

    First, let me give you my definition of “true” retirement — it is when you have voluntarily removed yourself from the job market for any and all paid employment, including self-employment, and pay the bills with passive income.

    Anything other than that, part-time employment, self-employment, part-time self-employment — whatever, is not true retirement.

    And I think the occasional sabbatical well before retirement age (62, the earliest you can begin drawing non-disability-based SS) is a good idea but costly!

    Disrupting a career track, if you’re lucky enough to have one, to go off and do your own thing, will usually mean the end of that track, with that employer, at least!

    Good careers do not grow on trees and take a lot of hard work to cultivate. Jumping ship for the sake of an extended break will be a red-flag to potential employers when you decide to jump back in again; it does not speak highly of your stability regardles of your own reasoning.

    And, then, there is the issue of health insurance. Giving up a job that provides health insurance as a benefit might not even be an option if you or someone in your family has a pre-existing condition.

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