I Am Retiring Early At Age 33, But I Will Continue Working

One of the most common reactions people have when you tell them you will be financially independent at age 33 is: “But.. what will you do?!“.

I blog about FIRE (financial independence, retire early), and it is no secret I am mostly focused on the first part: financial independence. To me, the whole ‘retire early’ just sounds wrong, because it doesn’t reflect what most FIRE people do, and people in general misunderstand what is meant by ‘retire’. As you will read, for me achieving FIRE is not the same as not working. I might “retire early” from the traditional hamster wheel of being dependent on salary, but I might still be a management consultant after that. It is just about having the flexibility not to.

People cannot imagine a life without traditional work – at least not until they are 60-something – and therefore some people think I am crazy when I tell them that I can retire at age 33. Remember – I have the possibility to, but I really like working, so I will not retire in the traditional sense.

Most people think that retiring equals no work at all and watching TV all day, but that is definitely not the case for me.

Retiring for me means:

Spending all of my time with people who I love and doing things that really matter

I am going to do exactly what I want when I become financially independent.

However, even though I can retire from normal full-time work, I might still want to work. In fact, I am quite sure that I will be working after I am retired.

I really like working in many ways – I just don’t like being dependent on work to make a living. As Mr. Money Moustache once said: “Working is a lot more fun when you don’t need the money“.

Different types of work

For me, work can mean different things.

I generally categorize work into five different buckets:

  1. Permanent full-time work: You must work a minimum of ~40 hours per week on a continuing basis
  2. Permanent part-time work: You must work less than ~40 hours per week on a continuing basis
  3. Temporary full-time work: You must work full-time on a temporary basis
  4. Temporary part-time work: You must work part-time on a temporary basis
  5. Casual work: You work whenever you want to with no time and duration requirements

Currently, I am in the first work bucket.

I work a lot more than ~40 hours per week though. Even though I like it, I would like the flexibility to be able to quit tomorrow without the loss of income impacting my life quality negatively (I guess that is the definition of being financially independent).

The whole point about becoming financially independent is that I will be able to choose exactly how much and what type of work I am going to be engaged in.

When you are financially independent, you will not be dependent on generating an income.

If I want to travel for a year, I will go traveling for a year. If I want a month of vacation, I’ll take a month of vacation. Can you imagine the freedom?

I am quite certain that I will continue working. And you know what? As long as it is fun, I might still be in the first bucket of permanent full-time work again. I will also consider “permanent” part-time work, temporary full-time work, temporary part-time work and casual work.

Apart from the timing dimensions such as temporary vs. permanent and part-time vs. full-time, I also have a few other considerations.

Paid vs. unpaid

I am not necessarily sure that I will be working for money when I retire.

If I am working for a for-profit business, I will most likely still want to be paid, but money will not be the primary driver for any future work I undertake.

Financial independence will enable me to live without having to earn a single dollar for the rest of my life. However, any additional income will still be very welcome for investing, emergency savings or a bit of extra spending perhaps.

Meaningful vs. meaningless

When I retire early, I only want to take on work that is meaningful.

For me, meaningful work can mean many things. Meaningful to me, meaningful for my family, meaningful for my friends, meaningful for other people, meaningful for the planet… You get the point.

Right now, I am working as a management consultant – sometimes I do meaningful stuff for cool companies, sometimes I d less meaningful stuff.

Most often, my work involves solving a complex business problem. For me, my work is meaningful when I either:

  • Like the product that the company is selling
  • Have a client that is highly engaged, appreciative and positive
  • Can see the greater purpose of solving the business problem (e.g. creating workplaces)

On the contrary, my work is meaningless when I can’t see the purpose of solving the company’s problem, when I do not like the products that they make, or when the project does not have a greater purpose.

Until now, I would say that 75% of the projects that I do have been meaningful, and 25% have been meaningless. I know it is impossible for all projects to be 100% meaningful, but in the future, I might increasingly be able to turn down projects that doesn’t fit into that bucket (especially if I’m freelancing).

I would very much like to be engaged in unpaid, meaningful charity work in the future.

As an example, I have found a local charity that takes elderly people on bicycle tours in Copenhagen once a week (in fact, it is a global initiative!).

Elderly people who would otherwise not get outside at all are able to re-experience their own city and all their old memories while being social with the bicycle driver. How’s that for seriously meaningful work?! I would love to do more of that in the future.

Fixed vs. remote

My girlfriend and I have considered living 3-4 months a year in a low-cost country. Therefore, I would probably need to have a work that I could perform remotely.

Alternatively, the job should be flexible in terms of allowing me to take 3-4 months off each year (this would actually be possible in consulting as our projects are usually between 2-4 months in duration).

As you can see, there’s plenty of things to consider when working after retirement, but there’s equally many options and things to be engaged in.

Why do I want to work after retiring? Read on:

Why do I want to continue working?

There’s plenty of reasons to continue working after retiring.

The best reason is probably that you can do exactly what you want to do. At the same time, you have the possibility of leaving the very second it becomes unattractive for whatever reason.

A few other key reasons include:

Work is fun

Working can be fun if you do something you like (which I do) – and working is always more fun if you don’t need the money.

Work is social

One of the biggest reasons for me to continue working is to remain part of a social institution. Meeting a large group of people every day and socializing brings a lot of value to my life. I would never be without the social aspect of working.

Harvard Business Review recently wrote a really good article on work and the loneliness epidemic.

Work makes you feel appreciated

Feeling appreciated is a central part of being happy for me. Appreciation does not necessarily need to come from work, but it can be a great source. Feeling appreciated when I have done a good job is a reason for me to continue working.

Working gives you a routine

The routine of having a job can be a good driver for getting up in the morning.

Having a routine adds structure to your life which for some people (including myself) is highly satisfactory.

Work is challenging

I love learning new skills and challenging myself.

A central part of working is to stimulate my brain and constantly grow as a human being.

In my experience, it is a lot more fun and days simply go by faster if you keep yourself engaged with challenging tasks and constantly try to learn – no matter whether it is becoming better at project management, leading people, teaching others, learning to play an instrument etc., life is better when you have fun challenges.

Work gives you benefits

At my current work, there’s a lot of benefits associated with being employed. I get free breakfast, lunch and dinner (if I stay that late), paid phone and internet, good company parties etc.

If I am no longer employed by a company, I will miss out on some of the quite nice benefits you get from having a good employer.

Work gives you money

Even though I plan to become financially independent, it does not mean that I will never earn money again. It just means that I will not be dependent on ever getting a salary again.

Working is usually associated with some sort of compensation, and for some of the work I will be doing in the future, I expect to be compensated as well.

However, getting a salary is the last priority when I’ll be choosing what to do.

Now you know why I’ll continue working even after I become financially independent at the age of 33.

I know that other people have different interests and priorities, so for some people it might not be the best solution to continue working. However, I am pretty sure that it will be for me. If not, then I’ll have the freedom to choose not to work as well 🙂

Your turn: Do you want to continue working after you become financially independent?