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Semi-Retirement Confusion
Old 11-18-2015, 12:16 PM   #1
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Semi-Retirement Confusion

You will see that I have been a member here since 2006. I have been planning my early retirement since well before that. But as things have gone, I am still working. Having now turned 65 there is nothing "early" about my status. But I am determined to be semi-retired.

I am a fee for service lawyer running now a very solo practice. I have no employees, free rent and with modern technology can easily practice on my own. I also have no problem turning down work which might be too much of a hassle.

But the confusion: I feel that I am neither fish nor fowl. I am not free from the work so when I am not working or am away it stays on my mind. When I am working, I kinda resent the intrusion on what should be my free time.

The practice is too easy to walk away from. But too annoying to live with comfortably.

So to my semi-retired friends, or anyone else kind enough to chime in. How do you handle this situation. Any hints for me.

Thanks always. Zman
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Old 11-18-2015, 12:32 PM   #2
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I am not free from the work so when I am not working or am away it stays on my mind. When I am working, I kinda resent the intrusion on what should be my free time.

The practice is too easy to walk away from. But too annoying to live with comfortably.
Take down your shingle. Walk away. Live your life while you still have one to live.
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Old 11-18-2015, 12:40 PM   #3
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Take down your shingle. Walk away. Live your life while you still have one to live.
+1

I would agree with this but of course it depends on one's personality. If work is your life then it may be too painful to give it up.

In my case, I had had enough of the hassles and chose to go from the high pay and stress of professional practice to the very low pay but great flexibility and high satisfaction of teaching. One reason I chose to do this was that I 'retired' at 53 and felt that I might have difficulty if I were not contributing it some way. 18 months later, I am very certain that I made the right decision. I would think that if I had managed to work (and was alive) until 65 I would have ran, not walked, for the exit!

Good luck.
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Old 11-18-2015, 12:53 PM   #4
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I am not free from the work so when I am not working or am away it stays on my mind. When I am working, I kinda resent the intrusion on what should be my free time.

The practice is too easy to walk away from. But too annoying to live with comfortably.
So do you continue to work for the mental stimulation or enjoyment of it, or for the extra money it brings in, or both? It sounds like you might be doing it primarily for the extra income, considering you "resent the intrusion" and find the work "annoying". Maybe you haven't gotten comfortable with the idea of living purely off your investments / nest egg yet? Do you think your lifestyle would change much if you stopped doing any work for hire and your income declined?
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Old 11-18-2015, 01:09 PM   #5
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... I feel that I am neither fish nor fowl. I am not free from the work so when I am not working or am away it stays on my mind. When I am working, I kinda resent the intrusion on what should be my free time....
Definitely understand this - and I believe it's common among professions where work tends to become life/who you are. Certainly true in law and medicine, among others.

As a recovering lawyer myself, also directly understand the issue well; I don't believe there is a silver bullet for it, however. My highest and best advice on the point is to try to go 90 days without taking any new work and see how you feel once you've got essentially zero pipeline -- I am betting that at that point, you might find it more reasonable to conclude your then-existing matters and simply be done.

That something is relatively easy to do and remunerative is not a reason to keep on doing it if you do not need the money and would rather do other things with your time. Of course, only you can answer those two for yourself, but IMHO they are the key determinative factors in play here.
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Old 11-18-2015, 01:19 PM   #6
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I gave up my snowplowing this Spring. It was a small part of the many things I do, but was a nice piece of income.

Just pick a date. Get another person to do the work, and pass the business to them. Send a letter to the clients indicating as such. Then, do not take any more work.

I am constantly tempted to take on a few more things, and hate to leave money sitting on the table. I am debating on doing a furnace install now, or just letting a furnace guy do it. Not too hard of work, and will save $500+ in a day.

Sometimes you just have to let go and enjoy. Assume you only have three years to live, you just do not know when it starts, or if it already has.

(I am still not sure if I will install the furnace or hire it out)
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Old 11-18-2015, 01:41 PM   #7
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.....The practice is too easy to walk away from. But too annoying to live with comfortably......So to my semi-retired friends, or anyone else kind enough to chime in. How do you handle this situation. Any hints for me.
I'd suggest you do like I did and go through a thorough self analysis of why you are continuing to work when you have some very good reasons to retire?

For me, the answer boiled down to what you mention above: It was relatively easy work and brought in very good money.

I didn't like that answer simply because I didn't really NEED the additional money and working prevented me from enjoying precious remaining family time. Made retirement easy for me ( I retired in early 2015). Haven't regretted it for a minute and have spend MUCH more time with family that I could have before.
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Old 11-18-2015, 01:49 PM   #8
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I sorta-semi-retired 5 years ago at 50 and have found it to be only a partial success.

Positives:
Working 3 days a week I do get to spend more time on projects/recreation/rest.
Having a trial income reduction to 60% has been a good test of my financial readiness for true retirement. Other than a reduction in savings rate to my taxable portfolio I didn't really notice it.
In my particular case Megacorp retirement benefits remain at the full time level even for part time employees, so the long term financial impact was less severe than it might have been.

Negatives:
I work with people on a full time schedule, so I often feel like I'm slacking if I don't keep up. This has pushed me into occasional backsliding with periods of full time work amidst the part-time.
More importantly, I still work about 48 weeks a year. Even if they're short weeks it means that my routine is much like that of folks working full time. I've managed to take a couple of month-long trips, but anything really extended isn't really possible.

Perhaps the biggest negative (which not be a negative for everyone) is that I think semi-retirement encourages OMY syndrome: "I'm already part-time. This isn't so bad. I can last another year"... Rinse and repeat.

In short, if you're not careful how you set things up semi-retirement can end up looking a lot like just plain working.
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Old 11-18-2015, 02:11 PM   #9
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I struggle with this as well. At the moment I am juggling two contracts at once, but this will be a thing of the past shortly. Does the work impose on my life? Yep. But I am 42 and have kids, so I feel the need to keep a hand in, remain employable if the worst happens and the extra money is helpful. Yes, it is a compromise, but for now one I can live with.


If I were 65 my answer would be very different. If the work were not interesting/fun, I would dump it in a heartbeat.
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Old 11-18-2015, 04:14 PM   #10
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For me it is all a question of balance. When I have no consulting on, I miss the stimulation and the social aspects of it. When I have too much, It feels like work. The balance is never perfect, but I try to keep it close to what I like. I think if it ever became simply irritating I would stop it.


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Old 11-18-2015, 04:24 PM   #11
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I think I continue to do it for the $$, although DW and I were always LBYM types and have a good nest egg and retirement plan.

The thing about practicing law is each matter requires a certain amount of dedicated brain space. I do an esoteric and fairly collegial form of litigation and have quite a few open matters. Each one has a history a future and a few personalities.

To me it is the dedicated brain needed for this activity and its lack of availability for other uses which can be oppressive. DW wonders what I will do in retirement. I cannot answer since I do not know what it might feel like to be free of my caseload, even my semi-retirement caseload.

BTW, I do like the suggestion of not taking any new matters for 6 months and seeing what that looks and feels like.
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Old 11-18-2015, 04:26 PM   #12
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I'm 40 and about to take a 6 month "sabbatical" with a non commitment at the end . Basically I'm buying a FIRE option .

DW and I talked about part timing... But if I part time at my job I'm very likely to be paid part time but work full time because much of the work is thinking and I'm not good at turning that off.

So... Here's my thought. Decide how many hours you want to work and raise your rates until you get that little . If you feel like helping someone because of kindness don't charge anything.

This is kind of what I'm planning. Some people I want to help and since I can afford it I can do that for free. Others want my help and since they can afford it I'll charge A LOT... With the hope that they won't ask for too much help...

Just an idea.

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Old 11-18-2015, 04:49 PM   #13
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Given your tone regarding your work, I suspect that you are not semi-retired but rather working part time. So, ask yourself about your future in those terms. Do you want/need to be retired or do you want/need to continue to work part time?
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Old 11-18-2015, 05:02 PM   #14
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Given your tone regarding your work, I suspect that you are not semi-retired but rather working part time. So, ask yourself about your future in those terms. Do you want/need to be retired or do you want/need to continue to work part time?
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Old 11-18-2015, 05:24 PM   #15
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Given your tone regarding your work, I suspect that you are not semi-retired but rather working part time. So, ask yourself about your future in those terms. Do you want/need to be retired or do you want/need to continue to work part time?

I was checking and someone beat me to it....


You are NOT semi retired.... because your mind is on work when you are not working...

Now, if you could only think about what you want to do with your time when not working, then you can put yourself into the semi retired category.... I put myself there, but I have not had an offer for me to work that I wanted to take in the last year... I still have feelers out and get a call every once in awhile, but they usually are too far away with very bad commutes.... so far nobody wants to pay the extra money I want for that hassle... one came close, but went with another firm...
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Old 11-18-2015, 05:39 PM   #16
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Good points re part time work v semi retired. But what is the difference beyond the state of mind of the participant. Or is the status based on state of mind? I am telling the world I am semi-retired (whatever it means) since my recent 65th birthday.
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Old 11-18-2015, 06:02 PM   #17
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I think I continue to do it for the $$, although DW and I were always LBYM types and have a good nest egg and retirement plan.
Then the answer to your questions seems pretty easy to me. As you say, you are working for the money, which I assume means that you want a better quality of life in retirement than you could afford right now. There's nothing wrong with working for the money! Few could afford to retire without it.

When you get to the point where you really are not working for the money, but are just working for the fun of it or else not working, then you can more easily start to let go of your work. You will not resent the intrusion on your free time at all, because spending your time working will be 100% your choice of how you want to spend your free time. At that point, I think you will feel more truly retired.
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Old 11-18-2015, 08:02 PM   #18
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Then the answer to your questions seems pretty easy to me. As you say, you are working for the money, which I assume means that you want a better quality of life in retirement than you could afford right now. There's nothing wrong with working for the money! Few could afford to retire without it.

When you get to the point where you really are not working for the money, but are just working for the fun of it or else not working, then you can more easily start to let go of your work. You will not resent the intrusion on your free time at all, because spending your time working will be 100% your choice of how you want to spend your free time. At that point, I think you will feel more truly retired.

Yes, ZMAN is going to have to figure out how important the money is. And you have to know in advance how much you will miss your job. My dad worked until his body broke down at 75. He didn't need the money, he just loved to work. When he had to quit he said its time for him to die, since he cant work. Four years later the death threats have went away and he has learned to finally be lazy.
FWIW- I was a Type B person doing a Type A job. Retired at 45, worked part time a bit for 5 years and have now perfected the art of doing nothing. I have been awake 13 hours today, and all I have got done is read the newspaper, scan internet off and on, play 9 holes of golf, walk and workout, quick visit to GF's house....Where did the day go? Its like this everyday anymore, I never get much done, but I am never bored either.


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Old 11-18-2015, 09:21 PM   #19
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Given your tone regarding your work, I suspect that you are not semi-retired but rather working part time. So, ask yourself about your future in those terms. Do you want/need to be retired or do you want/need to continue to work part time?
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You are NOT semi retired.... because your mind is on work when you are not working...

Now, if you could only think about what you want to do with your time when not working, then you can put yourself into the semi retired category....
Hmmm... This is an interesting distinction. During the past 5 years I've mostly referred to myself as semi-retired, but when talking to others that I don't know well I usually just refer to myself as working part-time as that is easier for most people to understand.

To the OP, I am also a lawyer although I worked in a firm. A little over 5 years ago, I went in with the intent of retiring entirely. I was talked into agreeing to work 1 day a week, doing the things I enjoyed the most. Over the last 5 years, this changed a bit throughout the time. For awhile I worked 2 days a week. After awhile of that, I got tired of the commute mostly and went in to retire fully again. I was offered the opportunity to work fully from home which I've been doing for the last 2 1/2 years.

I consider myself semi-retired mostly because my mindset was to entirely retire and I consider the work something that is entirely optional to me. I don't need to work part-time. It is something that I choose to do, mostly to be of help to a former colleague.

Is my mind on my work when not working? Sometimes. I work very few hours, on average about half a day a week. If I am working on a project, yes, sometimes my mind will drift to it when I'm not actually doing the work. I still find what I do interesting. But, this makes up a very small part of my life at this point. To me, my life is almost entirely a retired life.

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Then the answer to your questions seems pretty easy to me. As you say, you are working for the money, which I assume means that you want a better quality of life in retirement than you could afford right now.
I obviously can't speak for the OP, but I'm not sure that working for the money means that you want a better quality of life in retirement that one could afford right now. I am sure that it is true for many. But, I think of my own mother, who is in her 90s now but has told me she had a hard time retiring in her mid-60s because of the money. Having more money wasn't necessary for her quality of life in retirement at all. She wasn't at all wealthy, but was very frugal. She wanted money for the security it gave her (child of the Depression), not because she wanted a better quality of life. Just having money to have more money was important to her even though she wasn't going to spend any of the extra money at all.
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Old 11-19-2015, 06:31 AM   #20
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A lot of great advice in the above posts. I was semi-retired for several years, but never felt retired during that period. Even working one day a week, the fact that I wasn't free for that one day bothered me the rest of the week.

I would advise to find someone to take over your work and fully retire. I understand that handing off work mid case or mid project can be difficult. You'll have to assess which issues you need to address to their conclusion and which ones that you can easily hand off now. Get rid of as much work as possible as soon as possible. Don't take in any new work, and figure out how to transition the cling-ons to someone else with minimal hassle. You'll enjoy yourself more knowing that you don't have work responsibilities hanging over your head.
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