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Is Partial Retirement for You?

Written by Paul Williams

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

I avoid telling people that I'm retired. It's much easier to say, “I work for myself," as a way to describe that I continue working — not full-time, but a few hours a week.

Looking back after eight years of semi-work or partial retirement, I'm glad I went that route.

Why I'm Glad I Didn't Fully Retire

Thinking about it in strictly financial terms, many Canadians nearing retirement age worry about money. An extra $30,000 from semi-work is equivalent to a 5% investment return on $600,000 after fees.

For myself and other people who feel they haven't saved enough for retirement, partial retirement can help fill the gap.

My Rules for Semi-Work

The exciting thing about semi-work is that you're working on your own terms. In my case, I have two rules: do interesting work, and work with people you like and respect. Actually, I have three rules — the third is to make good money.

How did I do it? First, I went out and bought a desk and a fancy new chair — covered in white leather, and a shiny new laptop. I expensed everything to my new business.

Yes, that meant I had my own business, and that meant I was able to defer taxes on some income and write off reasonable expenses against the business income.

Incorporation was relatively easy and didn't set me back more than $1,200.

I Dusted Off My Old Skills

How did I build my business? I went with what I know — media and financial services. I leveraged old contacts and dusted off an old skill — writing. I used my knowledge and experience.

I based my hourly fee on the total compensation received in my last corporate year. Most of the time I got that fee. And my client list grew to 12 organizations.

Do What You Love While Trying Something New

Working into the twilight is easier for some professions — doctors, lawyers, accountants, professors. But the delight of semi-work is trying something new. One of my neighbours is a snowboarding instructor. A retired airline pilot I know is training new pilots.

Another point: technology makes remote working possible. I used an app to track expenses and harmonized sales tax, and to send and receive invoices. The app also alerted me when receivables were mounting. I work on Google Docs and Sheets.

In other words, I had time to ski in the morning and work in the afternoon. (Or snooze at my desk.)

Transition from Work Life

The final point: semi-work allows you to keep a toe in the game. It helps you better transition from the work life you're accustomed to. It gives you an excuse to keep up with old work buddies.

All in all, there are good emotional and financial reasons for working into retirement.

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