Alternatives to Traditional Retirement

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Mark Twain

Too often, we think of retirement as one-size-fits-all.

We think “traditional” retirement is the only option – that you go to work every morning for 40 years, and then, one day, you quit.

But what if we didn’t have to wait until our 60’s to enjoy an extended vacation? What if we still got to experience the world while we were healthy and energetic? What if there were other options to help us balance a life of enjoyment and purpose? Let’s look at some of those options today.

1. Phasing Out

In this approach, rather than going from 40 hours a week to zero, you would gradually start to scale back. This might be with your current job, or it could look like part-time work elsewhere. It may even be something completely unrelated to your career!

But this is an opportunity to start phasing out of “work-mode” and imagining what your new life could look like. As Roger Whitney puts it, retirement is a dimmer switch – not on/off.

This also allows you to begin making the transition into retirement sooner! Rather than waiting until you’re 65 to quit your job cold turkey, what if you started working 20 hours a week in your 50’s? Get a head-start picturing what your retirement could look like, and keep earning an income while you’re at it!

2. Seasonal Retirement

This strategy describes working a job that is only available (or busiest) for a portion of the year due to the nature of the position, whether that be full-time or part-time.

You could work at a ski-resort, a summer camp, or an amusement park. You could be a tour guide, a gift-wrapper, or a tutor. Landscaping, fitness training, catering! There are countless possibilities! Find something you think you’d enjoy.

The obvious perk for this situation is the lengthy, regularly-scheduled vacation. Depending on the job, you may only be working half the year. Or less! This also gives you the chance to spend seasons of the year in your preferred climate. As you learn the type of work you enjoy, and where you like to live, this could help you to build an annual routine around your life.

3. Frequent Sabbaticals

Sabbaticals can help you mentally regroup – to see if you’re moving in the right direction. If your job allows it, this is a great opportunity, whether it be paid or unpaid.

Even if your company “doesn’t normally do that type of thing”, it never hurts to ask. Sabbaticals can ensure that a company’s employees aren’t getting burnt out, and are returning to work relaxed and reenergized.

A sabbatical can help you break free from a monotonous routine in your younger years. Not to mention, having a job to come back to at the end of your time off is a great feeling.

4. Mini-Retirements

This is exactly what it sounds like – several periods of retirement throughout the course of your life.

Rather than retiring at 65, perhaps you take off a couple summers in your 30’s to spend more time with your kids. Maybe you take a full year off at 40 to explore that startup you’ve always wanted to try. And then at 50, you take 6 months off to travel the world with your spouse while you’re still relatively healthy.

You can experience a mini-retirement much earlier than traditional retirement. You may even choose to take one every other year! Just make sure you have a cool story to tell if you’re asked about a gap in your resume.


Think of these retirement strategies like the pirate code. They’re more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules. Feel free to use these ideas to help you think creatively about what your own retirement could look like!

So consider your values, and crunch the numbers! Your retirement doesn’t need to look like anybody else’s. How you envision your retirement is between you and God.

Oh, and your spouse.

A Few Considerations

  • Don’t forget about healthcare! It’s expensive.
  • Consider how your retirement strategy could affect your social security.
  • Weigh the opportunity cost of compounding interest.
  • Make sure you establish a church home if you’re establishing a vacation home.

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