Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thoughts On Working (Or Earning Money) In Retirement

Today I finished a Washington Redskins fan quilt for a client.  On Monday, I will complete a circus quilt for another client. Both of these sewing projects were fun to make and the end result of the making will be that there is money in my pocket.  In other words, I will have received cash for a service I rendered-in this case a lovely baby quilt.  Does that mean I’m working in retirement?

The short answer here is yes, obviously. On another level though, that question is not so easily answered. On the one hand, I am bringing in a bit of money here and there. On the other hand, there is no “employer” or “man” as some might put it that I answer to.  There is no regular (weekly, monthly or other) pay. Most importantly, from my perspective, I am not relying on this income to pay for things. This cash does not enter my budget computations (although I do report my small profits to the IRS).

As I wrote when I talked about my downsized budget, I believe that the goal of retirement should be to live as well as possible on the income you have.  When I say income you have, I mean income that is (within reasonable limits) guaranteed to be available. This may be savings where a percentage is drawn monthly or annually, or a pension and social security or some other kind of guaranteed regular income.

Personally, I’m not one of those people who believe that working in retirement is an oxymoron. I am all for part time work or small business in retirement.  Work or self employment can be enjoyable and rewarding in the retirement spectrum, as can volunteering or any number of activities. For many, a little income here and there makes a huge difference.  Although it’s not the purpose of this particular post,  I’ll go even further and say that work in and of itself is not bad-many people should continue to work until retirement age rather than retiring early.  These people find their employment enervating,  invigorating and rewarding.  At least half of the so called early retirees I know came to that status through force rather than choice, and would still be enjoying their jobs if they could.

I enjoy making things for money, but I budget my retirement lifestyle without that income. First, because I believe that for many if not most retirees it is possible to adjust budget categories and lifestyle to “live within one’s means” without working. Setting priorities, being creative, and yes, “right sizing” go along way for most of us.

 Second, because who knows when or if, that retirement income stream may dry up. At the moment I love quilting, and people are lining up to buy the things I make. That could change at any time. I could decide I don’t like the business aspect of a crafts business. I could get tired of quilting and decide I needed a new hobby.  What If I want to take off a three month road trip. Any number of things could change and then I would have to readjust my priorities again.  By putting this money into savings or reinvesting it into my hobby/business I am able to use that money without relying on it. If I want to quilt today and then not start another quilt for six months, my lifestyle in the long run is not affected. The same could be true of any business or job (even the ole Walmart greeter).  Income from employment or business in this day and age is, quite simply, not guaranteed at all.

In the book How To Retire the Cheapskate way, Jeff Yeager calls what I do a “freedom business”.  A great many folks I know, bloggers included, work or have worked some time during their retirement. Many say that they may do so again.  Almost all of the retirees I know who work or have worked enjoy the job itself-just as they enjoy the financial rewards that come with the work.  I’m no different. I enjoy the doing, and I enjoy being paid for the doing.  I just don’t count on being rewarded in a regular and constant fashion for any kind of foreseeable future.

Which is why my personal retirement plan includes a freedom business-but doesn’t count on it.


  1. The difference, Barb, is that you work because you want to, not because you have to. Once Financial Independence is reached, you become the one in control of your life choices, not 'the man' as you said.

    In my case, I have no clue whether I'll ever return to paid employment. Right now, I'm incredibly content and nothing could budge me from my current situation. However, I also recognize that I'm continuing to grow and evolve, and it's entirely possible some new passion I don't even know about yet may come along and snag me. The difference is that because I'm financially secure, any choice about paid employment I make going forward will about fulfilling a passion, not about paying bills.

    I'm not even sure why this has all become a discussion point of late on so many blogs (I'm assuming that you are noting this as well, thus this blog post), but clearly it has. I think it may be due to so many people fearing they didn't plan well enough for retirement. If they can point fingers and say "See, you aren't really retired either," it somehow seems to make them feel better about their own situation.

    Again, I say living well and happy is the best response. If you feel good at the end of each day, that's all that matters.

  2. Yes, I have noted this on many blogs, this "what retirement really is" sort of thing. But honestly, I've also noticed the "early retirement is the only way" attitude on some blogs lately, and I think thats not right for everyone-but that will be something to tackle in a future blog.

    1. Well, if by 'early retirement' they are really referring to 'early financial independence' then I'm probably in the same camp. By all means we should shoot for financial independence as early as we possibly can.

      If, however, by 'early retirement' they mean you stop working for the rest of your life, well then clearly, no, that's not right for everyone. I loved my job for years, and would have done it for free. It's only when I stopped loving it that I early retired. :-)

  3. I have been retired three years and I don't want to even think about work. It is all about personal choice. You enjoy what you are doing. It's wonderful to have the option to continue to work or stop.

  4. My 80 yr old mother retired years ago but has a very strong work ethic. For many years in her retirement, she made pyrogies for sale, earning as much as $1000/mo. She always said she just needed to make enough to "pay the [property] taxes". It fulfilled her work ethic and kept her socialized. I like the entry about working to fulfill a passion; that's the kind of work I look forward to in retirement.


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