Before I reached early retirement a few years ago, I wrote THIS POST about a survey of whether or not people should retire full-time or part-time. While many people envision part-time consulting as part of their early retirement plans, almost 60% of respondents said that working part-time in retirement was a ‘BAD idea’ with another 15% saying ‘It’s COMPLICATED’.
People had some interesting comments saying that while working part-time meant their hours were cut in half, they still found that the stress, expectations, and office BS was still a full load. Now that I’ve been retired for a couple years, I would say that my experience with ‘work’ in early retirement is mixed. There are some ‘work’ activities I enjoy, yet many aspects of it that I don’t.
My favorite ‘work’ is in board meetings – both the corporate and non-profit commitments that I have made. For this type of work, you get to share your strategic thinking and past organizational experiences, but you don’t generally carry home work ‘home with you’ too much. On the other hand, project work / consulting is less enjoyable because when you don’t work in the organization, you feel like you don’t always know why the project exists, what it will take to be successful, and who is influencing the outcome. In the end, wonder if you ever had all the cards you needed to be successful and you are not sure if the project was worthwhile or not.
Additionally, I also don’t like that project work means that you are constantly thinking about the issues 24×7: trying to figure out the problem, what the solution / final recommendation might look like, and how it might be presented. In project work, you carry most of the work burden yourself as opposed to board work where you share decision-making with a team. My son pointed out that the psychological term for this individual, mental burden is “cognitive load”.
“Cognitive load” is where the rub happens with early retirement. The benefit of reaching a FIRE (financially independent & retired early) lifestyle is that your mind is free to enjoy whatever you want, whenever you want it. You are like a kid with no responsibility. But, this bubble of complete independence and autonomy pops quickly under the weight of taking part-time projects. As much as you tell yourself you are only going to work a little bit on a consulting project, you quickly learn that you are spending too much of your time thinking through someone else’s MegaCorp issues.
I suppose the argument for “Cognitive Load” is that it is challenging your mind and keeping your brain fresh and well-exercised. That’s worth something, I guess, but I don’t have problems keeping busy reading, investing, and doing any number of other challenging activities.
In the end, if you are going to do any kind of work in early retirement, make sure it is the kind of work you like as much as anything else you now do in your free time. It really needs to compete with stuff that you would be doing for fun in your life. While the extra pocket change might be a nice bonus, it will still feel like work if you don’t really, really enjoy it!
What are your plans / what has been your experience with part-time work when your full-time days working are over?
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