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Finance your Retirement by Building Side Incomes

Updated on August 28, 2009

Trade Work for Play

"Red and Yellow Come To Me" by Robert A. Sloan, colored pencils on paper.
"Red and Yellow Come To Me" by Robert A. Sloan, colored pencils on paper.

Don't Think Of It As Retirement

Retirement kills men.

I've seen it happen within my own family. My grandfather's self-image was entirely bound up in his work as a welder for Commonwealth Edison. The utility forced his retirement while he was hospitalized for a work-related injury that caused a cancer in his pleural cavity. As soon as he got the news, he quit fighting the cancer.

He gave up on life and took about a year to die slowly and horribly in deep depression. His work was his life, it was the biggest part of who he was. Without being a working man, he couldn't look at himself with pride in the morning. It happens to a great many men who have a work ethic.

Women are socialized differently and may do better with retirement as such. They can look at themselves positively for their relationships, their housecleaning, their volunteer activities, a lot of the important things they did in life before retirement weren't paid anyway no matter how valuable they were to those around them and society at large. Men are still taught to measure themselves by their accomplishments.

Women too are starting to see themselves as "somebody" based on what they do for a living. They're also running into the same health problems men do combined with a host of others that they're subject to from their own stresses and the double lifestyle many women still pursue -- trying to be a housewife full time and keep up with things as well as their stay at home moms did while also keeping a job or a career that takes major commitment.

So thinking of it as retirement is a big part of the problem in itself.

It's a big change in status. For many people who were used to working higher end jobs, it's also a huge drop in income even if they had retirement funds and 401k savings and investments. Most of all it winds up cutting off their social lives.

There's still a lot of ageism in hiring too, about the point I turned 45 was when I started to run into it and find out that in almost anything, companies will hire someone younger and more gullible over someone mature enough to stand up to typical office bullying and unfair situations. A lot of jobs aren't what they're cracked up to be in the first place.

So the big question about retirement is just exactly what that means? Do you go down this deadly path of being swept out of the way, treated as dependent, resented for living on a pension by people who think everyone should be a wage earner? Or use that as the springboard for a completely different life?.

Cats sleep and play all day...

Cats know how to live. They sleep twelve hours a day and the rest of the time just do what they like. Can you imagine living with that little stress?
Cats know how to live. They sleep twelve hours a day and the rest of the time just do what they like. Can you imagine living with that little stress?

Know Yourself

This is the heart of retirement planning. 

Careers of any kind take goal setting and working toward goals. That's a young attitude. When you're a kid you're always looking ahead. There's Christmas to come, birthdays to come, tests to dread, events to look forward to, friends to see at school in the fall and summers off to enjoy yourself goofing off doing whatever you want.

Retirement can become an endless summer vacation if that's what grabs you. Some people adapt well to retirement as such, treating it as the earned reward of a lifetime of hard work. If that's the case, then planning for it means defining pretty much what you're going to do over that long endless summer -- knowing what you want to do with your time and where you'll hang out and meet people.

Jobs provide contact with new people offline. Without a job, retirees sometimes get isolated and not only lost the status of the occupation but any chance to meet new people and make friends. Now that there's time for friendships and activities, they don't know where to start. 

Friends are also an important resource for how to live on less money if you go for that traditional retirement option. It's good to know where you want to live -- and in some way find a way of life that is better than what you're leaving behind. 

The new place should be more comfortable, more beautiful, have advantages that make up for any disadvantages. 

A number of retirees live in RVs. Some of them, a great many actually, take advantage of the tax laws regarding antique dealers and take up antiques dealing. This makes the entire vehicle a business vehicle and covers a lot of their trip expenses. They tour the continent buying and selling antiques, get into the business, enjoy it and transport these goods in their homes.

It's a completely different way of life than living in a house and mowing the lawn. There are different social opportunities -- campgrounds are a great way to meet people and so is antiques dealing in itself, it's a good topic of conversation. You have some interesting treasures to show your new casual acquaintances.

Showing off is something people need to do. Everyone needs some appreciation in life -- and you don't need to be a great artist or crafter in order to recognize fine craftsmanship, buy low and sell high. Antique dealing takes a bit of interest, some study, a fondness for interesting furnishings and maybe a particular niche, a specialty in your favorite things. Whether it's Depression glass or Colonial cabinetry, specializing is a good way to regain some of the status that you used to have as a manager or a salesperson or foreman.

The RV lifestyle also lends itself to being a writer. You do need to have mobile Internet access and a permanent post office box for an address, but it means you can migrate with the weather and literally have that endless summer by driving to areas at their peak times. Avoid the South during summer when it's too nasty, head up more toward the middle or cooler areas or the coasts. Avoid Hurricane Season by driving inland. Avoid the Midwest during tornado season.

One of the big advantages of a smaller place to live is that you've got a lot less cleaning up to do. This may not matter much to some abled people, but if you've got any disabilities it can trade apparent luxury for real luxury. 

Another advantage to a smaller living space, be it an RV or a smaller house or apartment, is that it's much cheaper to furnish it well. You can shift your priorities from "a lot of stuff" to "A few well chosen things, the best of everything." I'm a great believer in luxury. I don't think there's anything wrong with luxury.

Real luxuries bring happiness. They are enjoyable every time you see them. In the furnishings of where you live, they also reinforce identity. They remind you who you are.

My room, wherever I live, has my Good Framed Art Wall with my small and growing fine art collection. I get a new painting every year or so from a good artist. The other walls are Sketch Walls filled with my latest drawings. No one comes into my room without instantly being aware that I'm an artist. It hits them right in the eyes. I've been puttering at it long enough that my Sketch Wall looks about as good as some of the fine art on my Good Framed Art Wall.

So that leads to another point besides antique dealing. What you love to do is probably a viable career for someone else. It's a new self-definition. "Bob the Antique Dealer" is not "Bob's retired, his health gave out" or "Bob retired, he just plays golf all day."

If Bob retired and plays golf all day every day, Bob's going to get to be one heck of a good golfer with that much practice and could do anything from become a sports writer to a golf pro or teacher. The RV lifestyle would mean he could tour the circuit, go to all of the important matches, then writing them up for magazines and newspapers can be a source of income. Or studying those pros' techniques and teaching golf to new hobbyists.

The things you did for fun all along are almost all things that have the potential for decent income in one way or another.

What that takes is learning how to live outside a hierarchy.

No one is going to tell you when to get up, tell you when to go to lunch, schedule a fifteen minute break and tell you when you have to work a bit of overtime before going home. That's it. You are the  boss. You are in charge of you, or you're in a partnership because you're married.

If you're married, work on your goals and ask your wife to work on hers. Discuss them. Discuss the good things about them and what it would take to get there and make them happen. 

What "Retirement" really means is a change in life, a passage that changes social identity, habits, income, everything. It will be stressful, but "eustress" or happy stress like getting married to someone you love or getting the job you always wanted is a lot easier on health and a lot easier on the people around you.

Men especially, plan for this because I've heard so many older women complain about husbands now at home who get under their feet and do nothing all day but complain. A depressed man who's bored and doing nothing is going to drive his wife crazy by that, she loses all privacy because you're home all the time and you have nothing new to contribute for "What did you do today?"

So finding something to do that's worth hanging "Bob is..." and setting long term goals within it, looking forward to the future, is a way to wind up as "Bob's ninety and he's running around like a kid, he does twice as much as a 20 year old, I wish I could see how he does it."

He does it because he's happy and he's not actually Retired in the sense of being used up, thrown away, done with life, finished, washed up.

That self definition is a killer even if it's cushioned with the kind of very good money that the utility paid my grandfather at his retirement after 46 years as a Commonwealth Edison welder.

Wildflowers and Wild Ideas

Tiger Lily by Robert A. Sloan, pastel pencil on dark green pastel paper.
Tiger Lily by Robert A. Sloan, pastel pencil on dark green pastel paper.

Elders in Society


Even if you were a middle class white Protestant male, the top of the social heap by all the conservative standards, there comes a point in life where you fall out of that category and become a Minority. Old people are treated poorly in America. They're not respected, they're shoved aside, their opinions trivialized, their living conditions often horrific and they get laughed at for how they look. 

The loss of status is a huge killer in itself, I think. Self-definition comes from work and as soon as your self definition becomes "Bob used to be a welder" then it implies "Bob is nothing now and on his way to the scrap heap. He's obsolete like last year's computer."

Turn that inside out.

"Bob's an art student. He used his 401k to fund a new degree and now he's studying at a college of design, he's going to be a fashion illustrator. He always liked drawing girls and now he's going to draw them for a living." Yay cool.

That has a lot more respect.

It is a knockdown from "manager" or "welder" and loses all seniority -- but it restores social perception of youth. If you are putting your time into a course, then you're planning for a real future. All of a sudden "has-been" becomes "gonna-be." So take that into account when changing gears. You're going back to start but your resources are a whole lot better than the 19 year old who is just starting out.

You know what you're doing.

You understand what education's for and the course you paid for out of pocket is probably one that's going to land a specific career doing something you've always thought would rock as a way of life. You're mature enough to stop and think about what your working conditions are going to be, what income professionals in that job get, how you want to balance cost of living versus goals. 

Instead of "I used to be rich" and "I used to have this great big house and two cars and this stuff" it's "I've streamlined my life to get where I'm going." People don't mind sacrificing for things they want.

The trick is to have a goal at all, to have something you want. To be able to make a plan for one year, two years, five years down the line where you want to be. 

Education and retraining for a new career can be a great option. Older students, returning adults, statistically get insanely better grades. They're not shuffling through an imposed social obligation, they set out to get that goal and learn what that course is about. It's in their niche.

If you're looking at endless summer vacation retirement, as in "I don't want to have to waste one more day working in my life" then consider community college classes as entertainment and ways of socializing.

You can get started in a lot of good hobbies with inexpensive classes at local colleges. If you don't have a career goal, auditing at a local college is often a lot cheaper than taking the course for credit. If you took Art History just for fun and because you're interested in antique dealing as self employment, you don't need to impress anyone with an Art History degree so much as to be able to recognize an American Impressionist when you luck and see one at a yard sale.

Classes in anthropology, psychology, the sciences, the arts are all entertainment that stretches your mind. They give a short term goal to the day. They also do erode that self definition of "does nothing, just a burden on society." 

You may want to stand up for your right to relax and get lazy. More power to you if you do -- but if that's your direction then take the unscheduledness of retirement as one of its perks and defend it in rants. Focus on the positive aspect of it and when people start putting you down for it, start dispensing elder wisdom. You have a lot more life experience than kids who are gullible and taken advantage of in the workplace or bad relationships.

Ranting and writing are good ways to stay young and sane. They cost nothing since email is so cheap and you can go online to places like HubPages to write and get a following. This will get appreciation. No matter what your slant, you can express yourself when you have the time to do so and with AdSense and other trickle incomes, supplement your retirement income.

Then when people ask what you do, tell them you're a writer.

A lot of people have a dream already. They plan to retire and write a novel. They have a lifetime of experience and plan to write a memoir. They already know "Someday I will have time to paint" or "When I've saved up for retirement I'm going to take off and just spend the rest of my life traveling."

Do that last and write about the places you go, post pics online and your trickle income from travel will start mounting up. Anything interesting that you find fun enough to do is worth writing about because someone else is interested in reading about it.

So the main point of this Hub is that financing your retirement is not just a matter of saving up for it. Savings are finite. Start using them and you will see the amount slowly keep dropping as you actually use it up. health crises can swallow it all fast -- money is not security. What is real security is cutting expenses and choosing a life that has a goal, where your sacrifices have some meaning and you have something to look forward to.

Whether it's looking forward to seeing Florida again after hurricane season or looking forward to doing anthropology digs, whether you are going to become a painter or going to become a philosopher, there are forgotten dreams and things you put aside for good reasons when you were younger. You made sacrifices for kids and they became grownups. You did things for the family, for the community, you worked hard and held your head up.

That respect is gone without some new self-definition that rejects the idea of "has-been" in favor of goals focused on happiness more than money-achievement. Happiness is personal. You know what you love doing best. You know what and who you care about. You know what your comfort zone is for stress.

Some directions you can take -- activism.

If you get angry the first time you're slighted and looked down on, speak up about it. Start getting involved in community programs and activist organizations for elders' rights. If you don't free yourself, no one's going to step up to do it for you. So if you're not interested in a money-career and you prefer a comfort level where there's an organization and a lot of clear cut short term goals and some deadlines -- then organized activism is a good choice because you will win some. You'll see things happen like better access to buildings and care.

Why not politics directly? You could try running for local office, either raising grassroots funds or spending a large retirement savings on campaigning. That takes involvement with political organizations but when you have the time to devote to it as a full time activity, that is valuable. You'll meet people who know how that works and be able to learn the ropes. It becomes another goal -- one that fits well with the more positive views of elders in society.

Volunteer work does not necessarily mean going out to work for a charity. It can mean taking up science or politics. It means choosing a goal that matters to you from the gut and then having some structure and social contacts and a new life with a lot of friends who share your cause.

If you always liked science, archaeology and paleontology, biology and astronomy all depend on educated laymen as volunteers who do the immense manpower needed for real new research. Sometimes volunteers are the ones who make important discoveries because they had twelve hours to spend on the dig while the full time scientist was too busy grant writing to keep the project alive.

Happiness as a goal

"A Plate of Cakes" by Robert A. Sloan, watercolor on watercolor paper.
"A Plate of Cakes" by Robert A. Sloan, watercolor on watercolor paper.

Changing your Life

It's hard, especially for people who have sacrificed a lot for a work ethic, to shift gears toward happiness as a goal. To accept that going fishing (and maybe becoming a fishing guide around your favorite stream) isn't being lazy and worthless. If you've been that self disciplined all along then it can be an enormous mental block and turn into the kind of boredom kids get one week after school's out when they don't know what to do on Monday morning.

So many people are so used to their lives being ordered by other people that the prospect of retirement is terrifying. You have to make your own decisions and your basis for them in retirement is just to please yourself and get on well with your partner if married. That's it. There isn't this overwhelming pressure to do things for other people.

If you get your emotional rewards from doing good for other people, then go for classical volunteer work. While you still have some strength and health, while you still have any reserves at all, you can help out people who have less. Poverty abounds. Any time spent volunteering at soup kitchens or SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) or hospitals means a fortune to the people you're helping, who often have nowhere to turn and are in dire life-threatening situations.

Go from the heart if you're doing that. Go for what matters most to you. Your passionate empathy has to have a focus to be its most effective, whether that's for helping out rape victims or getting some food into hardworking people who are starving. This can make a big difference socially and it will make you happy.

It doesn't devalue the gift if it makes you happy to give it. 

It doesn't mean any  less to that guy who got fed or the kid you advised about how to start a company and get a bank loan that you enjoy the process. That's the key to anything you do in retirement.

Don't think about it just in terms of money. Think about it in terms of the consequences in real life day to day comforts, luxuries, pleasures and time based on exactly who you are as an individual. Suit yourself. This is the point of freedom for so many people, but coming out of a situation full of obligations and often imposed limits or bad situations into freedom is difficult. It takes some retraining in itself.

One place to start is to take a year off to just travel, think about life, consider relocating and consider what you want to do now with your life. Own your life. It's yours. Once you're out of the rat race there's no one who can tell you what to do any more -- so in freedom there is risk and responsibility. You have to decide how to live, on every level those decisions can't just be defaulted to other people unless you wind up a victim of a controlling personality.

Happiness is best attained through knowing who you are and what you want. Writing it down is good. Planning, listing, journaling, put it into words and articulate it. That makes it easier to remember your goals and easier to remember that you have some.

"Bob's a traveler. That's all he does, he writes about his trips and goes all over the country talking to people." Sounds a lot better than Bob the Has-Been. Sometimes it's all in how you describe yourself to yourself to change how you view the world, yourself and everyone else. Don't buy into the idea that your life is over.

Break Negative Stereotypes, Keep Positive Ones

Green River Jade, watercolor, Robert A. Sloan
Green River Jade, watercolor, Robert A. Sloan

Stereotypes, Expectations, Ideas and Redefinitions

Older people are wise. This is a positive stereotype. It's based on something real -- you have a lot of experience in life. If you run into a bad supervisor you have done so before and know some ways to deal with the situation that a naive twenty year old wouldn't think of. You know a lot of things in life that you probably take for granted as nothing.

Until you meet some 18 year old boy who doesn't know the first thing about how to grocery shop and gets seriously confused if he has to clean his room. He can handle each of the tasks but doesn't know how to plan them, and the grocery trip freezes him because he doesn't know what to get. Or he just gets hot dogs and chocolate and soda, forgetting the ketchup. Or you meet some young woman who doesn't know how to apply for a job because she never did, or what to do if a light switch doesn't work.

I found out that even though I missed shop because I was too interested in taking art, I wasn't missing much. The shop projects tended to be bird houses and lamps, hobby projects rather than practical home repair stuff that anyone needs to know if they want to actually own a house and not let it fall into a ruin. Like how to fix the toilet and put in a new plunger. Things like that I had to learn on my own, so do most people.

You get it from people at the hardware store, friends who've been doing it longer, older people when you're young. If you want to know about effective frugal living, remember the stories from people who survived the Great Depression. There are a lot of things that anyone can do to not only make ends meet but make them meet more comfortably.

The trick is to apply them without that turning into shame about poverty. There's a huge emphasis in American society on social status by wealth. It's resulted in ludicrous ripoffs, in Madoffs, in bank irresponsibility chasing the quick buck, in short term self-defeating policies from large companies to large investors. Thinking in the long term is foreign to America.

So thinking in the long term becomes any individual's responsibility -- and yet Americans are conditioned against it and what gets admired is "get rich quick." No one does. The people who did are people who put in a lot of hard work before what they were doing paid off and became popular. The ultimate get rich quick is a Lottery winner -- and the majority of Lottery winners lose it all, going bankrupt within a year or two by spending it all in careless ways. Or given recent events, maybe through investing it in ways that looked wise.

Your time is valuable. Your experience is valuable. Your identity is valuable and what you do, who you are is measured in a lot more than how much you own.

A recent article on sexuality mentioned that the increase in happiness for people who have sex once a week rather than once a month is about comparable to $50,000 more income. So paying more romantic attention to your spouse is something that can give both of you happiness. One of the corny things that happens to be literally true is that sex is much better between experienced partners in a long term relationship.

Like dancing, it keeps getting better and better the more you stick with your best partner. So that is something that retirement may drastically improve in terms of literal happiness. If you're happy, people will get envious and not stop to check your bank account. Generally a lot of them will assume you must have money, since you're happy.

There's also a natural human tendency to live by cultural expectations.Living exactly as long as your same-sex parent and die on the anniversary of that parent's death in the same way happens to a third of all Americans. Same with having kids or getting married or getting divorced. It's frightening how many people don't live their own lives, just do what they're supposed to do when they're supposed to do it -- and one of the biggest risks in retirement is that you start setting up for dying, the only expectation of the future is to die.

If you want to live a long time, enjoy your life and look forward to things that haven't happened yet, work toward them and enjoy the rewards of that work. Many things are more rewarding than working for other people or working for money. Setting it up so you don't have to worry about money has a prettier name too: financial independence.

That can be achieved by frugal living as much as by good investments or more. Waste is the norm, enormous waste. Just judging which luxuries in life you actually enjoy versus which ones you do because they're expected or were a habit that used to be convenient until it wasn't, or treats that somehow got out of hand into everyday habits can enormously reduce waste and expense while also helping your health.

The Tightwad Gazette, three volumes of it, has a lot to say about frugal living as a way to achieve financial independence -- that state of personal freedom when you literally never have to worry about money again or whether anything will earn money or not. That freedom is exhilarating, and frugal luxury, living in ways that just don't waste your time, your money or your effort on anything that isn't worth the time, money or effort, applying common sense to life instead of just following the expectations of advertisers can make life on a lower income turn into a lifestyle that's more luxurious than it was on a higher income.

I know that sounds impossible but some frugalities involve luxury. If you buy a pair of top quality boots that last for ten years and still look great, you will spend much less in the long run than if you just bought cheap boots and had to get new ones every year. Same with furnishings. A small place just large enough for your comfort, not designed to grow into raising kids in, can be furnished with valuable permanent furnishings so well that it doesn't need constant replacing of dressers and bookshelves with more cheap junk from Tarjet or Wally Mart. Getting those good things used at a thrift store and refinishing them results in something better than you could get at any store -- a sense of tangible achievement that's gone from many modern jobs.

Boomers planning for retirement now may have once been activist kids heady with the chance to change the world, thrilled with freedom, roaming the countryside or dreaming of doing so. The idea of living on less money with more pleasure is very much in tune with those dreams from youth -- it really can be that much fun. It also liberates you from all sorts of aggravation and outright abuse that most people take for granted as part of normal life. The less money you need, the less you have to bother sacrificing anything else in life to get money.

So the best kind of financial planning for retirement is to scale back before retiring or actively begin to plan for early retirement and seek financial independence. Do it out of step because you can. Do it early on purpose and make lifestyle choices to suit yourself, don't just stuff money in the bank and assume that mysteriously it'll keep growing when you have to draw on it to pay month to month expenses. What happens then is that you can outlive your savings and be stuck unemployably old and possibly sick without reserves.

Having both short term goals and long term goals that are personal and matter to you can help a lot in staying sane. My last illustration is a painting of a green river jade piece, a worry stone that a friend of mine in New Orleans gave me. It's beautiful. I've kept it on me now for almost two decades and it has a very relaxing, soft polish to it from all the times I've rubbed it, played with it, looked at it.

Your new life choices are just that -- a change in life. Make it a change for the better and it doesn't need to be defined as "retirement" -- more like "take that job and shove it, I'm off to do what I wanted to do in the first place." Much healthier way to live.

The last thing I'll note is that some people never retire. Scientists, artists, authors, a host of people in satisfying professions just don't quit. They die eventually and do so on their last dig or their last painting or book. They tend to live longer and healthier than people who retire-as-such by a huge margin. Think of how Picasso lived as an old man versus how my grandfather did. Retirement as such isn't the same thing as Financial Independence.

Financial Independence is exactly that, and if you gain it early then you don't have the stigma of "Has-been" at all. You just freed yourself from an unpleasant obligation and have the rest of your life to do what you want with. That freedom is wealth beyond imagining, that freedom is something basic and real. It is a luxury even the very rich don't always have because maintaining those huge fortunes takes continual work and often skullduggery -- while going on being a productive fishing guide or artist or archaeologist, getting a degree in something that "doesn't pay well" and doing geology for research instead of oil companies, can give lasting fame in your achievements.

So don't live by the numbers and die when you're told to. Live the way you choose to, sit down and plan those choices according to who you are and what you really want, what matters to you. You can get a lot more for less if you abandon the expected and follow your heart.

This Hub article is my answer to the Hubmob on "Financing Your Retirement" -- here's the link to the HubMob: -- my real answer to how to finance your retirement is to get The Tightwad Gazette and use it to reevaluate all of your financial decisions and life choices. Doing it now will mean that retirement isn't Riches to Rags and dependent status.

HubMob Topic!

HubMob topic on Financing your Retirement, this is my contribution to the mob!
HubMob topic on Financing your Retirement, this is my contribution to the mob!


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    • profile image

      Independent Investment Adviser 

      8 years ago

      I think you've hit the nail on the head here. More Baby Boomers will be forced to have a side income than probably expect to at this point.

    • cluense profile image

      Katie Luense 

      9 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      Awesome Hub! I rated it up! Keep Writing!

    • profile image

      mandatory retirement 

      9 years ago

      Wow! It does take a lot to come up with motivating ideas and things to do in retirement. So many today are kinda forced into mandatory retirement. What I mean is that the job market does not lend itself to the seniors. So,

      many are taking 'mandatory' retirement dictated by the economy. If you can start a small business (can't get rich on Ebay) try to do it. The write off's are great to hedge against your social securtiy if you have only a limited amount you can earn withou

    • projectfinancing profile image


      9 years ago

      The time of retirement will mean no income at all...So, it's really wise to have some things you can have to earn income still...Nice hub...great...

    • ziamae85 profile image


      9 years ago

      Very great hub. Seem your an expert on this...Two thumbs up.

    • profile image

      Steve Nichols 

      9 years ago

      There are quite a few who will need to do this in order to retire. I would encourage wise investing as well, but of course you need the capital to do that. Creating income by freelancing is a smart way to raise that capital.

    • sulli profile image


      9 years ago

      Great article! So many people in the US don't have a plan for retirement period. It's heartbreaking, but it's also very irresponsible. Unfortunately for several of us, we'll have to take care of our parents because they have failed to plan for retirement.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you! I got your fan mail, went to your Hub and commented after giving it a big Thumbs Up! Your article was excellent, gave me a glimpse of what's going on in the UK when I was only familiar with pension problems in the USA. Very few professions in the USA have decent pensions and then you have to work for it pretty much all your life to get it. The military does, military pensions are good. A few things like railways that had very active unions in the past still have good pension plans.

      Most companies, people in the US only work there two or three years and get shuffled out so that the companies don't have to pay off on whatever pension plans they have. That's the pattern of life now in the USA, individuals have private tax-reduced pension accounts and that's it.

      The trouble with stopping everything and living on savings is that the savings is finite and you could wind up living longer than that.

      Also in this country there is so much emphasis on work-as-identity that a lot of people, especially men, wind up dying of social shunning and loss of status and identity. They feel like their life is over. Have no goals. There's getting through the boring day and then dying is the one thing they know is in the future.

      A lot of them march off to the grave on schedule after a life of doing what other people tell them to, because the social pressure around them is "go die and stop being a burden on everyone."

      While anyone who turns around and starts a career in the arts or decides to travel or something, has goals. Getting to Italy. Seeing Venice. Painting Venice or learning to paint. Something to look forward to is an essential part of a healthy human life, it's one of the biggest differences between optimists and pessimists.

      An optimist is looking forward to something and usually motivated to put some effort into making it happen. But once you get a goal, it's time to make another one, decide something else you want, move forward. Retirement is a goal for a lot of people and then when they get it, there's no social expectation of anything else to look forward to.

      Unless they decide that themselves and set out on a new course. Once you can decide your own goals, once you realize you're the only person who can do that, freedom can become a habit -- but people who haven't had it in their lives need to overcome the terror of it and learn to claim it for themselves.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a great article I am going to link to it from mine "Pension Crisis" because it is so relevant. Giving the reader lots of great ideas.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you, EWealthGuide, from your handle you sound like an expert.

    • EWealthGuide profile image


      9 years ago from Vancouver

      Wow, fantastic article, good information hre, and I totally agree with building side income, it would help a huge deal

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Yep. It's also a lot better for your health than retiring on schedule and accepting a social definition that 'your life is finished, time to just lay around and wait to die' instead of "okay, now I'm free to do what I want, let's make this life what I want it to be." Early retirees usually have more strength and energy to pursue their own goals.

      I don't know if it's living simply. That phrase tends to bother me slightly because I don't think of it as simplifying anything. More like living well and doing things that work for me, just eliminating waste including waste of time and emotion, not bothering with anything that doesn't actually get me my goals or make me happy.

      Things can actually be more complex and more satisfying with better results. It takes planning and a lot of real work sometimes to apply some frugal solutions -- but they are all cost effective and always more satisfying than not because it's good to see real results from effort. I think of people who live simply more as the ones that just do the expected and don't think about anything -- and get rooked left and right, used and taken advantage of.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Couldn't agree more about the Tightwad Gazette books. I was one of the original subscribers when it was just a newsletter! I prefer to look at the second half of life as the best 50 years. Early retirement is doable but it's all about creativity, living simply and being frugal.

    • Kimberly Bunch profile image

      Kimberly Bunch 

      10 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

      Great Conversation Piece. Here's mine:

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Yep. Wayne, you are so right on. If you live in a way that none of your time is wasted on things you don't care about or things you actually would disapprove of if you weren't getting paid for it, then it's possible to be a lot happier in life and actually accomplish more.

      Some jobs fall in a category that some people love them and others hate them. Sometimes it's just a mismatch. I knew a cab driver who loved it, had worked for the company for a couple of decades, knew his town like the back of his hand, loved nothing better than just driving around -- and he did a small kindness by always giving people the best shortest route to where they were going. He got good tips. He liked people and socialized with passengers.

      Some people would think of his job as simultaneously boring and harrowing, dealing with traffic and putting up with people all the time. So what occupation fits, that's something personal. If you're better at organizing your own time and get more done without a boss, self employment is right for you.

      I think that sometimes people get into things because they were in a crisis, just looking for a job, took the first one that came along and then get stuck on a treadmill without realizing that with a bit more effort in choosing what direction to look (or what to do about the crisis) they could wind up a lot happier in life.

      Some people aren't cut out for self employment. You, I get more the feeling you'd be unhappy with any structured job and will always do best doing creative work. Some people aren't cut out for working for other people.

      The fact that you look at it as trading your time for money at all means you're already in that "I'm responsible for my decisions" head space, thinking of your life as yours to command. My daughter keeps reminding me not everyone is like that -- to a lot of people being able to delegate time management to a boss and not have to plan or take responsibility for the outcome of the work is what they'd rather have. If they're paid enough to live on, that lets them walk away from the job and focus more of their emotion on things outside work.

      So there are different ways of looking at life. You and I both have that need for self expression and creative activity that can never be fulfilled by just selling other people's products or pushing papers.

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 

      10 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Yeah I always think that in a regular job you are trading your time for money, instead it should be about using that time to build something worthwhile that the time you spend will reduce in time and leave an automated lifestyle of work that you enjoy, so that the extra time you have can be spent doing other great stuff, as we only live once.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Ria, that is a great idea. Building toward financial independence early and shifting over to creative self employment long before "retirement age" turns it into "there's some perks of getting social security thrown in on top of income" but you don't wind up losing anything.

      It's a good life. It's wonderful to have a life that you're in charge of, to set your own schedules, plan things according to how they work best for you and pace the work so that there's time for everything else you want to do in life. Startup can take working long hours, most entrepreneurs in the arts or not wind up putting in much more sweat equity than people with jobs.

      That pays off in the long run when success brings a point that you can pace the work better to allow for play. People who enjoy their work and get intrinsic satisfaction from doing it don't retire unless forced. I've noticed the nonretiree self employed tend to live longer and healthier.

      So you're right on -- don't retire at all! You'll be one of those 90 year old artists that people get boggled by how much you do and how you make 25 year olds get tired just watching you. Practice and skill do a lot for anything!

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Ria, that is a great idea. Building toward financial independence early and shifting over to creative self employment long before "retirement age" turns it into "there's some perks of getting social security thrown in on top of income" but you don't wind up losing anything.

      It's a good life. It's wonderful to have a life that you're in charge of, to set your own schedules, plan things according to how they work best for you and pace the work so that there's time for everything else you want to do in life. Startup can take working long hours, most entrepreneurs in the arts or not wind up putting in much more sweat equity than people with jobs.

      That pays off in the long run when success brings a point that you can pace the work better to allow for play. People who enjoy their work and get intrinsic satisfaction from doing it don't retire unless forced. I've noticed the nonretiree self employed tend to live longer and healthier.

      So you're right on -- don't retire at all! You'll be one of those 90 year old artists that people get boggled by how much you do and how you make 25 year olds get tired just watching you. Practice and skill do a lot for anything!

    • RiaMorrison profile image

      Ria Bridges 

      10 years ago from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

      Awesome advice. While I'm a long way from the age where most people retire, a lot of the advice in this Hub can also be applied to everyday situations that I go through anyway.

      Besides, I also hope to never retire. I hope to be able to leave my job and start working for myself, in a way that will bring in money and allow me to have fun, and by doing things that don't require me to stop when I hit a certain age. I'm pretty sure I'll still be able to write, knit, dye yarn and fabric, and so many other things just as well at 60 as I can now at 25. Probably even better, since with age and practice comes greater skill.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Yep. Yikes. I never got stuck with meetings or committee work even at the worst of my wage slave years. Sounds like a total nightmare to me.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 

      10 years ago from Philippines

      Beautiful piece! You said it all!

      As I mentioned in my profile, I promised myself that upon retirement, I will only do things that will make my heart sing. That's what I'm doing now through my photography and writing.

      When somebody else is paying for your salary, there are certain things (like committee work, meetings,etc.)that you cannot just say no to. Now, I am free from all these "have to do" things and I only say yes to those that I like to do.

      Retirement is freedom! But you have to prepare for it.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you, Duchess OBlunt! I try to come up with as wide a variety of ideas as I can, mindful that not everyone has my skill set or inclinations.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      10 years ago

      This is one of the best articles I have read in a very long time, and not just on HubPages.

      Very impressive down to earth and informative. Suggestions galore and some very unique ideas! Nicely done! Your artwork - NICE touch!

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Wayne, people who make that happy life choice as early as you did are likely never to need to retire. If you've got a comparable system like social security, what you pay in taxes may come back when you're old to supplement what you've been doing all along.

      Soul-destroying jobs are not cost effective. Not in the long run and sometimes not even in the short run. The cost in time, distorting your life, destruction of personal relationships and social networks can often be so great as to become disastrous. Ultimately a company exists for profit. By definition that means they need to make more from your work than you do.

      Wage slavery rides on debt. If you stay out of debt, especially debt for overpriced things you neither need nor want but may be required for certain jobs -- types of clothing, vehicles, products to keep up an image -- then it's easy to wind up even at the manager level in the situation of a miner who has to buy in the company town. Debt gets too big and then the company has economic blackmail on its side because any gap in income results in disaster.

      By starting young you can avoid accruing the debt in the first place and make your life choices with more freedom than a CEO.

      It always mattered to me whether I could shave my head or get a tattoo or otherwise express myself in ways that don't fit the corporate culture. Jobs are continually harder to get and that will only get worse, because it costs companies more to hire an employee than it does to overwork the ones they have. Anytime they can do anything to reduce their number of employees they'll get more profit.

      People think of jobs as secure income because of benefits like insurance plans, pensions and so forth, without realizing that companies profit most if the majority of their employees don't actually use those benefits. They will deliberately fire people who've been doing a good job for two years and not gotten promoted because they can then hire new people at starting salary instead of having to give seniority raises. They do things like that all the time, it's legal, sometimes they go outside the law and get a slap on the wrist but by and large they get away with things in the name of profit.

      People who are self employed may face a burden of increased taxes, in the USA we do because of the laws meant to restrain very large companies. Get even one employee and you have to pay double their salary in required benefits. So everything is stacked against hiring people as anything but independent consultants -- self employed so they don't get benefits but in effect, employees.

      Few people realize that independence can work and be worth it though, because when you're self employed you can never be fired. You can decide to change what you're doing overnight and sell out one business to build up another but you're never just unemployed and going around begging at interviews for jobs that what they want is the most gullible and cheapest applicant, not necessarily the best anyway. The competitive nature of job seeking carries risks for the achiever as much as the slacker, you can so easily be "overqualified" for entry level jobs in changing directions that it's almost pointless bothering.

      It's a lot easier to line up a customer for something you do and just go it on your own.

      Yay for your thoughts on conformity. There's whole rants on that subject that someday I'll do as Hubs.

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 

      10 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      I've always thought about retiring, but since I've never ever had a normal job that lasted over a year, I can't say that I ever will retire in the traditional sense, but the planning for retirement in the way of doing what I always wanted to do is what I am doing now....working for others you are expected to behave as it were and be a sheep doing the same things that your co-workers would do and this to me just is boring.

      Legally I have 35 years to go before retirement and I'm certainly not going to waste any time spent on working for other companies if I can help it, fair enough if I did contract work that was only one offs or something that I enjoyed doing then I would, but in todays job market and especially here in the UK, normal jobs(I use this term for the jobs I just think are dull and mundane!) are hard to get now as immigration and redundancy(what a combination!) is at an all time high.

      But I suppose these jobs that we may have done in the past or the ones we may have to choose in the future just drain our very souls at times, as they are a forced neccessity that restricts us to a conformist society, so yeah I would much rather do something that I would really like to do when retired, hell even now than work or be something that I am forced to be.

      Great hub, got me thinking a bit!


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