This my second blog entry about early retirement. In the first installment, I discussed the importance of saving and limiting debt. What do I mean by early retirement? The classic definition is retiring from work before a statutory age. Implied by this definition is the acquisition of suitable funds to sponsor multiple years of no or lower employment income. Most of the time, people focus on how much money is necessary to stop working. While the financial part of early retirement is clearly essential, what we choose to do with our time is equally significant.

We spend a lot of energy focused on making money with the idea of its extreme value. While money is necessary, given our inherent human limitations, time is more significant. The most important question to answer about early retirement is, how will I spend my time. My definition of retirement is broad and does not equate to sitting around in a recliner. Layoffs are a fact of life these days, and “older” people are disproportionately affected. You do not have to be part of some official retirement program to start your second career. One unfortunate aspect of my corporate job was notifying many employees of a layoff. While this process is awful, many of those affected used the opportunity to start their second act.

Given the extension of the average human age, it is now possible to have a completely different career after the classic retirement age. I call this time Act 2. By the time we reach middle age, our knowledge about life choices is much more advanced than in our early 20s. Most people in this mid-life stage have a dream about a different way to spend their time. These thoughts can evolve into a plan once the opportunity is realized. Of course, not everyone needs to make this transition to a second act. Many people are entirely fulfilled by the same job or career their entire working lives.

So you have a glimmer of an idea of what you would like to do for your second act, now what? The key to a successful transition to Act 2 is to plan, plan, plan. The earlier you can start planning, the better. Did I mention you should plan? Depending on your situation, the Act 2 options are many. The list below is just a small sampling to get you started.

  • Start your own business
  • Change careers
  • Work at a non-profit
  • Volunteer at schools
  • Become a missionary
  • Fill your time with a life long hobby
  • Travel

It is imperative not to wait until retirement to decide what you want to do. Your second act may take additional education or training. The more time you spend preparing for your next career, the more confidence you will have that you are making the right choice. I encourage you to listen to your heart and follow your passion when planning Act 2.

Many people, though not all, are worn down after years of toiling at the same job or career. Once you realize the possibility of reshaping your life in a way that aligns with your knowledge and passion, the feeling is one of freedom and genuine happiness. Spend your time wisely. Be reflective about your job and career to determine if you are truly satisfied with the way you are using your time. Make the most of the time you have left by not only ensuring your happiness but by bringing joy to others.

Make the most of this day!