The Absence of Needing to Work Defines Retirement

A friend of mine pointed me toward this recent finance-retirement article because he thought this is exactly what I have preached for years: The absence of needing to work defines retirement, not the absence of working. It’s totally aligned with my talking about retiring early and often. A retirement lifestyle where we can pursue paying opportunities that we are passionate about doing and have high interest in doing. Working because we want to, when we want to, not have to.

The article provided by Libby Kane of the Business Insider is titled Everyone Should Adopt This Alternative Definition Of ‘Retirement’. The short article is about Eric D. Brotman, author of “Retire Wealthy: The Tools You Need To Help Build Lasting Wealth — On Your Own Or With Your Financial Adviser“.

He says it this way:

“When you have achieved enough financial wherewithal to eschew any and all income-producing activities other than those you want to pursue, in my mind you are “retired.” In other words, it is the absence of needing to work, not the absence of working that defines retirement.”

This is of course the beauty of reaching financial independence. It provides the freedom to live life on your terms. Retirement is not the end of a long life of working and saving. It is the beginning of what should be many adventures and if you decide to, the beginning of new careers or just following your passions doing what you want to do.

Now I have taken a lot of crap from people for my “retire early and often” attitude. They are people who just won’t budge from their grandfather’s rocking chair retirement definition. Maybe if everyone just drops the word “retirement” and instead we replace it with “financial independence” it would be easier for people to accept the message.

The article states:

“Brotman’s definition is brilliant because it positions retirement as a state of freedom, not an impending deadline you must hustle to accommodate. Wouldn’t it be nice not to need to work?”

I can definitely answer that question. Absolutely Yes! Face it, it’s not easy to live a smart frugal life and save consistently for financial independence or retirement. It also doesn’t come quickly. But it’s a worthy commitment and goal.

“Viewing post-career years as an opportunity to revel in financial freedom is much more motivational than making a mad rush to squirrel away every possible cent before meekly bowing out of the workforce.”

Who wants to meekly bow out? Not me but it takes more than saving money to continue pursuing opportunities you don’t HAVE to do but WANT to do.

Realistic Plan

You have to have a realistic plan of what you want to target. Obviously the easiest way is to list your passions and leverage your skills and experience to fine-tune your plan. Take into consideration where you live, your health, skills, qualifications and physical capabilities.


If you don’t have all the necessary skills or qualifications then do whatever you can to get them. Whether it is going back to school or getting a job or volunteering in your target area to gain the skills you need to add to your background.


If you are learning something new, practice your new skills until you are good at it.


You need to maintain your network of professional connections and keep adding to them. The easiest way to a new career or position is by leveraging all the good work you have done.


It may take time to make your goals happen. You must have the patience to stay on plan. You also should always remember how blessed you are to be in this position. Most people only dream about reaching financial independence.

All of this looks like the same advice you would get for advancing your career. There really is no difference except for one. With financial independence and the kind of early retirement I am talking about here you have retired from a must do career-driven mindset to a want to passion-driven mindset. That mind-shift makes the things you need to do feel like they are accomplished much easier.

What do you think about the absence of needing to work defines retirement, not the absence of working? Once you reach financial independence and this alternative definition of retirement as are you planning to pursue new opportunities of interest?

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9 thoughts on “The Absence of Needing to Work Defines Retirement

  1. Absolutely! Years ago, we started talking about “financial independence” (or F-I) rather than “retirement.” One of the obvious ways to be free: don’t be a slave to debt. If you’re in debt, you can’t pick and choose.

    A friend of ours started talking about her “advancement” rather than her “retirement.” Her idea was that she was about to advance to new opportunities, and that this was more important than what she was leaving behind. She’s been “advanced” for a few years now, and certainly spends very little time “retiring.” In fact, her friends all tell her she’s still way too busy!

    That’s our goal!

    1. Hi Paul and thanks for the comment. I think there are a lot of people who get hung up on the word retirement. I think people will start to see FI and Advancement (I love that) as the new definition for their next phase of life, a worthy goal to shoot for.

  2. You were financially independent earlier, and people have trouble with your retiring early and often because you’re just not the right age, sorry.

    Many older people retire at 65 while their spouse still works to support them. But it’s ok to call them retired even if they’re not financially independent.

    I’m a stay at home mom and have left the work force. Not financially independent, but never have to work again. So, I wouldn’t meet your definition of retired.

    I think the only definition of “retirement” that is universally accepted is when people stop working because they’re too old!

    1. Hey CheapMom, thanks for the comment. My first thought about your parting comment was how sad “I think the only definition of “retirement” that is universally accepted is when people stop working because they’re too old!”. That would mean to me saving for when I am done with life and saving more out of fear than motivated by the freedom of FI. As to your non-work but not FI feeling status, I say if you are living your life on your terms and able to pursue your passions then why can’t you say you are retired? Retired from a career-mindset. Wealth is a state of mind and you are wealthy to be able to live your life as you are doing. There are some successful FI bloggers who are stay at home while their wife still works who call themselves early retired.I just think the world is different now and the definition of retirement will change although slowly.

  3. You and I are on the same page Tommy. This is why I focus on becoming FI. Once that happens, any work I do will be firmly driven by the desire to work itself and not based on compensation. To me, that is such an awesome place to be in life and in thinking!

    1. Hey Stefanie, thanks for stopping by. I agree and believe most people would too if they don’t wait to retire until they are too ill of health to do other things. The trick is set the goal of FI rather than an age to retire and then retire to this new mindset.

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