You’ve probably heard about FIRE (Financial Independence and Early Retirement).

It’s a movement that appeals to a lot of people. I like it too.

What’s fascinating is how personal finance experts can have radically different opinions on the FIRE lifestyle. Look at these two quotes:

“I hate it! I hate it! I hate it…Almost every one of them says, ‘I’m older, I just got cancer’; ‘I’m older, my child was just in a car accident.’ They’re all about how they had money… and before they knew it, all the money in their 401(k) they had to take out.” –Suze Orman, a personal finance celeb

“FIRE is complete freedom to be the best, most powerful, energetic, happiest and most generous version of You that you can possibly be.” –Mr. Money Mustache, a leader of the FIRE movement, in response to Suze Orman

While Suze Orman may come off as a bit negative, she has a point about the financial risk of the FIRE lifestyle. If you aim to retire at 40, you should have a substantial amount of savings and a strategy to make income off investments. Even still, a stock market downturn or medical emergency could deplete your net worth.

But that doesn’t mean you should abandon your dream of quitting work and traveling the world. What if you could address the financial risk AND embrace the FIRE lifestyle?

I have a solution: Semi-retirement. 

Why you should semi-retire instead of retire

Full early retirement can go wrong in ways you’d least expect. I have a friend that retired to the beaches of Thailand in his early 30s. Money issues didn’t end his retirement after one year.

Feeling like a zombie did.

My friend’s solution? Working again. But only on things that he enjoyed or challenged him. He’s now happily semi-retired, working about 20 hours per week and still traveling the world.

Now, you may think semi-retirement is a half-measure. I guess it depends on how you look at things.

But the reality is: When you semi-retire, you get the best of both worlds. You can engage in meaningful work and do all the activities you want to do in retirement. And you won’t run out of money.

If you semi-retire, you can:

  • Ensure positive cash flow
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Have the freedom to travel the world
  • Keep your mind active with enjoyable work
  • Live where you want

Compared to early retirement, semi-retirement offers a more viable financial, social, and emotional path. You can leave the daily grind—and take on much less risk.

Semi-retirement: How you can retire at 40

The FIRE lifestyle emphasizes living life on your terms. For most people, this doesn’t entail doing nothing.

It involves doing the things you love.

So, what steps do you take to semi-retire? As with any goal, you need a plan:

  1. Figure out why you want to semi-retire and what you want to do: How much money will you need per year? Account for potential medical emergencies and unexpected expenses.
  2. Save and live below your means BUT make sure to enjoy today: Don’t make it painful!
  3. Invest wisely and diversify your asset portfolio: Don’t put all your money in Bitcoin or one stock.
  4. Strategize how you’ll use your savings: Many experts advocate a 4% savings withdrawal rate for retirees, but semi-retirement withdrawal rates depend on your income and savings. Your withdrawal rate should be lower, especially if you make decent money from a part-time job. You could even continue to save money in semi-retirement (and your nest egg could grow and grow!).
  5. Estimate your cash flow in semi-retirement: How much money will you make from investments and work?
  6. Do you plan to work remotely? You could work from your computer as you travel the world. Or, you could relax, work, and enjoy life in your hometown.
  7. What’s the cost of living where you’ll stay? There are plenty of great budget-friendly destinations where you can semi-retire, like Costa Rica and Bali.

Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a pathway to a sustainable semi-retirement. And you’ll know what it takes to live the FIRE lifestyle and have complete freedom.

What kind of semi-retirement jobs offer great work-life balance?

Don’t get down about having to work. Because studies show that working prevents cognitive decline. You don’t want to turn into a zombie!

Moreover, working keeps us connected to others. As Harvard research on happiness attests, good personal relationships boost mental and emotional wellbeing.

When it comes to semi-retirement jobs, you don’t have to compromise to make money. You can do work you love.

You can even begin your semi-retirement job while you still work full-time. This will allow you to hit the ground running in semi-retirement. For example, you could:

  • Start a passion project. If you always wanted to start your own travel blog, you can start writing while you’re still working and saving for early retirement. This will give you time to produce content and build an audience. And by the time you semi-retire, you could already have income from travel writing.
  • Do side work you like. Make extra money doing contract work you enjoy, tutor subjects you like, start an ecommerce store, and more. This will make the transition to semi-retirement easy, as you’ll have a job in place.
  • Learn a new skill. Are there any skills you’ve always wanted to learn? You can obtain that skill while you’re still saving for semi-retirement. Worthwhile skills for digital nomads include a second language, coding, and graphic design. Having any one of those skills will make finding remote semi-retirement jobs easy.

The best semi-retirement jobs align with your passions and interests, while still offering a way to make money. Moreover, they provide flexibility in terms of hours and location.

If you’d like to work in a traditional setting, some good examples of semi-retirement jobs that allow you to travel include:

  • ESL teacher: Love education? Travel the world and teach English.
  • Park ranger: Passionate about nature? Work at national parks.
  • Hospitality jobs: Get a working holiday visa for countries like Australia, and work in tourism and hospitality.

You could even work at local businesses where you live. You can choose work that’s low-stress and enjoyable for you, and you can meet and interact with people. For instance, if you love gardening, get a part-time job at a garden store.

If you plan to travel a lot and therefore need to be able to work from anywhere, consider digital nomad jobs like:

  • Travel writing: Check out all of Frayed Passport’s travel writing tips here.
  • Software development: Build apps and solutions that you’re passionate about.
  • Digital marketing: Help businesses fuel their online growth.

No longer worry if you can retire with 200K or a million

In the book Work Less, Live More, Robert Clyatt makes a powerful case for semi-retirement. He attests that it’s a safe lifelong withdrawal plan. If you’re suffering from burnout but fear you don’t have enough money to retire, you can semi-retire and, as the book’s title says, work less and live more.

In short, semi-retirement provides a path away from the madness of overwork. It’s your chance to reclaim a proper work-life balance.

Considering that money concerns are the primary reason Baby Boomers delay retirement, you probably have worried if you can retire with 200K, 400K, or a million. You may have asked yourself, “Will this be enough to sustain me for the rest of my life?”

When you semi-retire, you remove those concerns. While it benefits you to have more savings, you can semi-retire with much less money than you need to fully retire. That’s because work keeps cash flowing into your accounts.

Simply put, not only is semi-retirement more feasible, but you can also get there faster.

Only one question remains: Are you ready to begin your journey to semi-retirement? 

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About the author

Nick Callos has always had a passion for reading, writing, and discovering the new and unknown. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Nick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Boston College. He currently splits his time between his hometown, Chengdu, China, and the open road. A full-time travel writer, Nick hopes his work can inspire others to explore the world more deeply and enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle.

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