Save. Spend. Splurge.

What does “retiring” mean? Would you do your job for free?

Nelson who is the self-proclaimed Chief of the Retirement Police, poses an interesting point in reply to a post by Mr. Money Mustache versus The Retirement Police:

But why do you think it’s referred to as “early retirement?”

Could it be because of the emotions associated with the word? Or the scenarios that people imagine when they see the term?

As Seth Godin has taught us, every good brand invokes an emotional response from their customers.

These early retirement guys are no different. They’ve hijacked the word, and then they’re trying to change the definition to better suit their message.

The problem?

No matter how many times you say it, an apple pie will never be a brownie.


Okay so this isn’t an American Apple Pie, but it’s a French Apple Pie of sorts called Tarte Tatin. 

It made me wonder two things.

1. Why is Nelson so obsessed with apple pies?

I wonder if it has something to do with the movie American Pie…………………..

2. What would I consider a ‘retirement’?

As usual, I don’t really care what you want to call your life as long as you are satisfied with it, but I will agree that a lot of what I read on the internet is partly all about marketing, even if the intentions are different (my blog included).

Here are some options for what people call “retirement”, “work” and “hobby”.


I have a job career that I don’t find horrible or tedious.

Can I still call it a job if I enjoy doing it about 90% of the time?

I’d do my job for free just to avoid being bored.

(But I won’t, because I like money too much.)

Staying at home getting fat off bonbons was never really my thing.


Technically speaking, a hobby is something you DO NOT make money from.

If you have a hobby that makes money, it’s “work”, but perhaps we can add a little extra to that and say that it is still a hobby if you are making less than you would than if you worked minimum wage.

If your hobby brings in just about (or more) than minimum wage for the hours put in, it’s not a hobby any longer.

So that brings us to this question: What’s retirement?


As mentioned above, I think most people deem ‘retirement’ to be stopping work altogether from a job which you hate with a passion.

However it becomes a grey area as a single rule because you could just as easily pick up another job you love, but would that now classify you as being ‘retired’?

Is retirement really so black and white?

Stopping work altogether.

No working.

No waking up, going to a job, and most importantly, collecting an income.

The argument that could be made here is what about freelancers like myself? When I wait in between projects, am I temporarily retired?

I haven’t really worked in the past 2 years (took a break), but not because I can afford to stop working.

I’ve just changed the way I work to suit my life and my priorities have lain in another direction (namely loafing off and traveling).

This t-shirt was made for me:




So you stop working completely, and you sit around all day.

The argument that could be made here is that if your ‘passive’ income is from investments, such as dividends being paid out by stocks, you still need to work to some extent to make sure your invested capital (the stock purchase itself) doesn’t tank.

It isn’t a set-it-and-go sort of deal.

Is that still acceptable as “retirement”?

I mean, technically you’re making an income, and if picking stocks and managing your investments is a hobby….. wouldn’t that be a job?

Or is a job something that OTHER people pay you to do?

But what happens if you work for yourself?

Are you your own boss or is it that your boss is technically the CFO at the company cutting your cheque?


What about folks who don’t need to work at all, but do it anyway because it’s an activity?

Would they be considered “retired” and blogging for fun, with the added side benefit of making some money on the side?

I think I might fall into this category as I get older.

I can’t imagine sitting around doing nothing all day.

I’ve done that for about 2 years, give or take. It’s BORING as a young person. If I were older, I’d be less bored because I’m tired, but still..!!

There are only so many books to read, places to visit, TV shows to watch, people to see, and plants to grow.

Also, would we also put heirs and heiresses under this, and call them “retired”?

Billion-dollar young adults who just spend their inherited money, but don’t need to work?

This is an interesting question of what “retirement” means. I think whatever you choose to make it, my retirement would be a mix between option #2 and #3.

I’d probably never stop “working” to some extent.

Even though blogging is a hobby that doesn’t pay the bills (aside from the bills it generates on its own such as web hosting), it is still “working” to me, and it’s a bit a grey area to not call it a job of sorts.


I think the conclusion I’ve reached for my own definitions of what a job is, which led me to think about what a hobby was and retirement.

A job is something that you make an regular (but not necessarily steady) income from (no matter how little) that other people pay you for.

This includes freelancing because I can’t pay myself to do nothing. I need SOMEONE ELSE’s money to make an income as a freelancer, namely a company’s.

This ALSO includes blogging, even as a ‘hobby’.

You still work to some extent at things you love to do, and if you’re making money off it that is at or more than minimum wage, then it’s a job.

Otherwise, a hobby like playing hockey or scrapbooking, will cost a lot of money but not make you any in the process.

Therefore, retirement, is when you stop working completely and don’t have a job (by my definition above).

You technically cannot call yourself “retired” if you are still working (and collecting an income that other people pay you for), but there’s no shame in it.

I mean, who really cares what you call it?

It’s just semantics if you think about it.


If you can stop working completely for the rest of your life and never lift a finger again, you are truly financially independent, which is better than being retired but trying to stay on a budget of $500 a month, in my opinion.

So can we just say that you’re financially independent instead of “retired”?

I’d rather buy that story and marketing angle than trying to retire and live on $500 a month, only to be able to say I’ve “retired early”, but I am blogging about it, making an income from advertising, and/or selling books and seminars on the side as well.

What does “retirement” mean to you? Would you rather be financially independent, regardless of what you’re calling it?


  • grumpyrumblings

    We’ll be talking about how labor economists define retirement in a few weeks. The bottom line is that there is no standard definition for retirement and the most common definition is “self-defined retirement” which means many different things to different people. And that’s ok. If labor economists (and demographers, and sociologists) have given up on trying to mold the definition into a single technical term…

    Here’s us this week on financial independence:

  • financialuproar

    Jacq wrote a post where she compared MMM to Chuck Norris, and it was hilarious. The best line was (and I’m paraphrasing) “when MMM renovates your bathroom, he’s still retired.” That line perfectly summed up my problem with his whole deal.

    And then there’s a certain early retirement blogger who makes like a thousand bucks a month in passive income and has to rely on his wife’s income, but he still calls himself retired. He’s by far the worst of all.

    Maybe instead of referring to themselves as ‘retired’, maybe these people should call themselves ‘self-employed with plenty of downtime’ instead. It’s more syllables, but it’s also way the hell more accurate.

  • MelD

    Interesting. For me, age plays a part. It sounds silly if anyone under late 50s says they’re retired (to me, anyway). Even early retirement has limits, in my mind. The accepted retirement age here is 65, which is fairly typical in many countries, so I think of someone retired as having had a fulfilling work life (the fact of whether they enjoyed their job or not doesn’t come into it) and has earned the right to retire on a pension. To me, early retirement is something you may be able to do at 55 or 58 or 60, perhaps if you worked in the Forces or police or something very taxing, and you’d still get a full pension. For someone who has done well for themselves financially, sure, why not (it’s what my husband would like to do!). However, I think if you are much under 60 you’re going to want to do something with your time, be it volunteering or extending a hobby or travelling or getting involved in community, or even working a small part-time job for the fun of it. Some people want to do that for longer, but it’s more likely to be people of good education and intelligence who don’t have to work manually who are going to choose to work beyond their 60s, whether part or full time. Those who are FI at a very young age are still going to be doing something, as are the rich heir/esse/s, so I wouldn’t call them retired at all. Yep, age is in there somewhere for me.

  • Jane Savers

    I would work 3 days each week because I love my health care clients but I would want to pick exactly who I worked with.
    When I retire I will probably be so old that I can’t actually work and I just hope I will still be able to feed myself.

    I don’t make any money blogging so it is definetly a hobby but I would like to volunteer at the library or for Habitat For Humanity as long as I didn’t have to do any fund raising.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      Your patients and colleagues definitely matter, I notice that with my clients too.
      I don’t want to go back to some clients…

      You could get your sons to help!! 🙂

  • Pauline

    I left a job I hated and retired from the corporate world. But certainly won’t sit on the beach all day and do nothing. Yes I can stop working and live comfortably but prefer to cover treats with money I make blogging or with other side hustles. It is more rewarding and I don’t mind doing such “work”.

  • Tim

    Jacq brings up a good point. Are you retiring from something? In that classic case I would be doing that leaving engineering to writing.

    Would I make some money after leaving the main job…likely. I’m not a do nothing person, so it would likely involve a few dollars here or there falling into my lap. Would I be seeking it out…not really. I seem to collect jobs without really trying too much, it’s less about the money and more about…I’ve never done that, it would be cool to try.

    I’ve always used the term ‘early retirement’ because I found if you say to people “I’m trying to be financially independent ” they just look at you confused. In the end, it is a language choice, you can use FI or ER depending on what you want to communicate. I have always tended towards ER because that is the concept I learned first. I only really got the idea of FI after the fact, by then I had too much blog with ER all over it. So I kept the language choice.

    Call it what you will, just try to be clear on what your vision is for it. Otherwise, how can you explain it to others?

    • Mochi & Macarons

      Makes sense. Be clear on what your vision is, and call it what it is.

      There’s a grey area that exists there for me, that is very similar to Minimalism as a concept as well.

      How can you say you’re a minimalist if you don’t live with 100 items for instance? Or can’t fit everything into one suitcase?

      It’s all very interesting..

      I think if I “retired” or left consulting.. I’d end up freelancing in other areas more, so it wouldn’t really be a leap. I’d just make less money and be bored.

      • Jacq

        MM, there was a very good book written back in the 1930’s by Richard Gregg on Voluntary Simplicity (you can find it on Here’s a quote from it:

        “Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition.

        It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life.

        It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions.

        It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.

        Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another…

        The degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.”

        I suspect that many people don’t want to be minimalists as much as they want to live more simply and purposefully. It doesn’t shoe-horn you into XXX possessions for some kind of score-card, but asks “What is of value to you? Have those things.”

  • Jacq

    Well, there is a reason why I have no category called “Retirement” on my site – but do have one called Financial Independence. My tracking spreadsheet file name is called “Financial Independence.xlsx” and not “Retirement.xlsx” No way I’m going to shoehorn myself into something and not do what makes sense or sounds like fun based on “oh, I’m pretending on the interwebz that I’m retired.”

    I believe there’s a preposition missing there for many people – the from part. Retired FROM accounting etc. (or whatever the previous career was.)
    You take someone like Derek Foster, Ernie Z., MMM Pete – they’re selling what most people can get their heads around and a common concept. ie. I hate my job and don’t want to do this. Their solution was to become (in order): Author, author, construction person. But you’re not going to sell a lot of people on “quit your job and become a construction worker!!!” I suspect that it’s a male thing that has some ego attached to it that I don’t understand. Especially for the SAHD’s who rely on the wife to pay the bills.

    Personally, I would be screaming from the rooftops if I became an author that could actually sell enough books to keep me in the green. I wouldn’t want to be called retired then.

    To me, one test is – what do you say when you apply for a bank loan? What do you report your income source comes from when you file your taxes? What do you say you do on LinkedIn? (I will say that I’m on sabbatical – hey, if any cool jobs come up, I don’t want to miss out.)

    • Mochi & Macarons

      Yet more reasons why I love your blog 🙂

      That’s a good test for retirement or not, although I’d hope if I was in retirement, I wouldn’t be asking for a bank loan.

      I’d also agree that their marketing is a concept that is easy to understand which makes it easy for others to grasp.

      • Jacq

        Oh, I don’t know about the loan thing – lots of people on the ER forum have a mortgage and occasionally want to re-finance. Some have gone back to work to show a stable income stream for that purpose. It’s certainly more difficult for them than straight wage earners. I thought about buying a sticks and bricks business too and would have wanted to finance it partially through debt. You never know…
        ER is a more universal concept to appeal to the cube dwellers. Most people have a hard time not having security. I know a bunch of people that got laid off recently, some got severance of a couple of years salary. Every one of them was back in a job within a couple of months. I shudder to think of the tax implications of that decision… 🙂

  • Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies

    “Technically speaking, a hobby is something you DO NOT make money from.” I think that’s not true – at least according to the IRS. A hobby is an activity where your primary goal is something other than generating income. Hobby losses are not deductible against self employment or other non-W2 income the way sole-proprietorship or DBA losses would be. It’s the intent that matters, not the eventual profit. At least according to the IRS. =)

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *