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After Financial Independence: Lessons From Early Retirees


There are many things to do after reaching financial independence – the possibilities are exciting, and perhaps even a little daunting. Simply put however, your actions will fall under one of three major categories.

After achieving financial independence, you can 1) live without working full-time, 2) keep working but transition to more personally meaningful work or passion projects, or 3) keep working your full-time job. While many people who achieve financial independence set out with one of these particular goals in mind, it’s possible to end up participating in two or all three categories after reaching independence.

When discovering what life after financial independence looks like for you, it’ll be helpful to learn from those who have reached it already. We’ll discuss the options above and lessons from early retirees in detail below.

What to do After Financial Independence

For those who have spent 40-80 hours of each week working at a particular job for years or decades, living a life without work sounds rather appealing. It may be all you can do to think about signing off for the day and heading home, only to realize you’re too tired for other activities. Perhaps you even dream what life could be like if you didn’t have your job to show up to.

For those who reach financial independence, however, that dream may seem more like reality.

But when it becomes a reality, what are you going to do with your time?

The answer comes in understanding that financial independence isn’t about a having certain dollar amount in your account or being attributed to your personal net worth. Financial independence is about having choices. It’s less about money than it is about time. And it’s about how you want to spend your time that you’ll find your answer for what you’re going to do after becoming FI. You may know it already, or you may not. Either way, it’s important to begin with the end in mind. And here’s a list of ideas on what to do after financial independence.

1. Live Without Working Full-time

Travel. Take time to see the world and all its beauty for what it is, up close and personal. Take a short trip or travel across a new country slowly. Try new cuisines and find truths in other cultures or ways of living that you find inspiring.

Exercise. Always wanted to cut down your weight or bulk up a bit? Take some time to focus on your physical health. Get a gym membership. Actually go to the gym. Or build your own personal gym and routine. If you like to box, box. If you want to play hockey, play hockey. If you just need to get off the couch, run around or play with your kids to stay active.

Learn new skills. Learn new languages or skills like photography or graphic art. Learn an instrument. Learn to DJ. Learn to code. Whatever it is, never stop learning. Go fast or slow. See what you like and stick with it, and keep adding new skills on top of them to round out your talents and abilities.

Cook. We all love food, and there’s something about a meal that’s taken a full day to prepare that tastes a little bit like heaven. Ditch the fast food and get healthy by learning how to cook new dishes that will keep your stomach and your body happy. Learn to bake. Make pastries or bread. Try mastering a different culture’s cuisine. Try exotic fruits or vegetables.

Volunteer. In your community, at your Church, with the local political races, etc. Taking a bunch of time to focus on yourself might be unfulfilling. Find ways to give back and to help those who need it. Not only will you be happier and feel better, but you can make the world a better place as well.

Real estate. Build your dream house. Flip houses. Build a real estate empire to cover your housing costs forever and provide supplemental income. Work the land or homestead. You’ll always need a house to live in. Perfect your living situation or make it an additional passive income stream.

Sleep more. Take time to breathe – deeply. Sleep longer. Actually rest. Wind down at night and set up a meaningful bedtime routine. Meditate. Journal. Relax. And really get what you and your body need out of sleep. It’s a third of your life, take time to do it right.

Education. Want to pursue an additional degree? Get all the learning you want and could ever need. Go back to school or pursue additional degrees or certificates online. Pursue what really matters to you and interests you. Never stop learning.

Run down your bucket list. See Wimbledon. Run a marathon (train for it first). Drive the Pacific coast. Break a world record. Whatever’s on your list, do it! If you don’t do it when you have unlimited time to, you never will.

Family time. The highest returns you’ll ever get in life will come from your family and friends. Develop and strengthen all of your relationships. Mend broken ones. The fullest ways to spend your time will be in love and harmony with those you hold most dear. Be a part of people’s lives.

2. Transition to More Meaningful & Personal Work Ventures

Passion projects. Have a cause that’s meaningful to you? Well, now you can dedicate your time to it, and even make it your life’s work. Not only will you enjoy the work, but you’ll find it motivating and it’ll keep you having fun and dedicated to solving problems that arise.

Start your own company. Sometimes it may just be easier to be your own boss. Start your own business and learn how to run it. Hire others to help or do it yourself. Scale it or make it ideal for the lifestyle you want to live.

Run-at cost/below cost businesses. Start a company that doesn’t need to make money but doesn’t lose it either. This could dovetail with your passion projects nicely.

Free lance your skills. There’s no need to let your hard-earned skills go to waste. You may not need to work full-time anymore, but you can keep your abilities up on the side. You can get better over the years, and increase the value you can provide and charge for your services.

Work when your kids are busy. But be available for them when they’re not. If you don’t need to work, there’s no need to let it get in the way of the formative years of your family’s life.

Be your own CEO. Yes, you can be your own boss of a company, but you can – and should- be the CEO of your own life as well. Structure your days and work with goals and measures to achieve those goals. Hold yourself accountable as though you were still working.

3. Keep Working Your Job

Love your job and don’t see any point in leaving it? That’s okay! You don’t need to leave it just to leave it. In fact, you may even be able to find more fulfillment in it.

Enjoy your highest paying years. If you’re settling into the high income earning years, feel free to get the most of your worth. If the raises keep coming, feel free to keep on working. It can add a nice buffer to your financial independence savings.

Negotiate for less hours to work on the things you want to. Your company may be very invested in you and your work. They may even be okay with you scaling back your work so long as it means you’ll stay on. Doing so could allow you more time, while still working a job you love.

Work from home. Perhaps you need a change of pace from the desk. Negotiate working from home to spend more time with family or friends, and create a more balanced life.

Consult. Leverage your skills and focus on the activities you specialize in or want to do more of. Limit the scope of extra work by honing in on those skills you love, and sell them as a service.

Join a new company. Venture somewhere new knowing that the risk of your family or life relying on your income isn’t there, since you don’t need the job to live off of. Explore a new field or take a management position at a new firm. Find a new culture you can fit into.

Enjoy the structure and sense of accomplishment. You did it – you worked long and hard and achieved financial independence. Bask in it for a while! Actually take time to appreciate the talk at the water cooler now that you’ve emotionally escaped the daily grind. Enjoy work without the pressure.


It would be normal to dip into any or all of the categories above. Financial independence is about having the time and energy to choose. So if one option isn’t exactly to your liking – or you find yourself wanting to try out an additional idea or two – go ahead and try it! Find your spending level. Focus on what makes you happy and spend your time, energy, and money towards fulfilling activities that will provide returns on your life. Work, don’t work, work on meaningful activities. Exploit the independence of financial independence.

Lessons From Early Retirees Who Have Reached Financial Independence

Grant Sabatier is an author, entrepreneur, podcaster, blogger, and has been financially independent since age 30. 5 years earlier, after having only $2 in his bank account (and $0 in a savings account ironically labeled “DO NOT TOUCH”) he began a quest to become a millionaire – despite having no job and not a lot of prospects. He was living in his parent’s basement and had fallen on hard times. Despite this, he found the motivation to turn his financial failings into a positive financial future. He worked diligently to get a new job, learned new skills, and began finding ways to make more and more money. He eventually learned about financial independence movement, which motivated him even more with his goals. He set his financial independence number at $1,250,000 (or 25x $50,000 annual expenses), and reached it after just five years.

“(One) thing I’ve learned about life and money the past few years—(is that) the more calculated risks you take, the happier you’ll become. … Whether it’s asking for a raise, starting a new side hustle, pushing your savings rate to 50 percent, quitting your job to pursue a better opportunity—whatever it is, taking calculated risks will fast-track your financial freedom.

Keep testing and optimizing. Don’t be afraid to recalibrate. Life is about learning, balancing, adapting, spending and saving, risk and reward. The strategies you’ve learned work. Put them into practice and keep at it. And help others. Talk about money. Share your stories. Be open. Be kind. We are all on the same journey around the sun.”

Quote from his book Financial Freedom

Chill as Hard as you Hustle

However, one piece of advice he often gives to those seeking to become financially independent is to chill as hard as you hustle – especially when considering a condensed timeline to becoming FI. Discovering new ways to make money can be exciting, but it’s important to weigh it against the sacrifices it takes to get there. Grant lost friendships and even worked himself sick at various points on his journey to financial independence.

“Looking back, I see a lot that I would have done differently, but the biggest mistake I made was actually working too much. I never set any boundaries, which is a huge risk for so many of us in the 24/7/365 digital economy. There are many benefits to being able to work anywhere, anytime, but it also makes it harder for us turn off. I was working about eighty hours a week for five straight years. …

If you’re feeling burned out, the best strategy is to stop immediately and rest—like, not keep working rest, actually get in bed and sleep rest. If you keep pushing, you’ll likely get sick. Slow way down, get out into nature, do walking meditation, eat healthy, drink green juice, sleep, get exercise, do some yoga, and don’t forget to breathe. Breath is the best medicine. Remember: Life > Money.

Quote from his book Financial Freedom

Money is Only a Tool – Not a Magic Wand

J.D. Roth is a self proclaimed “regular guy who has learned about money through the school of hard knocks” according to the blog he built to help teach people what he’s learned along the way ( He learned about the danger of debt and how easy it was to spend with credit cards. Eventually, however, he learned how to take power over his personal finances and was able to reach financial independence. He did so by discovering this important fact – that money is a tool. And it can be helpful both pre- and post-financial independence.

“A lot of people believe that if only they were wealthy, if only they had a million dollars, then all of their problems would be solved. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

There’s no doubt that money can buy food and clothes and shelter. Wealth grants access to better health care. It provides peace of mind so that you don’t fall into a panic when the car breaks down. But money is only a tool. It’s not a magic wand that will miraculously make you smart, fit, and kind. It’s up to you put the tool to constructive use.”

Quote from here

And this is a philosophy that he still lives today. He knows he isn’t perfect, but he’s wise enough to recognize when he’s settling into a routine or habits that are more deteriorating than helpful. And just like he did when he found himself in piles of debt – he makes changes instead of excuses. Becoming financially independent won’t make your excuses go away by themselves. It may allow you the opportunity to tackle your challenges in a new way, but the effort and focus will still come from you. That’s part of life. Learning how to live doesn’t happen after you’re financially independent, learning how to live is what will make you truly self-reliant and independent.

There is no “I’ll be happy when I’m Financially Independent”

Brandon, also known as the Mad Fientist, reached financial independence at age 34. He was a software developer, and he and his wife moved to Scotland after reaching financial independence. They now spend time traveling, and Brandon recently put time and energy fulfilling a lifelong dream by creating and releasing a music album. He was typically frugal by nature, but didn’t know what he was saving for until he learned about financial independence. Once he learned how to reach financial independence, he put his energy and focus into being able to leave his job and retire early. Once he did though, it took him some time to leave his job.

However, what he thought was going to be a light switch experience of hitting his FI number wasn’t that at all – and looking back finds that the experience was more like a gradual sunrise all along.

“I blamed my job as the reason for why I wasn’t living the life that I thought would make me happiest, and wasn’t doing the things that I really wanted to do with my life. … It was such an easy scapegoat, and only after leaving the job and trying to do all those things that I thought I wanted to do I realized it wasn’t my job holding me back. …

And it was only once I removed that easy scapegoat that I realized I could have been doing all of these things (I enjoy post FI) with a job. …

Try to remove the easy scapegoats of your job and start trying to do these things (today) that you really think you’re going to do post-FI. … It may just be your doubts holding you back from living a fulfilling your life.”

Quote from here

He and his wife spent significant amounts of time traveling, eating out, and learning how to spend money on things they thought they enjoyed. But one of the lessons he learned was about the natural hi’s and low’s of life. After a full year of traveling and eating out, he found that it wasn’t as special anymore. Getting ready for a nice evening out or an upcoming vacation loses its intensity when it becomes a regularity.

Similarly, your life will continue to ebb and flow. There will be ups and downs, and you’ll need to recognize that how you practice is how you play. Practicing happiness today will help you become happy tomorrow. Understand what you truly want in life, and plan your goals around those desires. Money isn’t your goal or your happiness, and it won’t solve all your problems. You need to learn what makes you happy, and find ways to achieve it and help others on their journey as well.


After reaching financial independence you have the option to work, work on personally meaningful projects, or to not work at all. Whatever you choose to do, do it deliberately and with a happiness mindset. It’s important to set goals and work towards realizing your dreams, but remember that it’s about the climb as well as the summit. And that once you reach it, you’ve got to decide where to go next.

Wherever that is, we’ll be right there with you.

Climb on, FinBase.

Picture of John


John is a personal finance writer, editor, and a fellow FinBase climber. Tech worker by day, design owl by night, he is the co-founder and creator behind The Financial Basecamp.
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