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The “Never Retire” Mindset: Life You Don’t Need to Retire From


“A man will rust out quicker than he’ll wear out.” – Colonel Sanders

To some, the idea of retirement can sound a little troubling. However, there’s a way to “retire” while still continuing to participate in meaningful work.

The “never retire” philosophy is the idea that somebody continues to work in conventional or personally meaningful ways instead of permanently leaving the workforce. A “never retire” mentality allows one to ‘retire’ from traditional work, while still continuing to hold jobs or work on projects that may provide an income.

There are many ways to retire and to not retire in the world of financial independence. As you ponder what makes most sense for you, here are a few tips to help you navigate your personal retirement philosophy. 

What is the “Never Retire” Philosophy?

To begin, it’s important to note that the “never retire” philosophy doesn’t mean failing to save and prepare for retirement. While it’s true that one will “never retire” if they don’t have any investments to live off of, the “never retire” philosophy is based on financial stability that allows one the freedom to choose activities that he or she would like to do without the need for a traditional working income.

The “never retire” philosophy is a mindset. It’s the mindset that work is necessary, and helps develop character while providing purpose. But it’s also the mindset that the work you do is up to you. 

A “never retire” philosophy is believing that time > money.  It means deliberately spending your time and resources in ways that are personally meaningful to you – whether that’s on work or personal projects. One could leave the workforce permanently and still never retire, simply by the attitude he or she takes on life. She may take lower paying jobs that are more suited to her passions. She may continue to refine her skills in her career the rest of her life. All the while, her financial situation remains able to support her lifestyle perpetually. 

How to Never Retire

Traditional retirement is leaving the workforce permanently after a full working career, typically around the age of 65. In the United States, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers retirees social security income benefits. “Never retiring” means leaving the traditional workforce at any age (or not), since work will continue to be a part of everyday life. It can also mean taking intermediary “mini retirements” between years of working to pursue other activities or ventures. 

There are many ways to “never retire”. If you’re contemplating adopting this philosophy, consider the following ways to never retire.

Continue Working in Your Career

You’ve spent a long time working to develop the skills you have – perhaps years or even decades. One way to never retire is to never leave your career. If you love what you do and it’s how you prefer to spend your time, continue to participate in your discipline of choice. As you master your craft you’ll become more valuable to those around you. As your skills and your value grows, you can choose to participate in the activities you’re best at while delegating the rest. 

If you’ve progressed to the top of the corporate ladder, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor in leadership. The longer you’re there, the more of an asset you may become. Your skills and knowledge will put you in a position to help create the future leaders and thinkers of the company. 

If you have your own business or practice, you can do much the same thing. You can leverage your industry experience to help other employees and train them. Over time, you can hire out or delegate the tasks and activities that don’t interest you, saving the work you love for yourself. As you spend your time on work you enjoy, you can find ways to create greater flexibility in the rest of your schedule. This may allow you time and space to travel or enjoy your personal hobbies and interests, while keeping your day job as long as you can.

Find Work Based on Personal Interests or Passions

Another take on never retiring comes in changing the kind of work that you do. Warren Buffet once said,

“Take the job you would take if you didn’t need a job … You want to be doing something you would do if you didn’t need the money.

– Warren Buffett

Once you’re in a financial position that can provide you a comfortable lifestyle for the rest of your life, it might not matter what job you take, so long as it’s one you love. 

Consider your personal interests, hobbies, or passions. Is there something you’ve always loved, but you chose not to do because it provided less income than your family needed? You can “retire” from the workforce, but get a new job you’re passionate about instead. Perhaps it’s art, teaching, or even scientific research. The point of retirement is to spend time doing what matters to you. If your new job provides an income to help pay the bills, all the better. 

Participate in “Mini” Retirements

If you’ve worked hard and are getting burned out, step away for a time. Take time to rest and rejuvenate yourself away from work. While this may seem like a form of retirement, it’s really just a way to help you keep at what you’re doing for longer. As humans, we all need breaks sometimes. It’s not uncommon to take time for yourself, however long or short you and your loved ones need that to be. Take a month, a year, or even two years as a sabbatical to enjoy some time off with family or friends, to travel, or even to get a business idea off the ground. 

One advantage to pre-planned “mini” retirements is that they’re optional. You don’t need to take a mini retirement if the markets are down and you’re planning to live off your investments for a year. You’re able to remain flexible and work when things make sense financially. 

You Might Retire, But Don’t Let Your Mind Retire

The older we get the more we learn. One ‘never retire’ strategy is to keep your mind active. Remember all the time you spent solving problems and communicating at work each day? You can continue to develop those habits throughout your life. Keep learning. Read books on subjects you’re interested in. Teach others what you learn. Take classes to develop new talents or master a craft you’ve always known. 

Consider additional forms of education, like school or online programs. Pursue advanced degrees. Gather your knowledge and publish a book on everything you know. Learn new languages. Practice them with natives by traveling to new countries. The possibilities are endless. There’s no limit to the knowledge and experience you can gain in life, aside from the limits we place on ourselves, so live limitlessly. 

Give Back

Find meaning in life outside of work by filling it with service to others. There are many meaningful ways to do this. Donate to causes that are meaningful to you. Volunteer your time with groups or services that need your help. Attend and participate in ways to help grow your local community. Serve in your Church congregation. There are as many meaningful ways to serve in the world as there are good causes. 

You can also leverage your life skills in this way as well. All the years you’ve spent working at a career can become valuable offerings of time and talent to others that may not be able to access them as easily. If you’re an accountant, you can balance books for your favorite nonprofit. If you’re a craftsman, you can labor to build houses or materials for those who need it. You can even travel to where people need help most. As the world experiences traumatic events through natural disasters, you can seek to provide relief to all within your reach. 

Be Active

As the average expected age of life increases, thoughtfully consider what your later years will mean to you. The older you get, the more you’ll need to pay attention to your body physically. You want the later years of your life to be as active and full as your younger years, but you can’t do that if you don’t take care of yourself. 

Consider what you want your life to look like in the next five, ten, or twenty years from now. What activities are you participating in? Are you traveling the world with friends or family? As you see your grandchildren scuba diving in the ocean, are you with them? Or are you relaxing on the beach instead? You can plan ahead for the kind of life you want to be living. There’s no point to living longer if your extra years of life are filled with pain and disease. Begin making changes in your diet, exercise, and mental health. Take time to prepare healthy meals. Talk with your doctor and dietitian. Tell them your goals and create a plan to help you get there. Get active and stay active. Never retire to a life of joyful experiences on the sidelines. 


Planning to “never retire” is as deliberate as planning for traditional retirement. The time you spend preparing for your financial future will directly impact the quality of your retired or not-retired life. Begin by taking care of your personal finances so you can start taking care of your future self. Start budgeting. Plan out how much you need to support your current lifestyle.  Continue to learn about the types of retirement and how they fit into financial independence, and ensure the ascent up your financial mountain isn’t going to keep you from the things you want to do in life.

Remember that your success will be found in having created a life that you don’t have to retire from.

Climb on, Finbase


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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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