facebook twitter instagram linkedin google youtube vimeo tumblr yelp rss email podcast phone blog search brokercheck brokercheck Play Pause
The Retirement Dimmer Switch Thumbnail

The Retirement Dimmer Switch

"Something you love for 20 years versus something you don't even like for 10? Doesn't that sound like a better deal?"

Resources cited:

Hey guys, I’m Mike Frontera. Welcome to another retirement insight.

You know, a lot of us work very hard in our early years in jobs that really aren’t very rewarding. We put in our dues, so that we can get higher up on the food chain and ultimately be in the career position we’re striving for.


We build our skills, we build our network, our experience and generally become a very valuable asset to the company and industry that we’re in. But something else tends to happen as that time goes on. A lot of us get to a point where the career we have chosen isn’t as fulfilling to us as it once was. You know, maybe you have gone as far as you can go there and are no more rungs to be climbed on that ladder. Or maybe the career you’re in changed so much


that it’s barely recognizable from that one that you had a passion for all those years ago.  


You start thinking of retirement and when you can finally “hang it up” and start living under your rules. But you’re too young to retire still. Maybe you’re in your early 50’s or mid-50’s and between health insurance and kids in college, your mortgage, there’s just too much on your plate to even consider it. Not to mention at this point the nice income you’re finally getting because of all that career experience. So, what ends up happening? You probably end up like a lot of people. That is, counting down the years, days and hours of your life until that magical moment where you can retire and finally start living again. It’s a terrible way to spend some of the best remaining years of your physical and mental health. It’s like waiting for a release from prison. 


And I think a lot of people feel very trapped that way.


We talk about retirement as this permanent vacation from a career that we have given everything we have, and quite frankly often get burned out from. This very common pathway from career to retirement, and I call that the “light switch” method. That is, we spend 40 years or more working our butts off, full-time, with the perks and stress that comes with it. Then retirement hits and BOOM! The light switch turns off and we’re suddenly unemployed and off to hopefully live the remaining years of our lives in leisure. With improvements in longevity, that could be another 40 years in and of itself.


So the other method that isn’t talked about as much is what I call the “dimmer switch” method. And for many of us struggling in the grind,


wishing our lives away, it can be a great alternative. The dimmer switch method is like taking a dimmer switch to transition from your working life to your retired life. It’s a much more gradual change and generally takes a longer amount of time, but can provide wonderful benefits to our physical and mental well-being.


So let’s think about how it could work in the real world. Imagine you’re a 52 year old project manager working for a large corporation, and making a good wage. Your goal is to be fully retired in 10 years, when you’re 62 years old. You’ve gotten to the point where you’re making a nice salary of $100,000 per year. But the problem is, come Sunday night, you’re dreading Monday morning! Every week seems to drain you more than the last one. Your boss is a jerk and you feel like your very soul


 is being sucked out of you every day. Your doctor reminds you “try to reduce your stress and get more exercise,” and gives you blood pressure pills and on and on.


You’ve got this great skill set and an enviable income but it’s literally driving you to an early grave. Or at the very least, you’re certainly not feeling like the work you’re doing is personally rewarding in any meaningful way.

Well, what if instead of grinding it out for 10 more years, you found something that you loved to do? And you could do it on your terms. 30-35 hours a week – plenty of vacation time. And you could feel great about what you’re doing. It’s something that you felt fulfilled and passionate about and you’re looking forward to Monday morning instead of dreading it. A dream job perhaps! It probably wouldn’t pay as much, so you wouldn’t be able to save any more for retirement.


So maybe you’ve got to do it for 20 years? Something you love for 20 years versus something you don’t even like or detest for 10? Doesn’t that sound like a better deal?

For a lot of people it is a better deal and it’s an increasing trend. Investopedia found a study by the Kaufmann Foundation that said the highest rate of entrepreneurship is now people between 55 and 64 years old. Whether starting a business or just finding work that is enjoyable – you get to exit a career that you’ve grown weary of, and become excited and engaged with a new-found purpose.

And if you’re doing something you enjoy, working longer is not so bad! There’s actually several benefits in fact to working beyond age 65, beyond the financial ones. NPR had an interview with psychologist Robert Stawski.


He cited an Oregon State University study, which conducted for adults who retired after age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes versus those who retired before age 65. I found another study by Susann Rohwedder and Robert Willis that was posted on the National institute for health’s website. I’ll provide the link at the end. Anyway, this study, which was conducted across 13 countries, including ours, concluded that an early retirement has a significant negative impact on cognitive abilities and that a causal relationship was present between not working and lower cognitive scores.


There are so many benefits to continued employment, assuming it is doing something you love to do. It can help people rediscover purpose and meaning.


It keeps them busy and engaged in society. It keeps ties within your network strong and relevant. These benefits may seem small when viewed through the lense of a job that is no longer fulfilling. But through the eyes of a new, exciting, fulfilling career, where you’re calling the shots and still taking time off when needed – it just adds to the tremendous life value gained by using that dimmer switch. And when it finally does come time to fully retire, who knows maybe you’ll gain back those extra 10 years from your improved physical and mental well-being!

If you’re dreading every morning that comes along and putting your happiness on hold until you can turn off the light switch of work – think about using a dimmer switch and you might find that you’re happiness doesn’t have to be as far away as you think.

Thanks again for joining me, I’m Mike Frontera.

Check the background of this firm/advisor on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.