Is Partial Retirement Right for You?

Many employees look forward to retirement and to have the ability to live by their own schedule for a change.  But some others are not quite ready for the lack of structure of full retirement.  Or maybe they’re not confident enough that their finances are adequate. 

If you’re getting older and your job-related demands or long hours are getting too much to handle, but you otherwise like to work, then working two or three days a week, perhaps with summers off, for a few years may seem intriguing.

That way you’ll continue to earn some income to pay your bills, avoid tapping into your savings prematurely, and give yourself some time to get used to the idea of enjoying extended periods of downtime.

If you like that plan, you’re not alone.  According to a new survey of Canadians by the Harris Poll for staffing firm Express Employment Professionals, three quarters of boomer respondents said they’d go for a flexible work schedule and semi-retire if they were offered the chance.

Look to your employer first

If you enjoy what you do and still want to use your professional expertise, a natural place to start is with your current employer.  It might be possible to downshift to a part-time or seasonal schedule, or be on-call as a temp.

Don’t make assumptions though.  Many jobs don’t transition well to part-time.  Plus, according to the Harris poll, only about 30% of the boomers surveyed said their employer provided a part-time option.


Your career may lend itself to short-term consulting or freelance project work.  There are many fields that do, from graphic design, tech services, writing, and more.  This can be an ideal situation for a retiree because of the flexibility.  You can choose how much you want to work and on which projects.

Watch out for a “non-compete” clause from your employer when you leave your firm.


Seniors are the fastest growing age group for entrepreneurship.  If your new career entails starting your own business, take the time to plan and prepare.  Assess how much you’ll need to invest.  You don’t want to tap into your RRSP if you don’t have a lot of financial reserves for your retirement.

Seasonal work

If you don’t want to commit to a permanent, year-round position, a seasonal job could provide a temporary source of income. Plenty of industries have a busy season that requires them to bring on additional seasonal or temporary help. Examples are retailers, delivery drivers, theme parks and tax preparers. 

The sharing economy

The growth of the “gig economy” – ride sharing (Uber, Lyft), task sharing (TaskRabbit), food delivery (GrubHub), pet walkers and sitters (Wag. Rover) etc. – has led to new ways to find casual work for semi-retirees.

Be aware that the work, and the income, may be unpredictable.

Switching careers

Test the job first by volunteering or moonlighting.  Make sure your “dream” career is actually a good fit for you.  Be aware that many employers may not feel that you will take on what amounts to an entry-level position at a low wage.

It’s not all limited to professional opportunities.  Many people plan to work at the local hardware store, sewing shop, or help a family member or friend with their business. 

Pursue your passion

Many individuals have turned what they love to do into a successful part-time career. Museums and local attractions are often looking for docents and tour guides. Educators may be able to find part-time work as tutors, coaches, or substitute teachers. Those with experience in fundraising, marketing, or event planning can often find work with a non-profit they believe in. Retail stores or businesses that cater to your beloved hobby are always looking for workers. 

Don’t ruin your hobby, though.  You might love gardening but that doesn’t mean you’re going to love landscaping every day.  Crafting might be enjoyable for you but not so much when you have dozens of orders from your Etsy store.

The bottom line

You may want to ease into retirement slowly and give yourself a chance to get some relief from the daily grind without having to completely give up that paycheque and structure.

There are plenty of flexible options for people of all ages and skill levels.  It can be a great way to stay active, meet people, and supplement your retirement savings.

Don’t just assume it will all work out, though.  Opportunities may not materialize as you expect. It’s important to understand at some point that there is no ideal situation where you get the pay, hours, and schedule you hoped for. Do your homework ahead of time, nail down some options and use your spare time to try them out before making a commitment.

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2 Responses

  1. Christine Dowling says:

    I know you were looking at earning money part time but volunteering with an organization you really believe in can give you much more than a financial return – if your retirement can afford you to do it.

    • Marie Engen says:

      You’re right Christine. If you don’t need the extra money, volunteering can provide you with other rewards – socializing with like minded people, the satisfaction on contributing your talents to a cause you believe in as well as providing some structure to your days. That being said, there’s no reason why someone couldn’t volunteer in addition to working part time.

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