‘Do I really have to return to the office?’

Dear Money Lady,

I am 54, so not old enough to retire yet – but I want to. The thought of going back to my job from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday is killing me. I am supposed to return to work next month.

Have you got any ideas on what I could do instead?



Marlene, you are not alone. According to Statistics Canada, 78 per cent of working Canadians over 49 do not want to return to their pre-COVID work environments.

So, what alternatives do you have?

If you’re willing to take the risk that comes from forgoing a regular pay cheque, the best way to improve your situation may be to start your own business. There are many people who start their own businesses in their mid- to late-50s and do extremely well, achieving a million-dollar net worth within five to 10 years. And we’re not talking about high-value, tech start-ups either. Many of these are ordinary businesses such as accounting, auto repair, consulting, etc. If you have a two-income household and one partner has a secure job that will cover your expenses, it may be worth your while for the other partner to strike out on their own. As a small-business owner, you keep a larger share of your revenue then you would work for someone else and you can control your own overhead expenses. Self-employed people also enjoy special tax advantages, which can especially benefit early retirees.

If starting a business is not for you and you like the industry you’re in, why not negotiate for more? If you work hard and are a valued employee, employers want to keep you happy, especially now. Employee turnover is higher than it has ever been in years, and it is extremely costly to a business to lose someone valuable, so they will want to keep you. Arrange a meeting with your manager and be prepared with your local and regional pay data from Glassdoor and local job listings, recap your accomplishments, and say that you would like to discuss your compensation or, better yet, a new position. Perhaps, if you are paid what you are worth and given the position you deserve, going in four or five days a week would not be so bad after all.

If working for an employer or starting your own business is not for you, then perhaps it is time for you to consider “semi-retiring” to improve your situation. In the simplest terms, if you focus only on four primary steps, none of which require you to pinch your pennies, you will find that you can progress faster towards your financial goals. The more you can maximize each one, the more you will be able to accelerate your pace towards making your hard stop to working.

1. Underspend on housing – Have just one primary residence, downsize to only what you need and eliminate all debt, lines of credit and mortgages. Would you like to give up your home altogether? (Why not rent, travel or downsize to a mobile-home, trailer, houseboat, or motorhome?)

2. Underspend on transportation – Keep your car longer, and run just one vehicle. Assess whether you really need a car where you live.

3. Focus on increasing your earnings – Limit spending and save as much as you can into registered accounts.

4. Bank your income raises – Increase your savings rate to match your increased earnings. Work part-time for more money to save.

Remember that retirement is different for everyone and deciding to jump off the work wagon into your own way of retirement may not be supported by everyone.

Early retirement is not a mainstream idea. Only you will know how to reshape your money spending and future activities for your happiness.


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