How to Retire at Age 85 (or Hopefully Older)!

Old ManWhile my title is an admitted spoof on the “retire early” movement, please understand that I greatly admire anyone who can achieve retirement at age 35, 40, or 45. It is just that I find myself wondering if the goal of retirement is overemphasized.

Far too many of us work long and hard at jobs we don’t like, counting down the years and months and days to retirement as if our lives will instantaneously become wonderful on that day.

Reality is that some people have great retirement years while others struggle with too much time and too little purpose. I therefore ask, “Should you be sacrificing today’s happiness in order to plan for a tenuous ‘someday’?” I am not saying you shouldn’t be investing for your future financial wellbeing, but I am saying that if you are working at a job you hate, you should try to find something you love.

“But Joe, you don’t know my circumstances. I have way too many years vested in my current job to throw them away now.”

Make a Plan to Change Your Career

I understand, and I don’t recommend quitting cold turkey. But, if you live for weekends and dread Monday mornings, I think you could use some introspection.

Ask yourself what you are passionate about and then buy lunch for someone who is doing that very thing. Learn all you can and then start doing it part-time. Get your feet wet for six months, then, if you still love it and think you can make a career of it, plan a transition from where you are to where you want to be.

My Personal Story

As a 66-year-old semi-retiree, I can’t say that I fully practiced what I am preaching in this article. I worked a satisfying career as an engineer, never hating what I did, but not loving it either. Over the years, I would periodically ask my wife (half hypothetically and half in jest): “What do you think I should do when I grow up?” Our answer was always, “I guess we will just wait and see.”

After my retirement from engineering, I began a journey to answer that hypothetical question. Knowing that I wanted to help others in a way that fit my gifts and my passions, I took the necessary training to become a Dave Ramsey certified counselor and, six years ago, I opened Plemon Financial Coaching where I encourage people to get out of debt and make plans to fulfill their dreams.

(Editor’s Note: Joe is a part of our ChristianPF Coaching program as well!)

At that same time, I began writing weekly finance columns for two local newspapers, and I eventually became a writer for ChristianPF.

My retirement career is something I absolutely love, especially the counseling part. Helping people define and reach their financial goals is a “high” that I never experienced during my engineering career. How long will I continue to do so? Hopefully, until I am 85 (or even older) – as long as I am able.

How About You?

You are here on earth for a purpose. While dovetailing your job with your purpose isn’t always easy to do, wouldn’t you love to be so fulfilled with your career that you would gladly continue doing it well past the time when people normally retire? If retirement at age 85 (or hopefully older) sounds good to you, my guess is that you are living a happy and rewarding life today.

James Michener once wrote:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

My hope is that you, like Michener, will have so much fun working that you won’t want to retire.

Do you work at a job you don’t like in order to gain the retirement benefits? What would it take for you to leave that job? What would you love so much that you would never want to retire?

  1. JP

    Joe – Thanks for your post. I particularly like this post because it’s very appropriate for many people approaching retirement.

    With currently retirement savings rates many Americans will not be able to retire. According to the NYT 75% of Americans approaching retirement have less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.

    So how can we take lemons and make lemonade? Search through our hopes and dreams as you mention above. Find something you can be proud of and pursue it fully.

    Thanks also for sharing your personal story. Great to hear that you were able to find your passion in personal finance counseling and life coaching!

    • Joe Plemon

      JP — How true! It is a sad fact that many Americans will not be financially able to retire, but (as you said) if they can find their niche, they will not only be able to live fulfilling lives but will also be able to afford to live during their senior years.

  2. Craig Ford

    Thanks (as always) for helping to keep us all on track. I’m thankful that God has opened the door for you to do financial coaching. I’ve been changed by reading your material over the last few years.

    • Joe Plemon

      Craig — I am humbled and honored to think that my writing has impacted your life. You have certainly reciprocated with your writing! Anyway, thanks for the encouraging words.

  3. Joe Plemon

    Cherleen — Wonderful! I love to read how people are doing what they love.

  4. Jessica

    Joe – this is an awesome way of thinking! That idea seems so foreign to me since I saw my grandpa count down the days until he could retire because he hated his job. And now I see my dad counting down the days until he can retire because his body is falling apart. I grew up thinking that a job is what you did to survive and you save your play time for the weekends. To acutally do something that you love and that you wouldn’t want to quit doing sounds like the road I would like to take. I have been thinking about doing the training to become a Dave Ramsey certified counselor. Financial planning and helping others are two of my passions in life thanks to reading Dave’s book “Total Money Makeover” and following the plan with great results! (We’ve been debt free for three years now!) Would you suggest the training program for someone who has a part time job and a little one at home? Thanks again for another wonderful post! I love reading your insight and thoughts. 🙂

    • Joe Plemon

      Jessica — Congrats on being debt free for three years! Yes, I think you should look into financial counseling. After all, you have a passion to help others and your have seen in your own life how following a plan can have great results. And, although you will need a neutral place (office) to meet with your clients, you can still start out part time and build your business to fit with your own life (having a little one at home). In other words, you can schedule your meetings around your own life schedule. Another thought: although meeting face to face is preferable, it is possible to counsel from your home. I have recently been doing long distance counseling from home by using software which allows my clients to access the budget form on my computer desktop as we meet.

      I wish you well as you pursue your passions.

  5. Scarlet

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the post. I don’t actually hate my job, but I don’t want to get up and face it many days. I do look forward to the weekends and I can’t stand Monday’s. I have a blog that is dedicated towards teenagers. I give them advice on how to survive teen life. I would like to work with teens in some way. I just don’t know how. I would love to guide them and help them with the issues they face in life. I enjoy my blog to the fullest, but I get little traffic. It’s like I keep writing but no one sees it. Any advice?

  6. Joe Plemon

    Scarlet — You have a wonderful passion, but you need to figure out a way to actually be involved in the lives of some teens. You may need to volunteer at your church or at some school group, or perhaps get involved in a mentoring program. At any rate, your hands on experience will not only make your blog come to life, but will also open doors for possible paid positions. Will it ever work into a full time career? Who knows. But doing what you love is the first step in finding out.

  7. StLouisKaren


    Your writing is spot-on! After 25+ years in one industry (16 years at the last position that ended in June) I was ready for a change. I had been talking to my husband about “what I want to be when I grow up” for almost a year before my job ended. I knew I wanted to do something to help people and went back and forth with the idea of non-profit work. But with my husband ready to retire in 5 years, and me still needing to work for the next 20, I need another career that will provide the kind of income that can support our family. I’m happy to say that I have found the answer! I’m adding to my education and going to be a paralegal – with the hope of working in a family law setting.

    I’m blessed to be able to take the time from working and go to school. I know everyone isn’t in a position to do so. I’m looking forward to May when I’ll be finish with school and can pass that blessing on to others!

  8. Grace | Total Investment

    Hi Joe, thanks for the useful post. How I wish I live 85 years or older than that with target earning asset.Sometimes living older is a blessing but somehow living older is just a burden. That’s why it is completely true to prepare our financial future for retirement.