Welcome to the new retirement. It’s about having the freedom to decide when and how you want to take a break from work — to rest, recharge or start a new adventure — no matter your age. In our Redefining Retirement series, you’ll learn how real people are living their lives to the fullest, and the steps they took to get there.
Here, a personal trainer in his early 40s explains the five things he did to help him prepare for — and enjoy — his early semi-retirement.
I always knew I wanted to semi-retire at the age of 40. But it became all the more important and urgent after my wife, Lynne, and I realized we’d be expecting our first son around the same time I’d be hitting that magic age.
I didn’t want to spend my child’s younger years working in an office all day long. We also had a second child a few years later, and getting to spend so much quality time with my two boys — who are now 3 years old and 11 months old — has meant the world. Here’s how I worked that major goal into my career journey.
I made saving a priority
Part of what made retiring early possible was that I’ve always saved 25 percent of my pay. I paid myself first, before any bills even. To make this easier, I opened a savings account at my bank and had the money automatically transferred into it after every paycheck. Since I didn’t see the money hit my checking account, it was actually pretty easy to keep stashing it away. I started saving in my early 20s, and in my 30s started investing some of that money, which helped it grow even faster.
I grew my business
Another thing that made it possible for me to semi-retire was building up my fitness website, iBodyFit. I started it in 2008 as a way to keep in touch with and provide online workouts for my seasonal, in-person clients. I got great feedback when my site launched, so I started offering the service to friends and family. When they had success, I knew it was time to make the site available to the public.
My business makes money in two ways. Users can receive annual access to over 500 pre-made workouts and diets designed by me for $99 per year. Or, they can pay a monthly subscription that ranges from $49 to $140 a month for custom workouts based on their goals, time, fitness level, equipment and limitations.
While I was still building iBodyFit, I kept my in-person fitness job during the week. Then I spent nights and weekends, for as many hours as I could stay awake, making improvements to my website. By 2016, my business became the top site in the online fitness industry.
It was around this time that I realized I could comfortably live off my website earnings. I made the transition to working on my site part-time from home, which allows me to spend more time with my family. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever fully retire. I love helping people reach their fitness goals. I especially enjoy knowing that many of my online clients previously failed to stick to fitness resolutions — yet they reach success when they work with me.
Nowadays, I’m focused on directing my money toward fun and my family’s future.
I created a semi-retired budget
Despite my successful online business, deciding to semi-retire still meant we had to get our budget under control in order to make it work. The first step was tracking where all our money went. Lynne and I wrote down every single penny we spent over the course of one month. Whether we added $1 to a parking meter or $1,000 dollars for a vacation, we made sure it went on our Excel sheet.
We then went over the entire budget to see where we could trim. Some things were easy, and some were impossible. For instance, you really can’t cut back on your mortgage, but you can watch your electric bill and food spending. Little adjustments added up.
I spent on what was important to our family
Nowadays, I’m focused on directing my money toward fun and my family’s future. My kids are too young to know what they want to be when they grow up (other than superheroes). But because we live in Florida, we took advantage of the Florida prepaid 529 college plan. For about $33,000 each, we have paid for an all-inclusive, four-year ride to any Florida university.
Our family also loves to travel. We’ve visited about half of the states in the U.S. and our goal is to make it to all 50. Some of our favorite places are Northern California, Wyoming and upstate New York.
Another thing I’m really excited about is that we’re building a cabin. When I was a little kid growing up in Queens, New York, I was extremely lucky to get a chance to go to summer camp in the Adirondack mountains. I found myself surrounded by pine trees, green mountains, rivers and streams. I was hooked. Ever since, it has been a goal of mine to have a house or cabin in that area of New York state. I wanted my kids to be able to have the same experience that I had when I was young. Now they can.
I enjoy my simple, semi-retired life
I’m really enjoying semi-retirement, but getting here meant thinking long and hard about what I wanted out of life. Did I want to keep working all the time so that I could someday have a mansion with five cars and a staff full of people — or did I want to live happily and humbly and spend as much time as I could on things that I found important? I chose the latter.