Slowly Sipping Coffee

Will your retirement have an ikigai?

Until Mrs. SSC left her old job to teach, she was miserable. Her company continually reminded her she was just a number by dragging her and others through long protracted layoffs. Even though she didn’t get let go, the whole process left her with zero job satisfaction, and ultimately she lost all drive to work there. I felt very similarly working for that company my last year there, and after failing to get moved to a better position, I also left that company.  We had both lost our ikigai…

What’s ikigai? Ikigai (pronounced icky guy) is a Japanese term that translates as “the reason to wake up in the morning.” In other words, it’s your driver in life, what keeps you going and motivated. Does that mean we really need a reason to get up in the morning if we’re retired?

An awesome article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Why retirement is a flawed concept” goes over this concept and how it has prolonged longevity for people that have ikigai, or purpose, versus those that don’t. Essentially, their study found that over a 7 year period 95% of the 43,000 people studied that had an ikigai were still alive, compared to 83% of people without an ikigai. That’s pretty astounding! They people with an ikigai also had self-reported lower stress levels and higher rated health.

What does this mean for us in “retirement”?

This means we need a purpose, we need an ikigai, and if work is your only ikigai, walking away from it may not be the healthiest thing you can do. My grandad was terrified of retirement. In his family, all of the men that retired were dead within 2 years of retiring. 2 years! Yipe!! He worked full-time until he was 70. Let me repeat that, he worked full-time until he was 70!! He liked his job, and sure it paid well, and he even had enough savings and retirement that he could have retired closer to 60 or even 55 if he’d wanted to. However, I think he was worried he’d have lost his purpose if he did that.

Grandad and a much, much younger Mr. SSC. He got me started hiking though.

Grandad and a much, much younger Mr. SSC. He got me started hiking though.

This is coming from a man with hobbies and a general sense of enjoyment about life. We spent numerous weekends hiking, and took loads of week-long backpacking trips when I was younger and retirement would give him the opportunity to do that even more now. Plus, he was also a big gardener and loved working in his flower beds and yard. Even though those were things that made him happy, I don’t think he saw them as things “worth living for” that would replace that ikigai that he got from work.

Do we really want to retire and do nothing?

Like that study found, and what scared my Grandad is that we don’t really want to retire and do nothing.

While we may all want some extra time for our hobbies, especially if you’re time starved like us, all of our hobbies and things we plan to do in retirement may not fulfill our ikigai.  Whoa…

We figured this out early on in our FIRE plans which is why we coined the concept Fully Funded Lifestyle Change (FFLC). We don’t want to “retire” at 40 or close to it and just check out of life, sip Arnold Palmers, discuss the upcoming Fall season of new shows on TV, and generally “relax”, like I’m sure our waistlines would if we followed this kind of “retirement plan”.


We know that one or both of us might still be working. Wait, what?! Oh yeah, we might still be working when our Lifestyle Change happens, GASP!! Think about it, we’re already enacting our Lifestyle Change and it has definitely been for the better. While our income has dropped significantly, our level of happiness has increased, and our stress has decreased. Mrs. SSC – Prof SSC for some of you out there – has found her ikigai at her new teaching gig, and I love the new easier commute and overall free time in our schedule that this change has afforded us. I also regained my ikigai by switching companies and working somewhere that I feel valued and feel like I’m making a difference.


Where will I find my ikigai in our new Lifestyle Change?

Does this mean I’m worried I might not be happy upon leaving the office and corporate life behind? Yes, yes it does. Yet another reason that FIRE – urm, FFLC still freaks me out man! I’d love to think that being a stay at home dad will fulfill that ikigai, but to be brutally honest, I’m kind of scared it won’t. Yep, the cat’s out of the bag. Unlike other stay at home dad’s (SAHD) maybe I won’t adapt to it as easily and get much joy out of it. It’s not necessarily the pleasure I’m looking for, rather it’s a sense of purpose, and what if that doesn’t do it for me?

It’s my main plan, and if it doesn’t work that way, that’s fine, I’m adaptable and have a few other backup plans to achieve that. Fortunately, I know me well, and I am generally pretty easy to please.


Mrs. SSC will have teaching in this most recent version of our FFLC plan. With that being said, if she isn’t teaching and we’re both stay at home parents, she has her own ways to find an ikigai. One of her parents biggest concerns is that she is not the type to sit around for very long. As they put it, “What are you going to do in retirement?! You’ll go crazy after 3 days with nothing to do.”


It’s definitely something we’ve both given a lot of thought to, and it seems to be the main fear factor for a lot of people who are “close” to retiring.


What about you, do you have any plans to retain your ikigai once you leave the working world?

Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

51 thoughts on “Will your retirement have an ikigai?

  1. TheMoneyMine

    I’ve learned a new word today, thanks!
    This is understandable that ‘retirement’ will be a change in your lifestyle, this is also the reason why I prefer the term Financial Independence. My wife and I have had several discussions on what we’ll do once we’ll be FI and at the moment, we have no plan to stop working.

    The most favored option currently would be to start our own business (to sell what remains to be determined).
    Our ikigai I think is to keep us challenged to do things or experiences we haven’t done before, that make us grow as people, so we can show by example to our (future) kids what is possible.

    The best in all this, is that you can try to be a stay at home dad and if you don’t like it you’ll have the option to try something else :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      No problem, we’ve also had the “if we started a business what would we sell?” conversation and currently it would be things we don’t yet make. :)

      It is nice to have the freedom to get to be a stay at home dad and if it doesn’t work out, find something else. That’s a good point.

  2. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    I like the concept of ikigai. Thanks for the expansion to my vocabulary!

    I think this goes with the advice that you need to retire to something rather than from something. You still need to have goals to work towards and something that you enjoy doing every day.

    I also think that most people that suffer after retiring due to the loss of their ikigai probably don’t know quite what it is that is causing them to struggle. You have a leg up by understanding beforehand that the way out is to experiment with new things and find a new reason to get up in the morning.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Definitely need to retire to something otherwise, I’d go stir crazy pretty quickly. Beyond the SAHD role, I have lots of hobbies I want to indulge in again, the first being music and woodworking.

      My father in law had a big problem transitioning and while my mother in law ahd already been retired for a few years and had made that transition fairly easily it almost split them up it was so hard for him. Now he’s adjusted and “very busy” with habitat for Humanity, woodworking projects, exercise and a few other things that he’s built his schedule around.

  3. Brian @ debt discipline

    Thanks for sharing. I think what you said about your Granddad was true for a number of older generations, their work was their ikigai. Once they left it, things went downhill for them fast.

    My dad retired at 55 but got involved in a number of things he enjoyed golf, softball, and he even worked a little part-time job. What was different was there was no pressure, he has a steady income coming in each month and he could pick and choose if he wanted.

    I think your FFLC plans gives you the flexibility to throw some things on the wall and see what sticks. Good luck!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I agree, a lot of people in the older generation had nothing to relate to outside of work that brought them that same sense of purpose.

      Grandad did retire and found meaningful things to do like volunteering to read kids stories at the library and other activities, but it was a rough transition because a lot of who he was came from his job.

      I look forward to having the freedom to try some different things out and not being worried if certain ones don’t work out. :)

  4. The Green Swan

    That is great you and your wife have both maintained a good ikigai as you continue to drive toward your FFLC. And as I’ve mentioned before, I like how Mrs. SSC has moved onto a teaching role. I could envision something like that for myself someday. I just like the idea of giving back and helping the next generation, either through volunteering or a paid teaching gig.

    I think my ikigai is waning a bit, but I know my wife’s is pretty strong. We’ll continue to hold tight to our corporate careers as long as we can, but we’ll definitely be ready to transition to a new ikigai in retirement. I think raising kids and being active in their lives and activities will be a strong ikigai for us as will picking up hobbies and volunteer activities. That’s how I imagine it now anyway.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I can imagine my ikigai will wane quite a bit that last year aorund the office. Although maybe it will flip and I’ll be more excited because it will be like waiting for Christmas, who knows?! :)

      I like to think that raising the kids and being active in their lives, schools, possible sports will fill that role, but as Mr Groovy posted recently, is that going to be enough with my free time? That’s predicated on the fact that SAHD role ahs free time. Hahahaha

  5. Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    The Japanese have the best terms for important concepts. I’m fond of kaizen as well- continuous improvement, or ever-increasing excellence.

    You’ll no doubt find your ikigai, even with some trial and error. You seem like someone who won’t just settle, but search for kaizen as well :) Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I like kaizen that’s a good one too, thanks for sharing! I’ve also been adapting a “less but better” philosophy after reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It was recommended by The Elephant Eaters and has been good at helping reduce the noise and extra fluff that doesn’t add much positivity to your life.

      Sort of like the bucket fillers philosophy of getting rid of things that just take from your bucket and don’t fill it up. That’s a whole ‘nother topic. :)

  6. Elephant Eater

    100% have the same thoughts, fears and emotions on this issue which I think is why your FFLC resonated with us and is very similar to our thoughts.

    I am a physical therapist and am able to help people and love certain aspects of my job. However, our entire health care system sucks and frustrates me to no end daily. After our horrible financial advisor experience I also see where you can have a tremendous impact on the quality (positive or negative) on someone’s quality of life. I considered starting over in that field. However, to be an adviser draws you into the system that I again feel is very flawed and conflicted.

    I think that I will continue to work in one or both of these fields writing, coaching, or doing something else that I don’t even know yet. However, with FI or some semblance that allows me to not worry about having to make money, I feel that I can be much more impactful and lead a more personally fulfilling existence by working outside of the traditional system. Call it retired, FFLC, FI or whatever you want. I think it is a more likely path to fulfillment than full-time work or traditional retirement.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That would be a tough industry if you feel conflicted. Mr. Groovy recently posted about that exact thing, in the sense of “what would a used car salesman be like if he was FI and didn’t ahve to make the sale?” Or a financial advisor for instance – then you could give unbiased advice and feedback without worrying about hitting your monthly target to get a bonus because the paycheck is fine enough, because you’re already FI.

      Here’s the link if you’re interested.

      I feel like I’ll be doing something whether it’s a lot of kid related volunteering, just plain parenting (that’s a huge time sink) or some mix of both of those and some other thing thrown into the mix. It’ll be exciting to see how it plays out.

  7. Edifi

    Yep. Life’s not about having no stress, it’s about having the right balance of stress. Everyone needs a little accountability or external push or once in awhile. Don’t be afraid to try different balances and adjust as needed.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Definitely, you need a balance of stress otherwise things get too much out of alignment and not enough yin to go with the yang. :)

      I agree trying out different things and see what balances well together will be a great approach whent he time comes. Although using that same thing today wouldn’t be bad time to start practicing either. Thanks for the advice!

  8. RocDoc

    Thank you for teaching me a new important word. I agree with the concept of ikigai. I’m thankful that my husband and I are financially independent now. But my work as a physician still give me “ikigai” and I’m in no rush to leave. My husband on the other hand is not getting ikigai from work any more! I’m totally supportive of him leaving work to do what makes him happy and gives him ikigai.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      You’re welcome, I learned a new word in the comments even – kaizen, continuous improvement. :)

      I can see not wanting to elave work if it’s your ikigai and more. It’s hard to walk away from that situation especially if you have no reason to.

      I also would support your husband leaving his position, lol. Seriously, my attitude and mood from the time I left my old company to starting at my “new company” was a 180 degree about face. Huge difference, even Mrs. SSC noticed very quiickly how much it changed, and 2 yrs here and it’s still strong as ever. If you need any more reasons to convince him it could be good for both of you. :)

  9. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    Ikigai was one of the factors in the “blue zones” of people that lived longer than anywhere else on the planet. Our plan is so similar to yours in that “we plan to do something, we’re just not sure what it is!” It will be exciting to figure out what we actually want to do each day!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah exactly! Retire to do “something” but currently not able to pin down what that “something” will be. For all we know it’s something we haven’t even imagined yet. Haha!

  10. Mrs. PIE

    Ah, you gave me a word I needed! I’m very much looking forward to July 2018 due to a lack of Ikigai at the moment. It’s sad how much of our ikigai is tied up with how work is. but as work fills up most of our time, I guess that’s a given.
    I look forward to plenty more ikigai once we reach FIRE. I have plans to do plenty of volunteer teaching, and pursue that passion to wherever it takes me. Getting involved with the kids schools and lives is important for us too. I’ve also warned Mr. PIE that I’m going to have serial hobbies. I have a long list of things I want to try (carpentry, knitting, bee keeping….) but I know that not all will ‘stick’. I guess I’ll have to be careful not to throw too much money at each one!
    It’s sounds like Mrs. SSC’s parents would get on well with mine. ‘you’ll have to find something to do’ they tell me. Yup, we’ll have plenty to get out of bed for!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Oh, I have a post about serial hobbies, or rather “do you collect hobbies?” hahaha I can be bad about that at times. Mostly they have centered around what I was doing a lot of at the time – fly fishing and tying my own flies (it’s been years now, but I have all the stuff still), home brewing – still do that just not as much, the list just goes on and on. I get where you’re coming from.

      I look forward to being able to be more active inthe kids lives too,, whether thru volunteering at school, coaching sports teams, or just active and supportive with their hobbies (hopefully not just video games).

      Parenting alone would be plenty to get out of bed for, as that’s a big time sink – even though it’s rewarding, I feel like it will be harder and more work than my current job. :)

  11. Jacq

    I am also in the FI goal more then RE camp. Having the f-u money can provide the ability to negotiate the sort of work and flexibility that would add to my happiness. I don’t really enjoy commuting, being able to work from home at least 50-75% of the time would be great! That would give me the flexibility to also move to some where with a lower cost of living. I’m also able to accomplish more the times I’ve worked from home, if the work is done without an office of potential clock watchers, if I’ve completed tasks in 6 hours, I can be done for the day. I’ve also considered the idea of less days, or partial days to give me more time to pursue hobbies, or spend time with friends and family – which would add to my happiness too. I’m excited to see what the future holds, but this job is pretty good for now.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I’ve thought about trying to parlay the f-u money, when I get there, into a better schedule, maybe just 4 day weeks every week, and more vacation, but again, we’ll see how those negotiations turn out when that bridge appears.

      It’s been nice being able to make a significant lifestyle change immediately and not necessarily affect much of our current “lifestyle”. That new schedule and position Mrs. SSC took has done wonders for everyone.

      1. Jacq

        It sounds like the Mrs. SSC change has been amazing. The stress of waiting for layoffs is miserable. I’m glad you’ve benefited for your commute and time with the kids as well. :)

        I had a trial run, being out of a job last summer, and spent more time at the family cabin, got to yoga practically every day, cooked a lot more. The extra travel days were great too! 3 or 4 day week would make that possible. If I didn’t work X day I could maybe teach a day time yoga class too!
        I treated my job search like a job & was diligent about it. I definitely think further into FI/RE volunteering, or my ideal job of pouring wine/beer at a local place would fill those hours. :)
        The lack of incoming funds is the difference between last summer & hopes for FI. If I’d felt like I could spend money I’d’ve visited friends in MA, WA, etc. I would have spent more time doing things with an admission cost.
        They pay me, here and I save as much as I can go get to FI. Plus stock options vest in 4 years, so that’s my short term goal. Get all the stock options, and re-evaluate where things are at that point. :)

        1. Mr SSC Post author

          That’s awesome getting to have that time off, but I understand not having income to have more freedom along with the time.

          I’ve got one more year for the smaller part of my 401k to vest, and then it’s just waiting for other things to kick in that incentivize staying longer, haha.

          That change for Mrs. SSC has been nothing short of amazing though, income be damned. :)

  12. Prudence Debtfree

    I have just taken the summer off, and I feel like I’ve had a 2-month practice run at retirement. No problem! I don’t understand the “Nothing to do” concept of retirement. I’ve been working out 6 times per week; taking on a number of writing projects; reading more books; visiting friends and family . . . It’s been busy! But it’s been busy with my choice of activity. Whether you call it retirement or FFLC, I say “Bring it on!”

    1. Mr. SSC

      Oh man, a 2 month dry run sounds great! I think it will be a lot easier for some and harder for others to adapt, but it sounds like you’re making great progress. :)

      Even now, trying to “book” time with the in-laws to visit is difficult due to their now very busy schedules. After the transition, they had no problem filling their time with meaningful things.

  13. Doug

    Just retiring to do nothing doesn’t work I retired from the military with plans to do things haven’t worked out ended up watching my neices and nephew when they were not in school. Now that they all go to school full time I’m going to start looking for part time work.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      When my dad retireed early’ish at 54 he had no plan and it was a sudden, “We’ll buy out your remaining year so you get full medical and we’ll give you another year if you retire early” sort of situation. He had started developing some serious carpal tunnel issues from 34 years of stringing phone lines together. It did not go so well for him, and ultimately he ended up getting a part time jobb just to have more social interaction, a little extra income, and just some kind of schedule and order in his life.

      I’m a firm believer of needing something to do when you retire. Good luck with the part time work, and what a great opportunity to get to spend that time with the neices and nephew.

  14. Erik @ Hippies de Land Rover

    Great concept, thanks for sharing that!

    From our side, our plan is to have more time for the kids and dedicate our time to do research on whatever interests us in that moment. I mean real research, publish papers and explore ideas that otherwise wouldn’t be founded.

    It is scary for us too, but along the way we are “perfecting” and adapting our life after retirement.

    Cheers :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s great about the research! I have a colleague that talks about if he was FI he’d still study geology, but do research on what he wanted to study, not just what funding was available for. :) It makes quite a difference on the thoroughness of the study I’m sure.

      Good luck with the research, it sounds exciting!

  15. Dividends Down Under

    Thanks for sharing the word and your ideals :)

    For us, we also don’t just want to sit about and do nothing. I suppose when we reach FI, we would still want to blog (assuming blogging is a thing at that point) about finances, investing and other topics. We’d also want to encourage others to achieve FI.

    We would enjoy life together, travel, see the world – there’s a lot to see.


    1. Mr SSC Post author

      You’re welcome! I figure I’ll still blog too, but from what I’ve seen with other blogs that have reached FI, they tend to drop off writing pretty quickly. :) So, we’ll see if we follow that trend or still publish semi-frequently.

      As long as there’s a plan and something to fill that purpose, it sounds like you’re on the right track.

  16. Physician on FIRE

    I’ve got dozens of icky guys… er, I mean ikigai waiting for me when I retire. Well, at least I have all these ideas of how I’ll spend my time, and I know from your comment on the list of 50 that you’ve read them.

    I can’t say for sure how many of those qualify as giving me a purpose or reason to get up and get at it, but I think I’ll be reasonably busy and happy. Thanks for the thoughtful post! One of the Best I’ve read all week.


    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks for the compliment!

      Haha, yeah that list of yours was pretty, pretty, pretty thorough. :) I’ve thought about something like that in the past, but like you figure I’d run out of things at some random point in the list.

      I’m sure you’ll have something going on with all of those things and even just more family time to give you an ikigai.

    1. Mr. SSC

      She’s really digging it so far and has some new research committee type meeting this morning. She was complaining about a “long Friday” and I said, “Yeah, your 9-2 schedule is really, really tough…” hahahaha

      If only I had a Phd I just might try it as well. However, I think depending where we end up I still might be able to do some adjunct teaching at a local school or community college level, but it looks pretty case by case.

      I loved teaching and TA’ing during grad school and actually got to teach a real class one semester when the original prof got diagnosed with lymphoma. I really enjoyed that and got a lot out of it, but I don’t think it would be worth another 5-7 years in school at this point. Eeesh…. :)

      1. Jason

        Lots of places you don’t need the Ph.D. to just do classes…particularly lab instructor. We hire several M.A.s. Just depends on where you are.

  17. amber tree

    A new word that fully explains my fears:ikigai.

    We seem to be on the boat with regards to FIRE. It is much more about the FI than the RE. For me it is far far away, and in a way, that makes me happy… I have not yet to worry about my purpose in life…

    My wife and I started to make a list. It is about time to make it public and take action towards our ikigais!

    1. Mr. SSC

      I agree, we are more on the FI and freedom gained from that rather than the RE side. It’s nice knowing we still need purpose regardless of whether you’re retired, working, or just making your way through life in any other kind of fashion. :)

  18. Finance Solver

    If I’m ever lucky enough to leave my job for retirement, I don’t think I will ever stop working but I know for sure that I will stop working for someone else. There’s tons of things to do out there in the world and I would spend my time reading continuously and learning as much as I could about topics that are interesting to me. Can’t ever forget my ikigai!

    I love that you added personal stories to this post, it gave me a lot to think about :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks! I haven’t always realized that FI is possible for anyone, and that required a shift in my thinking about money and finance. Now I see that anyone can achieve FI, but everyone’s FI will look different. In regards to RE, I am with you, and totally feel it’s optional.

  19. Mrs. S

    Exactly how i feel today after taking a sick day off yesterday. Simply no drive to work- at all. So here I am browsing through FI related blogs and thinking how I want my life to be. I would probably wake up better if i had nothing to do in the day. Atleast today that is what it feels like.
    Reading and stories are definitely my ikigai along with cooking.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That exact kind of behavior is what jumpstarted us onto this whole pathway about 5 years ago now. Heck, maybe earlier than that, but Mrs. SSC was going through the exact same thing and started loooking around to see what she could do about it.

      Amazingly, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a plan and start working towards a goal. Getting me on board with it was her biggest challenge.
      I hope you feel better!

  20. ZJ Thorne

    I don’t intend to fully stop working when I get my nest egg in place. My current plan is to stop doing my FT gig and focus on my business. I only intend to work 20-30 hours a week doing work I value, which makes the world better. Once I grow weary of serving my LGBT community full(ish) time, I’ll probably switch to working with dogs somehow on a limited basis. Naturally, I’ll keep volunteering and serving on boards so that I can contribute to my communities in multiple ways.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Nice! But you’re ahead of most in that you’re at least thinking about a semblance of a plan of things to do bwhen you get to FI. I think doing anything you’re passionate about is the way to go, at least for a start. I plan to let some stuff happen organically, but I know what direction I’ll put my energy towards anyway.

      I’m sure some stuff will pop up for both of us that we didn’t even think about though which will be fun too.

  21. MyMoneyDesign

    That’s a cool new word that I will have to add to my vocab: ikigai. I’ve definitely shifted my mental state from simply wanting to be retired someday to really concentrating on what I will actually be doing: Helping other people reach financial independence. The very thought is far more invigorating than simply wanting to save money for the sake of saving.

    1. Mr. SSC

      I totally agree – our mindset has shifted as well in that we’re not just shooting for “retiring” and saving for savings sake, but rather having a purpose and goal to live better.

      Like you said, having that sort of goal with a passion attached is definitely way stronger of a driver than just “saving”. :)

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