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Rethinking Retirement: Gen X’s Approach to Semi-Retirement and Freelancing

Rethinking Retirement Gen X

Gen X often gets overlooked — stuck between the large and culturally significant cohort that the Baby Boomers are on one end and the natural spotlight that the rapid expansion of technology and societal changes have put on the Millenials, this generation seems to get little to no attention.

If you were born between 1965 and 1980, you’ve probably felt your circumstances, wishes, needs, and issues are often underserved in the public discourse. This has allowed specific facts — like the dire state of Gen X’s retirement outlooks to go unnoticed.

However, this article was written just for you — and is focused on finding a desirable balance between regular income and enough free time to enjoy the fruits of your labor through the growing trend of semi-retirement.

Semi–retirement typically involves freelancing and part-time roles, and in this piece, we will explore the motivation behind this lifestyle, the benefits, the challenges, and how this shift may impact traditional retirement planning — now and in the coming decades.

Gen X and Retirement Planning: The Struggle To Save

As the oldest of the Gen X demographic edges closer to retirement, much focus has been on finance. A recent report shows that a worryingly large percentage of Gen Xers have little to no savings, forcing many to reconsider their options in terms of retirement.

The ‘Forgotten Generation’ report was compiled by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) and has raised alarm bells in some quarters. The report shows that 40% of people don’t have any savings, and the average household has savings of around $40,000.

Gen Xers with low-income jobs typically have around $4,300 in savings, which will undoubtedly not stretch very far.

Gen X was the first generation to see the disparity between men’s and women’s salaries. While many starting roles offered the same wage to both sexes, women still have a lower net worth on average and a higher percentage of women working in part-time jobs when compared to men. This has resulted in many women being wildly unprepared for their retirement.

Married couples are also finding it difficult to save money regularly, with less than 10% of people in this demographic hitting their retirement savings targets.

It is thought that one of the key reasons behind this unfortunate trend is that Gen Xers have had a lack of access to retirement plans through their employer. Gen X is also the most heavily burdened age group in terms of student debt, with each person carrying a burden of $39,584 on average. As such, a big rethink is required for many, with semi-retirement the apparent solution.

Semi-Retirement: What is it? And Is it Viable?

Semi-retirement (or soft retirement) provides an ideal transition from full-time work to fewer hours and more free time.

This less demanding lifestyle means a person can earn a steady income while still dedicating more time to their friends, families, and hobbies — even providing enough free time to undertake a passion project such as writing a book or constructing a home. A solution like a fully remote job also allows semi-retirees to travel while working as a digital nomad.

In the US, this option means a person can delay taking social security, allowing them to save more money before they finally decide to stop working for good.

The good news is that semi-retirement is an option for pretty much anyone, even if it means taking on a new role or retraining for a completely new career. We will discuss potential career options later in the article.

Most workplaces will be open to retaining an experienced employee, even if they are only willing to work reduced hours. The alternative is an expensive and time-consuming recruitment process and months, maybe years, of training a replacement. This means people looking to take the semi-retirement plunge are in a solid position to negotiate.

So, is it worth it? It all depends on your circumstances, but semi-retirement is the perfect option for those who:

  • Love their current career but not their current job or workplace.
  • Want a stable income stream but not a full salary to live comfortably?
  • Want to continue working in a team environment, but only a few days a week.
  • Are happy in their current job but want more free time to explore new projects.

Freelancing Roles for Semi-Retirees

Freelancing is an option many people looking to semi-retire consider as it gives them maximum flexibility and allows them to earn a good wage without working full-time.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common and popular freelancing roles for those who are semi-retired.

1. Writing

Opportunities for freelance writers and editors have increased significantly in recent years with astronomical levels of online content consumed daily worldwide.

This career is even more accessible and profitable for people who have worked in a specialist industry and can provide expert insights into a specific niche.

Even if writing doesn’t come naturally, there are a range of online platforms and artificial intelligence tools to help you generate ideas, optimize content, and perfect your spelling and grammar.


Tutoring can also be a very rewarding career change, especially when working with younger people to guide them on their path to a dream job or a hobby they are passionate about.

For example, accountants can easily share their knowledge and skills as math tutors, helping school children prepare for their next exam or for higher education. Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is another popular form of tutoring that is easily accessible online.

3. Digital Marketing

As Gen Xers were perhaps the first generation to become truly tech-literate, retraining for a digital role is an achievable goal. Digital marketing may require some retraining for people who haven’t previously worked in the sector, but digital marketing freelancers can demand high rates, and the job can be rewarding.

Whether you are interested in offering search engine optimization services, social media marketing, or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, the primary skills required are good attention to detail and an ability to think outside the box to deliver innovative marketing campaigns.

4. Consultancy

Anyone who has worked in an industry for several decades can be a valuable asset to a business. Sharing the tricks of the trade and helping companies solve complex problems can be highly profitable, with consultants able to demand large sums of money for their wealth of experience.

Even if a person lacks the relevant experience, it is never too late to learn, with many older adults returning to education to study a new career. One industry that is always on the lookout for new talent is cybersecurity. Unlike older generations, Gen X is aware of the current online security landscape and is familiar with everything from Amazon scams to synthetic identity fraud. Making a career in cybersecurity a viable option, with the sector becoming increasingly relevant as the years go by.

5. Event Planning

Freelance event planners typically need experience in a relevant industry, perhaps by working as a venue or events company employee. This ensures they know the ins and outs of organizing an event and the various hacks that can help people save money and get more bang for their buck.

Anyone considering becoming a freelancer must know all the necessary details, such as accounting and paying taxes. Fortunately, many online tools and services can help, including invoice factoring to ensure a scheduled income.


As many people from the Gen X generation near retirement age, those with little savings may need to continue earning an income. Alternatively, some people may be reluctant to give up working entirely — and need something to focus on each week.

Semi-retirement is the perfect option for people who fall into either category, with freelancing jobs offering a stable income and enabling more free time to pursue their hobbies and passions. Some people may also choose to reduce their hours at their current place of work or take on a part-time role elsewhere.

Whatever you choose, semi-retirement is a great way to top up your savings while not burning yourself out in a 9-5 role.

Featured Image Credit: Malcoln Oliveira; Pexels

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Financial Research Analyst
Kiara Taylor is a financial writer and Research Analyst. She is an expert at risk-based modeling having worked in the finance vertical for the past twenty years. She has a Master’s Degree in Finance from Ohio State and has worked at Fifth Third Bank, J.P. Morgan and Citi in emerging markets and equity research.

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