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Doing useful work, post retirement

by Amelia Greenhall - 04/24/2019

I've been thinking of some ways I might work, at some point post-retirement from working full time. To improve character, build skills, contribute to society. Vicki Robin's post on the reaction to FIRE (financial independence, retire early) in popular culture inspired me to write them down.

Some of these are be opportunities to creatively earn money post retirement, that would let me use the profits to fund bigger projects or contribute more to organizations that need support. Some are opportunities to volunteer.

On my blog or other websites

Some ways to make money on digital stuff I already want to make.

Sewing project supplies, climbing/mountaineering gear, book recs - I already do a lot of recommending. Going to try out Indiebound and Amazon Affiliate programs. I really like introducing people to books, and stuff that makes their lives better.

Classes, tutorials or instruction manuals

I generally find myself losing track of time when I'm doing technical writing - especially stuff with teaching, tutorial or how-to components. Some things I could see creating resources on over the years:

  • Sewing topics generally (more below)
  • Sewing climbing gear
  • Tidying/decluttering/making your home nice
  • Financial basics, financial independence (more below)
  • Making sourdough
  • Finding books to read
  • Bike commuting
  • Buying and framing artwork
  • DIY cabin building

These could be free or for purchase, depending on how in depth/specialized they are, and how “this info should just be accessible to everyone” it is. Or free in one format (blog) but paid if you want another format (book), for example.

Ads on things I’ve made

I don’t agree with display ads, but I could imagine possibly having ads before youtube videos if I made a big video tutorial series. I’d feel more ok about ads on podcast or newsletter I made. Or on specific very useful website pages - like affiliate link stuff mentioned - that is useful in context. Overall I would want a degree of control over which products are advertised, and that they are presented in a non-intrusive way. (I.e, avoiding surveillance capitalism trackers, gaudy visuals that distract from content.)

Create discrete products

Really satisfying to put useful stuff out in the world. Some things I might create:

Sewing Software

Huge hole in the market - it’s either thousands of dollars and complicated (Optitex seems good, others seem less good)… or it’s Illustrator which is expensive and not made for the job. I’m working on tutorials for using Sketch to make sewing patterns, and would like to make additional software for it.

There are a also a lot of other holes in the sewing-at-home market, some of which could make money.

Sewing patterns / sewing pattern book/package

There’s a a hole in the market for activewear. Also, GEAR: lightweight climbing/hiking/backpacking/mountaineering gear.

There’s a need for a minimal/simple clothing of design-it-yourself capsule wardrobe. Also, simple bags.

Publishing a zine or lit journal

I had a lot of fun making the ORQ and could bring that back for another 5 year stint, or start something new that is short and topical. Would love an excuse to make beautiful riso-printed books.

Also would be happy to edit/design for existing zines/lit journals.

Plant project - apartment sized hydroponic kitchen herb garden

More about that project here.


For some reason I’d really like to make a series of printed maps.

Ongoing activities

Reviewing and recommending books

I read about 50-120 books a year. I have a lot of book thoughts and already spend a lot of time reading, researching books, and recommending books.

  • Free books via book review programs (not 100% necessary since I mostly use the library).
  • Publishing book reviews.
  • I’d like to build some sort of custom reading recs website, blog series, service, and/or zine(s).


Dream life with a print studio and getting back to making fine art screen prints and posters. Would be fun to organize a print exchange series. A print studio or print farm/barn? A contemporary printmaking museum/gallery space? A printmaking-focused artists residency? Too dreamy?


I could volunteer to take photos for organizations for their websites/promo work/training.


I write just about every day, and of course it’s not the best writing out there in the world, but I’m good enough that I can be useful. I’d like to continue publishing regularly on, and over time write books/zines, and make more podcast/movie scripts. Potentially publish in other publications or anthologies.


I’ve got thousands of hours of experience in editing written documents at this point, so I’m pretty fast at it and enjoy the collaboration.

Hourly or other time-based work


Bike building/repair, plumbing, electrical work, CAD modeling for architecture stuff. Baking? (As much as I’d enjoy it I think I’d have problems with my allergies from flour dust on that scale.)

Seasonal work

Some 3-6 month job or volunteer stints that would probably fit me:

Financial help

I worked in the financial tech industry for a year or so and read a couple dozen books about the basics of investing and saving in that period. And overall, I have researched and acted on it a lot as an interest… to the point where I have quite a bit of skills/knowledge that I can probably use to be of service.

  • Volunteer Tax Preparer - Get trained and help as a volunteer at my local library as a tax preparer so people in lower income brackets can get their full refund, plus Earned Income Tax Credits or Schedule H credits.
  • Financial basics free classes - could volunteer to help with one of the many existing local resources like NW Access Fund or Change Counts!
  • Blog or online financial basics classes/blog series

Tech/Product/Design consulting

I could happily do this again for the right organization.

Overall criteria

Some thoughts on the things I make, besides being in line with my values and supporting causes/purposes:

  • Avoid increasing consumption of unnecessary stuff - my own or encouraging others to consume - or encouraging unnecessarily spending money.
  • Think carefully about supporting any large company (eg, only offer Amazon links for things as example/reference or for people who can’t find it locally/from a smaller company. Or maybe not at all.)
  • Don’t produce single-use things for sale, focus on very long lived objects or things that can be passed from one person to another (books/zines) after use, use recyclable or ethically produced materials wherever possible
  • Digital or experience-based products like software and classes over physical objects when possible
  • Shorter term or flexible commitments, with more of a focus on working in the winter months
  • Fit my interests/skills/energy levels - more 1:1 or quiet or asynchronous work, stuff that isn’t regularly scheduled for long periods of time.

— Amelia Greenhall