When to retire from programming and what to do next?

This question has been lingering in my mind for a long time now and yesterday a fellow developer friend popped up this question again.

When to retire from programming or when is the best time to leave programming as a career?

time to leave programming

Luca Bravo

This friend... he has been programming as long as I am and he is getting restless that he is going nowhere. Restless in the sense that he is not moving up to the management role or getting a better pay job for his experience. He is 43 years old and looking hard into his future. He worries that he might die sitting in front of his computer while coding. He feels that his current role no longer as fulfilling or rewarding unlike when he got his first job as a software developer in his twenties programming in Java.

To be frank, I don't really have much advice to give him yesterday because I was momentarily stunned by his question. After a sleepless night thinking about his question, below are some of my thoughts that I reckon might be able to help him or a software developer to chart his/her next course of action.

charting where to go next for a software developer


In the fast moving world of technology or startups, you are constantly required to learn new skills, or you will become obsolete in a blink of an eye. So, what happens to older generations of software developers that wanted to leave or being let go from their full-time programming jobs? Most are afraid to think what will happen next or what to do next and thus, prevented them from planning a proper path to leave the industry on their own terms.

Truth to be told, a person became a software developer because they love the craft. Just like an artist, programming is not something you retire from, it is within you. All you need to do is learn how to adapt to the new environment where you don't have to sit in front of the computer hitting keys again.

Now, please do not think that the word - retiring mean that you stop doing what you love and sit down doing nothing. It means that you no longer have to drag yourself from your bed every morning to clock in and work. You can retire from programming full-time, but still programming part-time or intermittently as you like.

Let's take my friend as an example, one the bonuses about being forty years old in a tech industry is that by the time you retire, you're already a subject matter experts in your field in whatever application or system you've worked previously. Those knowledge are valuable!

When you no longer have the passion for coding full-time, it simply means that your inner soul is telling you it is time to move on to something else, time to retire from programming full-time. The following are a few examples of opportunities that may want to explore after retiring from programming full-time.

Consulting or teaching

Become a consultant or teacher. Teach programming and pass on your knowledge to make a living. The demand for programmers world wide has been sky rocketing. Oil and finance industries are laying off those "traditional people" (ahem) and looking to hire software developers to optimize their business, this creates demands for programmers and you can be a trainer for these companies to train their "new generation people".

If you happen to have the knowledge and expertise in the systems deployed by those industries, you can become a consultant. Take, for example, demand for COBOL consultants is strong world wide because many of those systems behind ATMs and banking applications are written in COBOL.

As programming move into the next "cool" languages, your hard-earned skills — will still be needed well into your retirement. Just think how great it will be to do what you love to do on your own schedule.

Learn investing

Maybe this is not for everyone. I'm learning how to invest and plan to do it for a very long time. Investing is something that I know can I do well into my old age. All you need to have is a functional brain and learn how to control your emotion. I'd written two blog posts on this topic. Read - Retirement plan? Cultivate habit to make money, keep the money and grow it and From programming to investing. All in the mind.

Start a non-programming related business

If you really want to stay away from coding and make a living from something else. Try starting a business. For example, such as a florist or grocer. The creator of Windows Solitare game moved on from programming to become a cidery business owner. Nothing to be ashamed about and as a matter of fact, some of my ex-coworkers are doing very well after starting their own businesses.


From my own observation, the most productive age bracket for a software developer is around 13 to 35 years old. Things will become a little harder/weirder after that because you will start to feel that you can do more what your current job offered, your current job is too taxing or wants to do something else. This is not unique to tech industry alone. Take, for example, the porn industry has similar "productive" age(but must be above 18) bracket as well and most of the actors have a side business that they can work on after their retirement from acting in pornography.... such as Ken Shimizu's poo curry restaurant.

Perhaps, as a software developer that plans to retire from programming one day... should start a side business too?

So, what do you think you’ll be doing next after retiring from programming full time? Let’s share and fantasize a little in the comments section below!

Preview image credit: Jesus Kiteque

  See also : Programming productivity depends on your tools and language choice

By Adam Ng

IF you gain some knowledge or the information here solved your programming problem. Please consider donating to the less fortunate or some charities that you like. Apart from donation, planting trees, volunteering or reducing your carbon footprint will be great too.