I saw a reference to a book "Die Broke" the other day on Slashdot. The idea is to maximize earnings and look at work as only something to support your lifestyle. When you can get away, take lots of vacations and time off periods.
I have been a little swamped by work lately, but remembering the dot-bomb aftermath, I have only reluctantly been turning away work. Anyway, as I have lately been missing hikes with my friends, and other fun stuff, I have been thinking about the time split between life and work that sustains life.
I get different kinds of positive feelings doing research (semantic web, NLP stuff, etc.) than solving problems for people (consulting!). Since I make only a modest bit of money on research and a good living solving problems, this really is an issue of money vs. spending time on intellectual persuits. Actually, solving problems for people is fun - I am not knocking it :-)
Now, I did not read "Die Broke", I only read several Amazon.com book reviews (ah, the new Reader's Digest). I was going to order the book, but it was published almost 7 years ago. From the reviews, a key idea is to not really ever retire - but control the amount of work time vs. enjoying life time. Well, good advice for people expecting corporate and state pension plans to hold up over time.
Other advice offered up in the reviews (and hopefully the book :-) is for people to live beneath their means: always spend a little less than what you make, averaged over time. Pretty obvious sounding advice - except look at the statistics on consumer debt in the US (what are people thinking! or not thinking :-( )
Anyway, I have been probably been working a little too hard lately but I get to go hiking on Thursday and fishing Friday. And about that retirement: I am in my early 50s - I always thought that stopping work would be great - now I am not so sure. Balance in life between work, play, exercise, doing errands, family, friends, etc., etc. is what makes things interesting.