I might never retire.
I realize that now after a period of self-reflection and discussion with my g/f. Both of us are of a certain age that we could retire, even if we would be somewhat poorer for it.
But we’re very uncomfortable with the words “I’m retired” and what they imply when somebody asks a question like:
Somebody: “What do you do for a living.”
Us: “Oh, we’re retired.”
Somebody, chuckles: “Put out to pasture, eh?”
OK. Maybe Somebody wouldn’t voice that last thought. But they’d be thinking it, even if they weren’t visualizing some old workhorses chewing on long grasses amidst the tombstones.
Retirement seems, to us, to imply that we have deemed ourselves too old and tired to work — and we are far from being tired, old workhorses.
But wait, many retirees might be objecting, retirement isn’t just about being a certain age that makes you too old to work. It’s about being rewarded for decades of work and having all of the rest of your time to yourself . . .
I get that. My g/f and I both agreed that there are certain winter days we would want all to ourselves. We felt we’d rather just curl up in our bed and ignore howling blizzards, for example.
But, I reasoned aloud, if I stayed in bed, I wouldn’t have the joy of driving my 4×4 Jeep under the very conditions I had in mind when I bought it, i.e. back and forth to work in snowy conditions. Instead, I’d be wimping out under the covers at home because I didn’t really have to go out.
That’s the thing with retirement. You don’t really have to do anything. You can lump out the rest of your life on a sofa, venturing out now and then to buy some victuals (I love that word, don’t get to use it often enough) and booze. Work makes you get out and face the world; in retirement, facing the world is an option.
Sure. There are plenty of things one can do in retirement, and everybody I’ve ever heard make the declaration “I’m retiring” qualifies it with something like, “But no sitting on the couch for me. I’ll be keeping myself busy.”
There’s little followup, save for some pastoral photos on Facebook and Instagram. Mostly, former colleagues who have retired disappear.
That’s another thing about retirement: a lot of people disappear from your life when you elect to head to the pasture. For years, you’ve been a team player. You’ve been interacting with co-workers, working on common projects and goals, and sharing some chatter and humour with them along the way, if not hoisting a few pints with them now and then. Suddenly, they’re no longer part of your life. You’re not a player anymore.
To digress for a moment: Colleagues be damned, if you are filthy rich enough to keep yourself constantly amused by travelling the world, wining and dining and gambling in places like Monaco and snorkelling in the Caribbean, EARLY retirement is probably a GREAT IDEA.
But I’m foreseeing a 50 percent cut in annual income in my retirement future, like most average schmucks and schmuckettes. There will be no globetrotting in my post-work life.
As you can tell by now, I’m just not feeling old and tired enough to walk away from the working world, even though a nagging little voice in my head keeps saying “I’m an idiot for not retiring.”
But I was humbled the other day — and somewhat shamed — when we ran a Q&A with a remarkable person. To quote the 100-year-old woman who was asked in a Montreal Gazette interview why it is “so important for you to keep working long past the age when most people usually retire?”:
Her response: “More intellectually stimulating –– don’t want to sit twiddling my thumbs.”
She added: “I do understand why people would retire from repetitive jobs.”
Her job: neuroscientist and McGill professor. Almost every day of the week, she goes to the office.
My job is intellectually stimulating, too. And challenging. The newspaper industry is shrinking, and those left behind have to do a lot more with a lot less. Still, it is a noble cause …
As you can tell, it’s obvious that I am just not ready to retire yet. I can still contribute. But still the admonishment from that little voice . . .
I know that my g/f and I are not the only ones mulling the To Retire or Not To Retire question. I have friends from high school who have retired, others who are still working. Some are thinking about it, no doubt asking similar questions.
Ultimately, it’s about “feeling ready to retire,” some people might say.
Which begs the question: what exactly is the feeling?
Is it liberation, with a seemingly endless horizon before you?
Or is it resignation, with a sense of having one foot in the grave?
I didn’t know people could retire at 22 in Canada! 😇
I’m 21 and a few months myself, and retirement is just a word, a phase we all go through towards the big sleep. It seems you are fortunate to have a job that keeps your mind active but, as you’ve pointed out, it’s in an industry that has its troubles wherever you look. That doesn’t mean, you can’t carve out another career for yourself, if you want to. If you want to be at the beck and call of someone else that is. Retirement means you won’t have to, you can do things you want to do, when you want to do them. Write a novel; start a business; campaign for nudist rights; get more deeply involved with local politics — whatever. You have a choice. Some don’t have, because their health has broken down or the industry for which they have dedicated their life to has disappeared through circumstances (I’m thinking of the miners here in the UK, although I’m not going to open that can of worms.) with the so-called global economy or a change in technology with increased automation and AI.
So stop moping and get on with life. If that includes retirement, so be it. It isn’t the end of the world.
Right! I am only 22. Why am I worrying about what I’ll be doing 43 years from now?
You make many good points, and no doubt when time comes for me to walk away from the newspaper business, “I will be keeping busy . . .” I will. I really will (I hope).
“Retirement,” like many labels, seems to be all-inclusive in its description, whereas it really just means “ceasing to work at a certain well-defined job.” I think that goes hand-in-hand with defining yourself as what you do for a living (farmer, lawyer, journalist, etc).
Admittedly, what you do for a living, for most people, is how they spend the majority of their waking hours, and often an important part of their identity, but the be all and end all of their existence, if they don’t want it to be.
(Hmm, as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I’m clearly going to have to quote myself by posting some of this on my own blog later.)
regb1957 gave a good list things one can “do” in retirement, but even that begs the question of if we should define ourselves by what we “do” rather than what we “are.”
I think people retire later when they enjoy their work. As you know, I’m not going to retire anytime soon, having 2 kids to put through medical school (and they are not even in kindergarten yet). Even if that were not a factor, I like what I do, so can’t see giving up doing it any time before 80-? 90-? The key is to recognize when you are no longer capable of doing it well, and stepping down at the height of your game (at least when still in good form), not been pushed out for incompetence. In another 10 years will likely slow down a bit, but not stop.
Even that, again, pushes the question of “who am?” to be answered by “this is what I do for a living.” As you know, I am a professional (in the older meaning of “learned profession”) and that does come with a sense of identity more than most jobs, but I get to largely keep that identity even after retirement. I have multiple identities (as we all do), but sometimes have to remind myself that father/husband/family man is as much my identity as what I do for a living.
I like the (metaphysical) idea of identifying ourselves by who we are rather than what we do. First and foremost, I’m a spirit in the material world. Everything else is role playing.
But here in the material world, we are very much recognized by what we do — and how much we earn. Creditors may treat you differently when you retire and live on a smaller, fixed income.
But the biggest hangup for me with retiring seems to be acknowledgement that one is that much closer to “the big sleep,” as reg put it. I have images of little old ladies siting in their rocking chairs falling asleep in front of the TV.
Pushing myself to go to work — be it as a journalist putting out a newspaper or as a store clerk in a trendy St. Sauveur boutique — somehow makes that rocking chair image go away.
But you’re right: there may come a time when one is no longer capable of doing a job.
I’m glad that you won’t be retiring any time soon, because I and others need the services of people like you.
I Like your shmuck and shmuckettes Ref. And if you really think about you are in the 1% on the planet who can %O
You’re very right. I try to never feel sorry for myself, and if I find myself going down that road, I count my many blessings.
It’s the most freeing thing ever in my life. I was never married to a job or career or defined myself by what I did for a living so that helps. The absence of clock watching, personal drama, long mostly unpaid overtime, unrealistic deadlines, manufactured stress, have all dissipated, giving me the freedom to do what I want when I want. Of course, this life is not for everyone. Many people need and perhaps even thrive under rules and requirements; these artificial restrictions bring structure, definition and worth to the lives of most people. But if you’re an independent sort with any sort of original mind, retirement may not be the doorway to enlightenment but it sure as hell will help you get there.
Now you’ve got me thinking retirement again . . .
Sigh . . .
Smiles . . .
It’s all one’s POINT OF VIEW…to me, at 74, and retired since 50, it’s about doing what you WANT to do, NOT what you HAVE to do (an IMPORTANT distinction)!
And for someone to suggest that retirement means “twiddling their thumbs”, is an inditement on a totally wasted life, in that during their life, they have not filled a million “buckets” with things to do.
During my career at Xerox, I rarely used an agenda to keep track of things, but since retirement, I would be out of control without an agenda to keep my busy life on track!
(BTW, Jillian, nice to see you posting again!)
Thanks, Norm. I’m glad you are happy!
As for posting, I’ve been so busy with other things this year. But I do have lots to say, lots of catching up to do.
Stay tuned . . .
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I am retired. Because I can.
I work in a language lab helping students with French, Italian and Spanish at a local community college. I enjoy the job very much. I wish it was full time with benefits, but that being said, it may be my last job and I’m okay with that. I’ve been working this job for some time. I have no plans to retire. I have plans to do some self-publishing on two projects.. a poetry book and a children’s book series.