Early ‘Retirement’

People ask if we have retired.  I don’t really know how to answer.  In the early days I responded just that “we’re not working”, which didn’t seem satisfactory to my interrogators.  This subsequently evolved into, “we don’t really have any plans to return to work”, which gave the questioner more of an indication that this was a not just a short-term phenomenon but a longer term trend.  However, it still didn’t answer the question of whether we weren’t working by choice or by happenstance.  Although I believe that everything is a choice, I’ve preferred to leave it this way, in part because of my own uncertainty regarding what the future might hold.

I didn’t want to proclaim that, at the age of 42, I was retiring, only to subsequently return to work by necessity.  This would, in the eyes of others, and most importantly in my mind, likely be seen as a failure.  No one wants to fail at retirement.

But it seems that we’re not alone.  Like the definition of family, the definition of retirement seems to changing over time. It is now exceedingly rare to work for the same employer for 35 years, retiring with the gold watch and a defined benefit pension.  Many baby boomers are realizing that they need to change their expectations of retirement, perhaps retiring later due to insufficient savings, a recent financial shortfall after the 2008 market adjustment, or a change in the status of their pension plan (e.g. Nortel employees).

It would have been nice to have a grand recognition of our retirement.  To be honest, being able to stop working so young is something that I’m proud of, even though it is due only in part to my diligence.  I’m careful to say this because studies have shown that successful people have a tendency to overweight the perceived value of their own contributions to their success, and underweight external factors (i.e. timing, luck).  This is analogous to how politicians credit themselves for the success of the economy while blaming everything and anything else when it falters.

It would have been great to invite all of our friends to a party to formally recognize our
attainment of this important milestone in life and then, to head off into the sunset with both resolution and certainty.  However, life is a lot more fluid than this.  As it was, we kind of just slinked off into retirement, proceeding bravely but prudently as we dipped our feet into an alternative lifestyle.

How has your reality or perception of retirement changed over time?  Will you be able to identify this milestone with certainty and recognize it in style?

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7 Responses to Early ‘Retirement’

  1. Cheryl Matthews says:

    I love your description of retirement, and my new goal is to “slink” into it as well. But have you “retired”? I see for you two, a whole new career in travel, writing, observations and awakenings. You can have your big party when you’re done with those things. Until then, keep us posted…..

  2. Sandee Volkenant says:

    Hey Patrick……glad we can shoot the breeze in cyberspace…..miss talking to you over the fence….this is not my favorite way of communicating by a long shot ……

    I think society’s pervasive view of retirement as achieving some milestone is perpetuated by a quest to achieve financial independence by a certain age. Sadly, instead of creating freedom for ourselves by enjoying a life-long journey at all points along the way, the pursuit of our monetary goals have made us slaves to our work. In my mind, that is no achievement worth celebrating at “retirement”. Whenever I hear the word retire, I always think of stopping or slowing down or “calling it a day” (retiring to his bedroom ……)I’d like to think of retirement in a totally opposite way, as a period of time when we ramp up the real work, encouraging, sharing and mentoring those who can benefit from the lessons we have learned throughout our life experiences. That would be my preference…..

  3. Michelle says:

    Patrick there is nothing wrong with retiring and it is not a failure if you decide to return to work either. May people retire in their 40’s, 50’s… enjoy a few years of traveling or what ever and decide I need a new challenge or I need something more or different. Having a “job or career” is not necessarily about money. It can be something more like a reason to get out of the house, a social, an education…. it can be so many things and is different for each individual. Being retired just means at this moment your not working and just enjoying what life brings. It doesn’t have to be final. That’s what’s great about LIFE. Nothing is final but death. So enjoy and take in as much as you can because LIFE IS great. All the best.

  4. Martin says:

    Like a recoverying alcoholic, taking life day by day, your not working at the moment. It is of course an illusion because evidently you ARE working at the moment – you are your own boss(es) and you have (presuably) a reduced income. – One might observe that you have stepped out of the MATRIX and are attempting to create your own reality away from the world of stuff.- How’s the freecamping???

    • Very nice MATRIX comment. I always wanted to be Keanu Reeves. I’ve got more thoughts on our alternative lifestyle and reduced income which I’ll share in upcoming blog postings. Last night was our first night freecamping. A lovely Restplatz on the way to Leipzig. Diane made a terrific dinner (pork chops, 3 veg in a white wine sauce, salad, and focaccia) and the whole night went very smoothly. Definitely easier than finding a campground. Tonight will hopefully be our second night in a row!

    • Thinking about it some more, I now understand what you are getting at Martin. Rather than think about myself as not working, think about myself as self-employed. It’s probably more accurate because there are still things I need to do to obtain our income, and it takes considerable effort to plan and execute our endeavours. This ties in nicely with what Cheryl said about having a new career. I wonder what my new job title should be?

  5. Annette says:

    I think your answer was a great one to “are you retired”. You could also include a statement such as:

    “for now we chose to enjoy life by challenging ourselves in athletic events, travelling and spending time with friends and IF ever we decide otherwise, we will return to work.

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