June 29, 2016

I'm Not Retired, I Just Don't Get A Paycheck Anymore


Retired, or retirement are such weak words for what we are experiencing. They were fine and fit the lifestyle 30 or 40 years ago. Most often someone "retired" from an active, productive life and then spent their "golden years" traveling, volunteering, or relaxing on the front porch, watching the world go by. 

Today, that is not the normal experience. For many of us this phase of life is more vibrant, more creative, and simply more fun than when we were working full time to prepare for "retirement."  Even if we have had to cut back on our spending habits, move to a smaller home, or curtailed our physical activities because of an illness or injury, none of that should affect the reality of having the time and freedom to explore other parts of ourselves.

As the title of this post implies, not receiving a paycheck or regular income from gainful employment (interesting phrase) doesn't automatically lead to an accurate description of where we are in life. It certainly shouldn't imply we are living a certain way because of how we receive our income. 

I imagine you would agree with me that many of the people you know are just as busy and working just as hard as they did while getting a regular paycheck. For many, the cliche about not knowing how " I ever had time for work" is quite true. When the obligations of regular employment end, the freedom to craft each 24 hour day to please and satisfy us can suddenly make a day seem too short. 

Of course, good time management can get away from us. I have written several posts about the problems that arise when we over-commit, over-schedule, and over-promise our availability. We feel pressure to do more, be more available to others, and to believe an hour on the porch reading a book is a wasted 60 minutes that could have been more "productive." Time becomes our master instead of our servant.

After several months, or even a few years, the demands on our time tend to find a proper balance. We are able to have the proper mix of "me" time and "involvement with others" time. We learn to say no when necessary and yes when it suits us. 

Roughly one-third of retired folks say they have considered going back to work, either full or part time. Boredom, financial needs, loss of community, and a need to contribute are often cited as reasons. While I understand these motivations, I would argue that all but financial considerations can be addressed without rejoining the workforce. 

Too often I think these reasons are just the easiest answer, not necessarily the best answer. I would argue that taking a job because of boredom, feeling isolated, or because of the need to feel like part of a team is cheating you out of a much richer, more satisfying experiences. Taking any job comes with limitations on your time, your freedom to make choices, your inability to react to something spur-of-the-moment - limitations that don't have to exist when you are not working for someone else.

There is one exception to this: you have turned a hobby, a passion, or an idea into a business of your own. But, isn't that fundamentally very different from working for someone else? Because it occurs within your retirement framework, you can control how much time you are willing to give to whatever it is. You decide how far to take something. You draw the lines that prohibit encroachment into the rest of your life.

The previous link between a regular paycheck and what it means to be retired no longer exists. We don't cash a check every two weeks, but that has nothing to do with how we live our life. We can be as busy or relaxed as we choose. We can spend our days shifting from project to project, volunteer work to grandkids duty, classes at the community college, zumba at the gym, wine tasting class in the evening, or binge-watching Bloodline on Netflix.

Or, we can spend the day on a hike through a nature preserve, bike to a favorite ice cream store, spend an hour weeding the garden, read the trashy summer time novel, or nap in the hammock before having dinner at our favorite restaurant by the lake.


None of these choices imply retirement to me. They are simply a full menu of options available when I am not trading my time for money.  



retirement planning



23 comments:

  1. Nice read Bob. Makes me look forward to when I finally call it quits from the daily grind. Hopefully sooner rather than later

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    1. It can be the best time of your life, Peter.

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  2. As I stall my preparation for getting to work, I decided to check out your blog. Thanks for these insights. At this writing, I have 42 months before I retire. Unfortunately, the atmosphere at work has changed so much due to a recent merger that I dread going. Anyway, I've decided to cut my "sentence" to 24 months. It means less money to live on, but hopefully peace of mind. I'll look for something part time after I decompress. I'll be semi retired and free of the corporate chains. I'm looking forward to that day. :)

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    1. When someone starts to dread going to work everyday, it is definitely time to go to Plan B. Trust me, the extra money is not a fair exchange for your peace of mind and quality of life.

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  3. Oftentimes those who say retirement is not "gainful" (as in your gainful employment comment) say so because they are fearful of the consequences of leaving work, such as losing a paycheck, or they have never prepared financially to leave the workaday life, or they are just fearful in general of the unknown non-work life after experiencing only the work life for most of their time on the earth. I think if one is well-equipped for it then one will have no issues. For example, I have been early retired (if 60 is even considered an early retirement age anymore) for over two years, and never once think about the work life I left. Doesn't concern me in the least, and I have too much in my life to waste on such endeavors.

    One of my favorite Early Retirement bloggers summed things up well - "Every day they wake up with nothing to do, and by the end of the day they have only accomplished half of it." This can hold true of anyone in any stage of retirement, no matter the age.

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    1. Hah, I like that quote.

      You are so right: fear of the unknown keeps us from experiencing too much of life. Like you, I left behind a 35 year career in radio and stopped missing it within two years of retirement. Since then, it never crosses my mind.

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  4. I am one of the 1/3 who retired (after a career at a high level job in state government) and after one year went back to work full-time. I am no longer the leader, but a minion. I have to plan time off around co-workers, am bored on the job, and get more frustrated by the day. I am one who unfortunately retired from something instead of to something. Money is no issue. My job defined me--I fell into the trap. Now I hate going to this new job every day--been there 1 1/2 years--not a hobby guy, etc. I am really lost.

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    1. You left a very similar comment awhile , so I am sensing you are really struggling. My suggestions then still apply: take what you liked about your former job and become a consultant in that same field. or, volunteer to be a mentor to beginning business people. You probably have a tremendous amount of experience you could share with others.Since money isn't the issue, volunteering to help other business people might be a great fit.

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  5. This may sound bizarre, but one of the most favorite things I love to 'do' in retirement, is sit on a lounge chair, on my deck, in my back yard and 'do' absolutely nothing! I don't read a book. I have no activity (like coloring or knitting). I just sit in that blessed lounge chair and listen to the wind rustle through the trees, watch the birds come and flutter about and simply enjoy the 3.5 acres that my husband and I worked so hard to ascertain!
    Priceless.
    I feel so blessed when I do this. What a luxury!

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    1. That is an excellent description of being "in the moment," of experiencing life exactly as it unfolds, instead of worrying about the future or reliving the past. Good for you.

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  6. Great post Bob. I love thinking of life as a menu full of options. Sometimes I forget that, and may get stuck in the "eat your vegetables" section. Then I remind myself there is desert on the menu too!

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    1. My dad had it right: he would often start a meal with his dessert. After all, that is often the best part! His theory probably applies to all of life.

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  7. Another great post with insightful comments. I struggle with these retiring "from something" or "to something" thoughts as I prepare to retire in early 2017. I think it might be related to being employed for so many years, that going to work has become a habit and it is hard to imagine not doing it. Thank you.

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    1. Going to work has become so ingrained as part of life, that it is tough to think of ourselves differently. I started with a paper route at 10 and worked at something for the next 42 years. Yes, it was tough at first to define myself in a way that didn't include what I did to make money. Now, it is the furthest thing from my mind. You will get there too, Dan.

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  8. I absolutely LOVE that photo of you, Bob. Will you tell us all a little about it?

    I enjoyed the post, as well as all the different perspectives reflected in the comments so far. I embrace the idea of retirement. I was recently asked to start teaching a class at my martial arts school. I told them I'm happy to fill in occasionally, as I have the past several weeks while one of the teachers is out. But I declined a regular teaching slot, even though it would only be one class a week. I take my retirement very seriously!

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    1. The picture was taken on the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho during one of our vacation trips. It is quite a large lake with a beautiful drive around the eastern side. Betty took the picture while I relaxed in a park right downtown.

      Good for you in turning down a regular teaching slot. Your life is too full of neat stuff to give away your freedom. You'd kick yourself the first time you couldn't go to the cabin or babysit your adorable grandson!

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  9. "When I am not trading my time for money:" that really states it very clearly. I love your point that retirement (however inaccurately named) gives a person back the choice about how to use their time. For that matter, it gives back life itself -- the full scope of what life can be, when not constrained by the time-sucking obligations of work. I am happy to report that as of tomorrow I will be stepping away from my stressful demanding administrative position. I will be taking nearly a year of leave, during which I will contemplate my next step as I inch toward retirement.

    Jude

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    1. A high-five, congratulations to you, Jude. Today is the big day, right? Taking a year leave to allow yourself to decompress, enjoy the little things of day-to-day living, and then decide how you want to proceed is a tremendous plan. I wish you the very best.

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  10. You are so right. In a way, we are all living the life of the financially independent. But it is all predicated on saving and planning and (with the help of Social Security and Medicare) achieving that financial independence in retirement.

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    1. How is your down-sizing and move going, Tom? That is a a major step, and one you have been thinking about for quite awhile. Making that move is another sign of the independence that can come with retirement.

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