June 19, 2019

If I Am Retired Have I Stopped Working?


Let's start with two definitions:

Retirement means "The period of life after leaving one's job and ceasing to work."

Work means "an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result."

Most of us think of "work" in a much more specific way: "an activity or physical effort done in order to earn money."

But, that isn't the literal definition of the word. And, that is part of the problem with the whole concept of living a satisfying retirement: the words are mis-defined. Retirement has nothing to do with no longer working. It has to do with no longer working at a particular job or career for money. But, nowhere should it be assumed that retirement means no more work.

Do you play golf? I am willing to bet you'd say that the game involves work, both physical and mental, even if you ride a cart for 36 holes.


How about growing some of your own vegetables? I know from our recent experience: this is work! Forget check the need for watering for even one day and things start to wilt. Don't pull weeds and your efforts suffer.

Do you exercise? Sorry, but even with an endorphin "high" that is work.

Do you flower garden, read, paint, build furniture, play a piano or a banjo, cut the grass, attend a Spanish class, write a blog, travel, basically do anything other than sit in a chair 18 hours a day staring at the wall? Then, you work....at something.

Retirement does not mean not working...it is supposed to mean working at something you enjoy. It is a life reimagined or redefined.

Now, let's pause for just a moment and admit a very common reality: folks who have retired from one job may start another. Whether that employment is full or part time, self-employed or working for pay for someone else, the economic realities of the world can require additional income to lead the type of life someone desires.

Is that person still "retired?" I suggest it depends. If I spend 25 hours a week writing this blog to satisfy my creative urges and manage to earn a little extra money through those efforts I consider myself retired. I am not writing Satisfying Retirement for the money. The dash of extra cash is a nice side benefit but it isn't a motivator.

If, on the other hand, I go back to my part time tour guide job I would think of myself as partially retired. That job would be taken with money as the primary motivator. There are side benefits, but I certainly wouldn't do it for free.

Or, what if I had the ability to build wood cabinets and coffee tables and sold them? I would be working with a passion of mine: woodworking (this is a made-up scenario!) and generating income. Because I choose to use a talent and enjoy it, I would consider myself retired with a lucrative hobby.

I know, this is splitting hairs and it really doesn't matter how someone is "categorized." The individual determines how he or she feels about his life or control of her time.

The point is much broader: retirement absolutely does not mean we stop working. We work at something until we die. It is part of being human. We do stuff.

So, the next time someone asks how come you aren't bored by not working, educate him about the meaning of the word. 


The hardest working "retired" person I know: Betty refinishing a door

18 comments:

  1. "I don't know how I found the time to work!" is a common joke in retirement circles but it's based in solid fact. You're right, about we humans doing stuff. In retirement, some of its fun like starting a new hobby or enjoying an old one more fully, some of it not so much fun if health issues rises to the top like cream in a milk bottle...and young people probably don't even know what that means.

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    1. I could write a whole post about things from our past that do not mean anything to today's adults. Cream at the top of a milk bottle is a perfect example. Still waters run deep is another.

      Not everything we do in retirement is fun, or even enjoyable. But, the periods when we can be totally within our element make the cloudy times all the more special.

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  2. I have said many times "If you are bored in retirement you aren't really trying". There always something to do in retirement whether it's hiking in the hills or gardening in your backyard but is that work? It takes effort that's for sure but it's something you freely choose to do. Perhaps the definition of work is when you are required to do something for someone else's benefit or at their direction, like increase corporate profits (even though you get paid for it) rather than something you do for yourself alone.

    That probably explains why many entertainers continue to "work" into their dotage. It's something they would have done anyway and the fact that they get paid for it is a happy coincidence. I imagine for example Paul McCartney plays music because that's what he does, whether he gets paid for it or not probably doesn't come into it. But I'd bet he considers doing large tours a lot of work, which he makes (a lot) of money doing but are really for us and not him.

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    1. Paul McCartney turned 77 years old yesterday, June 18th. He is playing a sold out concert in Phoenix next week. The youngster, Mick Jagger, at 75, is here in concert in August.

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  3. When Ken sold his practice and we retired , a huge part of his life came to a halt. Within a year he was back to “work” part time but now, 6 years into our new life, I would not call it “work..” Being a chiropractor/healer is an integral part of WHO HE IS ,so, living a life without expressing and sharing this would be quite empty for him..I gave up categorizing what we are.. I don’t think “retirement” is a define-able word anymore... I think life has chapters, and this is just a new one.... Ken plays the guitar,gardens, sees patients two days a week takes naps, read,repairs our home and garden, and meets with his Meetup discussion group every Wednesday.. we have a rich life.. so different from when we worked for a living.. but not really “retired..” either..

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    1. Rich in experiences but not really retired...that is a good description of what many of us hope to accomplish during this phase of life.

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  4. I have found volunteering to be a sort of job, although it's really flexible and I enjoy it a lot more than my last few jobs. :-) But there are definitely commitments, etc. I also have a lot of home projects in the warm/sunny months here in the Midwest that seem like a bit of a job. But overall, there are so many freedoms that it's just turned out to be great and I'm so grateful I'm healthy and lived to see it.

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    1. Volunteer time can be "work," but the feelings that come with it are so different from typical work. I know that my time with the library system and Junior Achievement are times I really look forward to.

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  5. For me, whether I consider an activity work or not depends on who "assigned" the task. Before I escaped from the work force, my job responsibilities and day to day activities were determined by the goals of my employer. Definitely work. Around the time I escaped from the work force, Alan and I spent four long, hard summers on a construction project to improve a rental property. That was a physically and mentally exhausting project, but I didn't consider it work because it was something that we (not an employer) chose and wanted to do.

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    1. That is a good distinction. In the case of the rental property, you were building value in something together, which can make a big difference.

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  6. "We do stuff." That made me laugh. And of course you are right. Betty is the busiest retired person I know. She does stuff a LOT!

    I have often said that I don't know how I ever had time to have a job. Even with lots of down time, I stay busy "working" at things I find fun and rewarding.

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    1. Like putting watercolor paint on wet paper? It is usually the unexpected or unusual that sparks a feeling of fun.

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  7. Yes! This kind of thing was the subject of the first post on my blog when I retired (almost) two years ago.

    Funny how so many not-retired-yet people recoil in fear and horror when I suggest how great it is to be retired. They seem to have a hard time imagining themselves not working.

    Well, I for one love not working. I am so busy now, and I also now wonder how I ever found the time to work. In reality though, I spent so much time working that I rarely had time to be me. So now I love being retired because I am having the time of my life.

    Say yes to retirement, it's a hoot!

    https://smileifyoudare.com/did-i-retire-or-did-i-just-stop-working/

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    1. Most of us have several layers of "self" waiting to be discovered under the covering we wore for years as an employed person. That "uncovering" is what makes retirement so exciting.

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  8. I still do what I want to do when I want to do it. I wrote myself into carpel tunnel, which is slowing down my writing, but I am getting back into my art. I haven't painted anything in quite a while and now I'm getting ready for the sketches for the 2nd Duffy Chronicles book, Cosmo's Story. Writing children's books is much more fun than memoir!
    b

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    1. Yes, I imagine it is! I had lots of fun writing the children's book with my grandkids. It was such a thrill for them to hold a printed copy in their hands and know they had been a part of the process.

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  9. The reason it is so hard to clearly define retirement is that the concept is a holdover from an earlier era. It references a time in our social history when many people (mostly men) tended to work in a single workplace for the length of their career, and were forced to leave work at a certain age (mandatory retirement). It never was particularly inclusive of women’s work experiences (which often include stretches of unpaid family work, volunteer work, and part-time work). “Retirement” is based on a concept of working for pay for a company or institution, and then stopping work and finding other things to do when you’re too old to keep working. Retirement was rebranded as a reward of free time after a lifetime of service in the workplace as a way to make age-based mandatory retirement palatable. It never was a good fit for farmers, artists, writers, musicians, politicians, and most self-employed people. Times have changed but we’re still stuck with the word.

    Jude

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    1. It is a word I have spent over 9 years trying to find a suitable replacement for, and am still searching. We like labels and find we need them to describe something or someone. Retirement is not accurate but is simple shorthand for this phase of life.

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