What do you think about retirement?

What does retirement mean?

Is it a door opening or a door closing? A beginning or an end? What do we gain? What do we lose?

Retirement traditionally was driven by the age at which a worker became eligible for pension and Social Security benefits (which for many years was age 65), by mandatory retirement requirements, and by life expectancy. Wives with older husbands often retired early in order to time their retirements to coincide with those of their spouses. Today people live longer, more wives work, and most restrictions have been removed. Has this changed how we plan for retirement?

Often, work is more than a salary and benefits. For many of us, work is a joy. It gives meaning to our lives, provides important friendships, and is the source of our identity. It allows us to feel accomplished and respected, but also provides a place to make important contributions that have positive impact. If we retire, do we lose these?

So…your comments please:

For those of you who are already retired, what did you expect from retirement? What are your experiences of retirement? If you had to do it again, would you do it the same way?

For those of you who are around traditional retirement age, do you expect to retire? How do you plan to make that decision? What does retirement mean to you? Is it the complete departure from the workplace, or do you anticipate working less or in a different way? Is it positive or negative?

For those of you who are not even close to thinking about this, what do you think about when you hear the work “retirement”? What did it mean to your grandparents or parents?

Please scroll down and leave a reply. You need not identify yourself unless you want to do so. However, it would be helpful if you include your age, your sex, and if you feel comfortable, what kind of work you do.

10 thoughts on “What do you think about retirement?

  1. I am a married male, age 58 …I do expect to retire and probably before 65…My father died when he was 65, he actually retired at 62 after working 45 years for the same company. My mother died at 71, as a consequence I have done the math and come to the conclusion working until 65 isn’t a strategy for my wife and I…Financially we have invested in a diverse portfolio and have limited debt as much as possible in anticipation of early retirement. I view retirement as somewhat of a view into a crystal ball…All a person can do is account for as many variables as can be foreseen and plan according e.g. health care, investment income after cessation of work, and an optimistic view of the American economy because if it craters all bets are off….I view independence as a major key re happiness post occupation…I want to be able to travel and do hobbies without financial constraint…I see myself volunteering and further education in non career related fields…I have always been intellectually curious and don’t ever want to be in a position to not think..Its my opinion that the brain is elastic and needs to be exercised…Retirement affords the chance to introduce different stimuli then what was required in the work place…The key to my feeling of well being is not having to worry about money and health care…I can live simply and still feel fulfilled, I assume it has something to do my agrarian upbringing, who knows. Through the years I have met a lot of interesting individuals and plan on keeping to contact with them..So in conclusion retirement is not about quitting something its actually beginning something new. Everyone goes through some of the same stepping stones, grade school, high school, some go to college and further, occupations etc. Retirement is just a different chapter in the book we call life…

  2. The problem with retirement begins with its definition: “withdrawal from one’s position or career or from active working life.” If you are passionate about your career, how can you simply set it aside? And withdrawing from “active working life” sounds like something that would hasten your demise. I suppose the level of reluctance one has for retirement might be in direct proportion to how much enjoyment, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment characterize that career. I am a college professor who served as chair of a large department for 26 years, received 16 teaching awards, and now direct a very successful honors undergraduate neuroscience program. Although the department no longer depends on me, 117 future scientists and physicians do. I teach a 600-student lecture class and I am pretty sure I am performing better than at any time in the past. I have always advised my students to identify a career that would involve work days where one looks at the clock and regrets that it is moving too rapidly toward quitting time. You want more time doing what you do, not less. I have that kind of job. So, my thoughts on retirement apply only to those who love their careers and who can financially afford to retire.

    My current thinking centers on the concept of transition. An abrupt retirement for people like me (there are a lot of individuals who love their jobs!) would be difficult and perhaps lead to a sense of frustration and a feeling you no longer are a person of consequence, no longer make a difference. Such an abrupt change in life is likely to result in depression. On the other hand, if you refuse to consider retirement you likely will miss out on the wonderful opportunities inherent in the freedom retirement provides. Worse yet, you might cling desperately to that career despite the fact your skills and energy no longer allow you to perform at a high level. So, denial of what aging can do to us is not the answer. The self-compromise one needs to embrace is a smooth transition from an active career to a “retirement career” where the latter contains elements of the former. For me, this would mean part-time instruction or perhaps a good deal of public speaking. It could mean advising young professors or counseling students. It could mean volunteering my speaking and writing skills to work with issues important to me such as immigration, healthcare, etc. If you can engage in worthwhile activities in retirement that were not possible during your working years, you might just love retirement.

  3. I am a 57 year old female and currently work full-time for a for-profit business. My husband and I have saved and planned for retirement and are fortunate enough to have the financial ability to retire now if we so desire. But when I think of actually retiring, I have mixed emotions.

    On the one hand, I love my profession, have invested the time in my education that has helped to allow me to enjoy a fulfilling career and have spent almost 25 years working in my chosen field. I believe I’m making a difference with what I do beyond just making money for myself and the company I work for and that I’m touching others’ lives in a positive way through my work. I feel like I can still contribute through my work and don’t want to give that up just yet.

    On the other hand, I feel I’ve accomplished much of what I wanted to in my career and sometimes feel the challenges and rewards just aren’t what they used to be. As I grow older, I find more and more that what intrigues me most lies in areas outside of my profession that I haven’t had the time or energy to pursue, such as art, diverse cultures and meeting and learning more about people with lives very different from my own.

    I’ve thought about continuing part-time in my profession but tend to be the type of person who immerses themselves completely in whatever they’re doing and believe that is not the right answer for me. So bottom line is, I believe I’ll know when the time is right and will be able to fully commit to and look forward to the benefits that retirement has to offer.

  4. Retirement frightens me. I am very involved in my job and enjoy it on most days. Financially I do not have bountiful resources and living on a restricted income is not something I look forward to. My career is one where age is not a limitation and luckily people with my specific skills are in demand. My preference is to work until I am 72 so I can get the largest possible social security check. I believe that when I retire I will need a few months to unravel from working life. I do not know exactly what I will get involved with, but eventually will do something. I am very used to being mentally engaged, working and contributing.

  5. I am 72 and have been retired 8 years. My only planning for retirement was financial, I did not plan what I would do or want to do in retirement, I only knew I wanted enough money to live on. That goal was met and I do not have any financial problems in retirement.
    My work career was very satisfying and I really did not want to retire when I did but due to my husband’s unexpected death and establishing a partnership with a man already retired, I did retire without any plans.
    The last 10 years of my working career I traveled and worked remotely from my home which did not leave me with many friendships going into retirement. I did not like retirement the first year. I missed the opportunities and the growth I was seeing in my job, I was missing out on so much and kept reading the classified adds looking for a job without travel in the health care technology field .That search lasted about a year and then it dawned on me, why do I want to get back into the work routines and why did I need to be involved in the “latest” technology developments and why did I want to work for the goals of others rather than my own. At that point I settled down and picked up things that sounded interesting, things I did not have time to do when I was working.
    The library offered a class in Mah Jongg and that began an “addiction” with weekly games and long online hours of play. With my weekly Mah Jongg group I have developed very rewarding friendships.
    Needlework had been a hobby prior to retirement but with more time in retirement, I was able to explore this hobby more in depth. Finding designers and cyber classes opened a whole new world of opportunities and challenges allowing me to expand this hobby without traveling. As time went on I learned about Japanese Embroidery and that has taken me to a new level of stitching and joy and a new group of friends.
    Exercising became fun and I joined a gym and began new friendships with others exercising. I learned to play Pickleball and enjoyed new friendships and challenges playing twice a week.
    I don’t think one can think about retirement without thinking about the “end.” To me retirement is a time to plan for the “end” and time to think about why I am here and what I need to accomplish before the “end” and what I need to attain eternal life with God. Retirement is a time to focus on my spirituality. Currently I am participating in a” Retreat in Daily Life” conducted by a group of nuns in our state. Retirement time goes so fast that there is no time to put things off, each day sees me closer to the “end. Time to just sit and think is important.
    Several years into my retirement I began working a few hours a week in my family’s business doing mundane work to help them out. As their business has grown my hours have increased. I find this work distracting from what I want to do. I would rather have the time than the money but they do need my help since I am very flexible and work only when they need me which now is up to 35 hours a month. I set my own hours and don’t work if it interferes with something I want to do.
    One can ask if I am retired since I am a contract worker. I think the definition of retirement is leaving a career that was a financial and emotional source of a livelihood. My contract work does not meet either of these criteria.
    MJW in KS

  6. I have been in my profession for 35 years. I’ve worked hard and consider myself a loyal employee, and rewarded handsomely for my performance. Through the economic downturn, I found myself unemployed through restructuring. My profession has changed substantially due to paradigm shifts. I find myself wondering where do I go from here? Fortunately, I was able to find work at a lower capacity in the same field. For me, my father died at 48, and my mother at 60, both not able to enjoy the ever elusive retirement stage. I plan on retiring from corporate life as soon as possible.

    My husband and I have planned financially for this event, and look forward to travel, volunteer work and doing hobbies that we never seem to have enough time to squeeze into our long working hours. Of course, if the American economy doesn’t turn around I may not be able to reach this dream.

    Life is too short, and I do not want to be defined by my job. In the end I want people to remember me as a contributor who worked hard and cared deeply about the business and employees that worked for me. I think it is important to know when it is time to fold your cards.

    I want to continue expanding my world, and plan to do so through travel experiences, and through helping others in a volunteer capacity.

    I am a 551/2 year old female.

  7. I am a 59 year old female and I have been retired for three years. I made the choice to retire when my current boss was promoted and my executive assistant position was going to change dramatically. I was an executive assistant in one of the large banks for over twenty years, and I worked for several presidents and regional presidents. All in all, I worked in various incarnations (mergers/acquisitions) of the bank for over thirty years. The last ten years, my sister and I shared long distance care-giving for our mother, and I juggled my work responsibilities with those family responsibilities.

    When my mom passed away, I was financially able to retire, but I wasn’t planning on retiring any particular time until my boss was promoted and I had to gear up to adjust to a new manager, new duties and new technology. I knew I was too depleted to make the effort.

    After I made my decision, I was terrified to make the change. I felt I would be okay financially, but I was fearful of being isolated, as work had been a social outlet for me for so many years. Going to work every day, when I often times didn’t want to go, had become a spiritual practice and discipline for me. As my last day drew near – I became increasingly anxious, and a few times, I thought seriously about changing my mind.

    Now I am three years into retirement and I am happy and relieved not to be working. As I expected, I still have some bad days, but I can’t blame it on work anymore. I do love the freedom, and it seems my retirement is a relearning process on how to relax or unwind. Life has a way of filling up my calendar. I travel a little, meet with friends, watch a fair amount of television and movies, and basically hang out with my cat. This would not be enough for some people, but I have simple tastes and I enjoy my solitude and time at home.

    I was never much of a joiner, but now I find I have incredible resistance to agreeing to anything that requires me to commit to ongoing obligations. I’m sorry I feel that way, but for me, retirement is finally a time when I don’t have to override my feelings – so most of the time, I don’t.

    In closing, I have to say I am grateful for the opportunity to be retired. My fears, were mostly ghost stories I was telling myself. And, like everything in life, retirement is a process.

  8. I have always worked in the non-profit arena. While I had many opportunities to take on new challenges, implement new programs, and continue to apply new skills I never thought of work as my career. I enjoyed it every day, made some wonderful friends and wouldn’t trade a year of it. I look back at that time in my life and clearly see the impact of my efforts without feeling a loss of my identity.

    I have always had lots of interests outside of work consequently I did not fear the moment when I would stop work, or wonder what I would do with more time. I looked forward to being the author of my own days and not being expected to meet timelines, objectives and outcomes for an organization.

    I gave up the notion of full time work a year ago this past August and haven’t looked back. Now I often wonder how I fit work, family and pleasure into a day. I didn’t really plan the day I would stop working however I did plan for it in that I aggressively put money into investment vehicles.

    I started working when I was 18, I’ve worked 50 years. That’s enough. Being the author of my own days means I will be busy, engaged, and continue to contribute to my community, spend more time with my husband, family and friends, travel, read, cook, garden, watch birds. The list is endless.

  9. Sometimes I feel like I should be the poster child for retirement. It is so much better than I had ever thought it would be or even hoped for. I wake up some mornings and pinch myself just to see if it’s real. When I first retired almost six years ago I would occasionally set the alarm clock just so I could turn it off and go back to sleep without feeling guilty.
    Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not some wealthy, globetrotting socialite. That’s part of the beauty of retirement. It can be whatever you make of it.
    I’m from a very modest background and have worked full time since the age of seventeen. Being a single mother and trying to develop a career kept me very busy. Sometimes working two jobs and almost always living from paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have the time or financial resources that would allow me to plan for retirement. My big goal was to see that my son completed college – the first one in our family. By the time he graduated I had worked my way up to a very responsible position in a great company.
    For the first time I began to seriously consider retirement planning and I must admit it frightened me just a bit. I had no pension plan, no savings to speak of and I knew Social Security would certainly not cover my monthly bills. That’s when providence stepped in. A very dear friend I worked with recognized the fact that we needed a pension plan for our employees and she began to champion the cause. She had the knowledge, authority and as it turned out the stamina to implement a new pension plan. Under her direction a pre-tax savings plan (much like a 401K account) was also established. Soon after the plan was established I was promoted to Chief Financial Officer and was able to divert much of my increase in salary to the pre-tax savings plan. In turn that allowed me to purchase prior years credit for all the time I worked at the organization before the pension plan was implemented. So I now have a modest pension that not only allows me to pay my bills but to take vacations to countries I had only read about and to indulge myself with various hobbies and other activities.
    I realize this is not the normal road to retirement and I certainly would not recommend it, but it worked for me.
    Now I’m doing all the things I didn’t have the time or money to pursue when I was younger. My hobbies include genealogy and genetic genealogy and I have taken several courses associated with these subjects. I have also met dozens of cousins I never knew I had. Thanks to the internet I have been able to locate classmates I hadn’t seen in almost forty-five years. We see each other often and have travelled to Africa, Turkey, Spain, New York and Florida together. Next year we’re off to China. I have found a whole new interest in history now that I know what part my ancestors played settling this country. I wouldn’t consider visiting a foreign country until after I have researched their history. I’ve read more books since retirement than I ever did in school. But now it’s much more interesting because I feel as if I’m part of it. I’m an animal lover and volunteer at the local pet orphanage and have been active in the Newfoundland Health and Rescue project. I wake up each morning looking forward to another day. I don’t always know exactly what I’ll be doing on a certain day because there are just too many options to choose from.
    Retirement? I LOVE BEING RETIRED.
    By the way I’m a 69 year old female and feel a freedom I’ve never had before.

  10. Hi. My name is Linda, though as an artist I go by Zoozyq. I’m 66 and have been retired from teaching and tutoring for some time. Retirement came as a gradual realization that while my professional life sprang from deep interest in individuals and learning, my jobs increasingly demanded that my instincts and understanding take a back seat to other “professional” imperatives. My inside view of education being derailed by people with little real interest or understanding in the deeper qualities of learning became so frustrating that I began to withdraw from the educational system. My gradual retirement took the form of substitute teaching as I turned to writing and fine art as the main expressions of who I am…of my values. By substituting I continued to contribute to individual students in a positive way without being married to an increasingly flawed system. And I was able to turn down jobs and turn to creative outlets to revive my spirit when the view of the system became too painful.

    I consider myself lucky to have been able to experience this gradual retirement for over ten years before I began my full retirement. Talk about easing into retirement! ;-) My husband retired, we sold all the larger belongings, like our house, travel trailer, etc., gave away nearly everything else, and moved west. We have been living in a tiny studio apartment for almost three years indulging ourselves in a simple life with little overhead and lots of spontaneity. And we’re very happy. Retirement has given each of us a chance to allow our deepest and truest selves to surface. May this be true for everyone…

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