What Is Retirement Exactly?

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A while back I heard from a reader who wasn’t sure whether he was already retired.  He’d been doing what he loves for years and he wasn’t yet 65.  Lucky guy.  For wage slaves, retirement is when you quit the day job and start collecting Social Security.  You’d then have a few years to watch TV or go golfing.  But now that period of your life could last 20, 30, maybe even 40 years!  Tons of opinions exist on what to do with yourself when you retire.  So what is retirement?

The basics

Retirement is when you get enough “points” to collect accumulated monies set aside for you.  You can presumably live on this income.  In the old days, you might get a pension for your loyal work for Generous Electric Inc. or whatever.  You’d also have Social Security.  Together these income streams would make a nice income.  Since you’d been living in pretty much the same place, your house would be all paid off.  You could sell it and buy a cute little condo in Margaritaville.  Never shovel snow again!

The basic idea is to have an income without having to work any more in order to survive.  Also, to have taken care of big debts so you don’t spend your income on debt service.

Nowadays, we have whatever we have saved.  If we’re advanced, we’d have invested too.  Plus there’s Social Security.  For some, there is a government pension instead of Social Security.  But basically, we’re now more on our own.

And, as good Americans, we bought into the American Dream, and bought, and bought.  As a result we’re finding it harder to own the old home place outright in our later years.  But we have some equity.

So here we have still the ingredient of income and assets that are no longer dependent on our working a regular job.

The job ends

Most of us have/had a regular job with regular hours, commitments, job descriptions and places to be.  We know pretty much what we have to do to to get paid and have insurance and such.  It occupied much of our lives.  Most of the people we know, we know from there.

If you have/had your own business, you know all the ins and outs of surviving in your field.  You may have employees depending on you as much as you do on them.  Lots of complicated rules to follow.  And maybe a lot of equity in the business itself to sell.

With our retirement income streams, we have the means to walk away from the daily grind.

Now we have a major challenge, though.  What to do with all that time we just freed up.


This is the main ingredient of retirement.  Switching incomes is change.  Leaving the job is change.  Everything after is going to be touched by these.

You leave the familiar support systems you’ve relied on for something like 30+ years, and strike out on your own.  You haven’t been this vulnerable since you left your parents.

Of course, you’re full of ideas about what to do with the time.  We’ve seen the T-shirts, with the retirement plans on them:  sailing, golfing, gardening, fishing, the whole list.

During the honeymoon after the last day of work, it’s all possible.  Then the lack of structure makes itself known.  You have to figure out how to fit in all the fun with the daily stuff you do at home.  Otherwise the unwashed couch potato in you comes out, and nobody likes that.

Do I have to be a certain age?

No, of course not.  Just because most people are tied to a routine of working to their 60s doesn’t mean everyone is.  Many folks had to reinvent themselves during the losses of the Great Recession and ended up retired in their 50s.  And lately younger people have decided to become financially independent and retire early, even in their 30s.

Anyone who can come up with money to live on without a job can ditch the job and change over to a more independent lifestyle.

But wait.  A lot of these characters do work.  They have part time jobs, blogs, they make and sell stuff.  What gives?

Isn’t retirement the absence of work?

Not necessarily.

My aunt and uncle sold off a couple of houses they’d collected and decided to play at investing the money.  They did it all after retiring from their state jobs.  It was just an interesting thing to do.  They joined an investment club and made a social and learning activity of it.  My uncle passed; my aunt is in her mid-90s and still affording her assisted living place.

People start businesses sometimes when they retire.  They have a vision for a new service in their community and make a go of it.  Two ladies started a nonprofit thrift store and food bank years ago.  They also rent two apartments above the store.  All the proceeds go to free stuff for destitute families and elders with emergency needs.  It’s one of the more successful businesses on Main Street.

Still others go online to do things.  A fellow blogger retired early to have time with his family.  He’d earned well in his work years but missed out on seeing his kids grow up.  So now he blogs and sells books online.  This he can do in spare time while following his first passion, family.

A lady I know made and sold felted hats for many years, to have money for little extras.  She enjoyed doing the process of making the hats and selling them, so it was all good for her.

So working at something you choose, out of interest, passion or even need, is part of retirement for many.

So what is retirement exactly?

From the above, it looks pretty much like this.

Retirement is a time in your life that you have resources to live on so you can live independent of paid employment or business you got into to pay the bills.   Life on your own terms.

Great changes in the way you live come with retirement, including the way you use your time.  Some take off and travel when they want to.  Others spend much more time with family.  Your passions count more in retirement because time and  the money you saved are available to you.

If your passion leads you to start a company, a blog, or even a revolution, you have the time to do it.  All you need is money, and some things can be started on a shoestring.

You could be equally passionate about volunteering at an animal shelter or playing golf.  You don’t have to get money for it, you just find something you need in your life.

Some people are passionate about what they do all their lives anyway, like that chap in the first paragraph.  He says he’s making a living doing what he likes, so perhaps he’s been retired most of his life!

What is retirement for you?



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