Retired. Or not really.

March 16, 2017

Got a question for you. I was chatting online with a friend last week about how busy I was preparing for the launch of my new business, when he asked me this:

“Can’t you just be a happy retired person?”

He’s super-happy in his retirement. He rides his motorcycle or bike, spends a couple hours a day at the gym and has family time.

Still, I was taken aback at his question. Because I’m a happy person, but I also have a sense of purpose. A desire to contribute.  I do love to sit on my ass but I also like being a contributing member of society, even at my age.  And when I look around, I see plenty of retirement age friends who are doing the same.

So today, while I’m at the hospital with my husband as he recovers from surgery, you’ve got the floor.  I’m asking those of you of retirement age to answer a similar, but slightly different question..

“Can you be just a happy retired person?”

I’d love to know your view of retirement (if you are retired or if you aren’t)  and how you’re spending your time. If you aren’t retired yet, or even of that age, I’d love to hear what you think you’ll want to do when retired.

I’ll be watching the Comments for your responses!  Thank you.

41 comments on “Retired. Or not really.
  1. Pat says:

    I just retired last June so I am still trying to work out the logistics. Like you, I still feel I need a sense of purpose so will probably continue coaching and writing.

  2. ryderziebarth says:

    That is an old school question, one that in my mind, should have gone out with sock suspenders for men and hat pins for woman. Being retired today simply means no longer receiving a steady paycheck from a singular corporation that a person may have put his or her last thirty to forty year of their life into. The definition of retirement , especially for the last two generations, has entirely changed. We have become a freelancing, mobile and moveable working society which reinvents their skills constantly, out of need and out of availability to do so. There is very little flat out ” retirement”these days, thanks to working from home, full-time, part-time on the internet. The last steady paycheck I got was from Time Inc in the 1990’s, but I have worked steadily ever since–at various things! And I have loved every minute of my busy life reinvented life. I will never stop the work of fulfilling my purpose here on earth–that’s always been a pretty big job.Having not to “go” to an office is one thing–good for your friend for finding more hobby and family time–but not having to have a “job”,which I define as a reason to wake up in the morning, even without a paycheck, is a whole other thing I could not possibly ever do.I got my MFA at 61 years old. Old is not old any more; retirement is not retirement either. It’s just a change of space in which to come up with a new and better you.

  3. Julia says:

    I’m not retired yet. I’d love to be! 🙂 However, I’ve got another 10-15 years to work for pay, I think. As I think about your question, the thing that bothers me about it is the “just”. “Can you be just a happy retired person?” Why does working (for pay) imply that someone is not happy? Why does working for pay imply that someone *has* to do it and therefore they are not *really* retired? I watched my parents retire over 10 years ago. My father immediately started working as a consultant and my mother continued to do book/journal reviews and continued evaluating universities. They have slowly adapted now into fully volunteer work; my father doing translation work for a variety of organizations (church/refugee/missionary/etc) and my mother working with the state and national level of our church structure. They are active in local volunteer positions. They are approaching 80. They are happy. But “just” retired? Oh, I think not! 🙂

  4. Beth says:

    I’m with and like you. Hubby is loving our retirement but I’m struggling to find my way. Grateful for our vacation like life. Grateful for the freedom. However, I miss the direct sense of purpose and am working on finding it.

  5. I retired at the end of May 2016. I launched my DIY/home & garden/lifestyle blog at the end of July. It’s like a job, only I’m not making any money from it, yet. But — there is a tremendous learning curve, and I feel like I still have an outlet for growth and contributing to the larger world. Although I retired from my full-time college professor career, I still have my part-time church organist/choir director job. I’m 66, and I don’t feel ready to just relax and drift, yet. My husband, on the other hand, retired 10 years ago and has NOT kept a part-time job. He does a lot of volunteer work for our church, but otherwise keeps active with bike-riding, walking, and yard work. I think his approach might be healthier than mine. I hope your husband enjoys a successful recovery from surgery.

  6. Jim says:

    I think ryderziebarth has good points.It may take a while for society to catch up to this understanding. And we only need look at the Blue Zone research to understand the importance of purpose. But maybe your friend’s purpose is family and experiencing the open road and if that works for him, play on.

  7. GiGi Eats says:

    My mom has been retired for about 15 years at this point… And um, well… I really think she’s bored. It’s one thing to be retired and have hobbies but… She doesn’t have any :-/ So it’s hard to talk to her sometimes because I can just hear how bored she is in her voice.

  8. estelle says:

    I think your happiness is in you, so whether you are retired or not, you find a way to be content and fulfilled. I personally always want to produce art or be creative, but you can retire and still do that as well.

  9. eazynazy says:

    I belive after working for such a long time in life, people find retirement a boring thing. I will never retire in my life and am happy about it

  10. Barbara says:

    My husband couldn’t wait to retire from his 30+year career. Since then he had a five-year stint as executive director of a Historic area of Philly and then we moved to the beach. Now that he’s officially retired he’s volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, the local cat shelter and, on the board of the Shade Tree Commission. For me, when you’re an artist and a writer you never retire because you can do what you do anywhere and anytime. I do enjoy our relaxed vibe, though.

  11. I am retired kind of and no I can not just be happy being retired. Being retired is no fun! You have to keep your brain going

  12. I don’t think of myself as retired, I work at home on the computer every single day, but I am enjoying not having to get up, get dressed and going out to work somewhere. My husband does that and I wish he would retire. Although I doubt he’d enjoy being home all the time! LOL

    I think retirement is what you make of it…..either enjoy doing other things or watching TV, or start a job from home because you get board easily!

  13. Elizabeth O. says:

    I think it was quite insensitive. But I guess people have different views about life and retirement. I would still very much want to serve a purpose and not just sit around waiting for death or something. It would be nice to be useful!

  14. I think everyone seeks purpose in life and it can be hard when you’ve spent all of your adult life working with the purpose of providing for your family or whatever you may have done with your purpose. And then you retire and you lose it. I’m only 25, but I stopped working since I had my child and I’ve felt that loss of purpose. That’s why I have my blog because it’s a passion and a purpose of mine.

    This was an awesome post. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. I think each person finds his own level of happy. I think that’s what makes life for each person. So there can be those who like retiring and doing nothing. There are those who need to feel purpose no matter what. Both views of retirement are totally ok.

  16. Amanda Love says:

    I would still very much like to matter when I retire and not just sit around and do whatever. It’s nice that you’re still making an impact, you know. Instead of just taking trips around the country or around the world. You can be useful and be happy at the same time, it isn’t so difficult.

  17. Glenda says:

    I’m not retired but I know exactly what you mean. I think I would get bored easily not doing some type of work.

  18. Sue says:

    I’m afraid I can’t Carol. I still need a purpose and that is just the way I am. It is different for everyone but at the moment even though I have technically retired from work I still do the odd bookkeeping job or social media management.

  19. I’ve heard great things about being retired. Can’t wait to be retired one day!

  20. Jessica Taylor says:

    I can’t retire for quite some time! I am only 24 haha

  21. pia savage says:

    I have been thinking about how to answer this on and off for a day.

    Last week I had the second of two surgeries that got rid of cataracts, my astigmatism, and I can see better than I could when I was probably way under seve. I never had decent depth perception though I could dive and bike ride (kids can do anything I’m convinced);I have it now. As I finally have object acuity. But because the operations were more complicated than most they advised me to use readers for reading.

    After the first surgery, the difference in each eye was so great that I spent two weeks permanently off balance!
    I’m not sure what I thought this week would be lik, but the adjustment’s been I would say hard but horrible is more to the point. Partially comedic—can’t adjust to putting on glasses to read and taking them off to watch TV and do everything else. And partially—I’m just off balance! Yet I wish I could have done this decades ago—laser surgery wouldn’t have gotten rid of the astigmatism then, and I can see that alone changing my life

    So I’m 66 and in someways feel as if I’m just beginning

    Eight years ago I moved from Manhattan to coastal South Carolina and set up my life so that it could work for me rather than me working for my life. Though I hadn’t counted on the recession—I had taken some foolish chances, and had to live off my resources, and don’t have a frugal bone in my body, I’m pragmatic. South Carolina wasn’t my first choice by far, but my fixed expenses are very lo. That leaves room for everything else.

    I’m having some more medical testing—never was sick before moving here—and hopefully that problem will be resolved.

    I’m ambitious. Ambition doesn’t end when you reach an arbitrary number. I do think the Internet is both wonderful and horrible. I found out I have a little known disability going on nine years ag. As almost nothing was written about adults with it, I began to because writing helps me learn, and if I could help some others so much the better

    I didn’t know people would barrage me with questions at all hours of the day. Find my phone number. I have never begged nor have I assumed that people would be my personal therapist without compensation so this caught me by surprise. I also foolishly moderated a very large group where most of the good women left, before I arrived, because it was like the Wild West. I tried putting a stop to this but it cost me a lot—health, my personal blog’s “popularity” and my belief in myself. I was a licensed social worker yet I allowed myself to be treated as a non-professional who just knew more than most professionals.

    I didn’t know any of you then. My friends from home were all going through their own “I just lost my job that I wasn’t going to leave until I was at least 70” blues or other problems. New York, the city that had been so great to us was biting them on the tush. (I had left because I foresaw that).i hadn’t made my close friends here then, but went through crowds of people—I had expected that. I did spend a lot of time going to meet up’s, lunches and other events until I finally met a few crowds that fit me. I need my besties, and I need a variety of people. In NY this had come naturally through work, writing groups, and other commonalities. Here I had to seek it all out. But I enjoyed that as it kept me sharp.

    What I hadn’t expected was the extreme sadness that I felt, because of my Internet experiences. I finally left all the disability groups. I knew that if I got a book together—any book—people in the groups would treat me with more respect because apparently one badly written published book is worth more than 50 well written articles. While I’m a strategic thinker, I’m disorganized when it comes to arranging my own material, and don’t believe the object is publishing anything.

    Now I want to focus on writing. There are non profits springing up for this disability and I’ve been invited to be on a few boards. What I found was that the loudest people, the ones who complained the most, do the least. Most really aren’t capable and scream out of frustration. I know and knew that but at this point in my life don’t need that, as I refuse to put up wth bitterness.

    Life’s exciting
    filled with opportunity, and joy, really.
    Not the excitement that my 20’s were filled with, but I wouldn’t want that disjointed, everything’s new excitement.

    Though the first six or so years of this new adventure felt like my 20’s without the thrills. Maybe I needed that to reach this point.
    And I will be damned if I don’t monetize my life’s adventures. I neither need nor want “atta girls” that is totally demeaning

    And once again I’ve written a treatise in your comments!

  22. Ronnie says:

    I’m still far from it, but I see the good and bad side to it from my parents. There’s a lack of purpose in a sense, and I feel that deeply within my father, who worked hard and felt his job was meaningful. Now, he spends his day playing online poker, but I feel like it’s mostly filling emptiness. My mother on the other hand loves this new-found freedom, and particularly, spending more time with my dad. So it’s individual to each person – there’s no one feeling or path to fit all.

  23. I am currently living what some call the “retired” life as we travel full time in our rv and I honestly feel when I am technically more “retired” I will still be traveling maybe more on a boat but definitely still traveling

  24. Anna nuttall says:

    My parents have retired and they are the happiest person on earth. Thank you for this post. xx

  25. stacey says:

    My parents are both retired and loving life. My dad volunteers on several boards, plays golf & poker and sings in his fraternity choir.My mom does whatever the hell she wants to and is all to travel to visit us who are all over the world right now. So yes, it can be done and still be a contributor to society.

  26. Torie says:

    My grandmother retired 2 years ago and it is tuff on her. She tells me all the time she misses going to work and visiting with her work friends. It’s hard to believe people get sad after retirement but it happens often.

  27. Jennifer L says:

    My dad is retired and it’s definitely good for the most part. But he definitely missed having set structure he use to have at work.

  28. Nay says:

    I’m not retired and have a while to go but I don’t think I’ll ever completely stop doing something. I like being busy. I’m hoping to be an active grandma when I retire in another 35 years. (Not that I’m counting!) ????????

  29. Otilia says:

    I would love if my mum could retire just to help me with raising the girls. That wouldn’t really be retirement though.

  30. Hi Carol! I tend to believe that I would never be happy and content unless I am learning, growing, and evolving so regardless of what you call it–I will NEVER retire from that! Plus, I have been fortunate to work in ways that I enjoy so why would I ever completely quit? Wasn’t it Lao Tzu or Confucious who said, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life!” Thanks for the reminder and may all go well with your husband AND your new business endeavor! ~Kathy

  31. Angela Milnes says:

    Many people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire when physical conditions no longer allow the person to work any longer (by illness or accident) or as a result of legislation concerning their position.

  32. I’m planning to retire within the next 1.5 years and I have plans to pursue my writing more, get back into some community choral groups, and spend more time with my family. My fear about retirement is I’ll be too busy! But I certainly don’t want to sit around and relax all the time, even though I will enjoy some of that too. I have a few things I don’t want to do too: serve on committees, talk on the phone, watch the weather channel.

  33. The women in my family only start slowing down at the age of 90. If I remain healthy, I won’t start thinking of retirement until then.

  34. Such a great question, Carol.
    I think it depends on each person’s personality. Because I’m like you–I want to inspire and help others! (and I have a hard time saying no—eeek)
    So I’m busy.
    But my husband has a different personality—he’ll be one of those retired men that does nothing–(unless I’m pushing him…ha ha).
    But I think we need all different kinds of people in this life. There is no right & wrong in this. How boring it would be, if we were all alike, right?

  35. To me, retirement is doing what makes you happy. 🙂

  36. Austin says:

    When I retire from my boring desk job, I intend to write full time. And maybe follow the Yankees on a few road trips every season…

  37. Maggie says:

    In a few years, hubby and I are hoping to semi-retire in our early 50s and only work part-time. Looking forward to transition and have more time for hobbies.

  38. Stacey W says:

    I am nowhere near retiring but my parents are recently retired. I am so proud that they are doing a lot more traveling and taking time to go to movies and hang with grandkids. They are even starting a bridge class tomorrow!!!

  39. Nan says:

    I’m kind of an oddball- i was a stay at home mom raising my 3 kids for 31 years. Yes, I did volunteer work but never got a paycheck. When youngest daughter turned 16 (I had been widowed 8 years then), I started working in case management (my rusty 30 year old bachelor’s degree came in handy) and now at age 69 plan to never retire. I make my own schedule and really enjoy my work- I coordinate services for 40 individuals with disabilities. I get to visit them monthly and am meeting a lot of new people.I can take off a few days at a time- I just took the grandsons to Disney World for 3 days- and usually take a week off a couple of times a year. I’m an independent contractor so no benefits but I have Medicare and a great supplement plus I get to keep all my social security benefits.

  40. Silly Mummy says:

    Yes, I think it depends on your personality! My mum loves her retirement. She does plenty of activities, but all leisure and hobbies – she is happy not working.

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