Not the ‘R’ word!

the older you get

For the past few years people have often asked me when I will retire. Some people think I already have. Some think I am too young to be thinking about it (they are either very kind or very blind), and others think I should have done it long ago.

I have preferred to ignore the word ‘retire’ for the negative connotations I thought it embodied and the implication that I would have to admit to things like:

  • I’m getting old
  • I have nothing left to contribute
  • I am passed my use-by date and can’t keep up with modern trends and developments
  • I am ready for ‘God’s waiting room’. (I ‘m not even sure I’d be able to find the right room, and he’d probably keep me waiting for ever anyway!)

Even this morning I heard an ad on the radio that put together the concepts of retirement, having more time on one’s hands, retirement village and nursing home.  If that’s what retirement means, it’s not for me.

When I was fifty-ish and working part-time, I awoke one morning to the realisation that, if I was going to retire at sixty, I had only ten years of working life left. With that in mind I returned to full-time work in order to earn as much as I could so that I could save enough to support myself in retirement. (I think I should have had the epiphany many years earlier!)

When the ten years of teaching full-time as a year one teacher were done, I was still not ready to consider the ‘R’ word. However just at that time an opportunity to be involved in writing curriculum support materials was offered. A short break from the classroom to refresh and re-energise was a welcome idea and I accepted the position.

After eighteen months in the role I reverted to working part-time in order to devote more time to my own writing while establishing a website for peddling said writing. I didn’t consider it retirement, transition to retirement, or anything to do with retirement. For me, the working week was simply a combination of paid work and working for myself. It was not time off.

mystica_Coins_(Money)

Now another eighteen months has past and I am indeed counting down the ‘paid’ working days until ‘retirement’. In my head and heart I still don’t consider it retirement, perhaps a re-alignment of priorities, but others do. I am breaking ties with my long-term on-and-off employer for the fourth and last time. This time there will be no going back. Even though I may have said that on each of the three previous occasions I resigned and still went back; this time I am very doubtful of that occurring. This time it is ‘officially’ retirement, and I accept that if I have more time on my hands to do my own work, then that is a good thing!

It is the enthusiasm that others have for me and hearing them excitedly question, “What are you going to do?”  that has helped my change of heart and I am beginning to accept their use of the ‘R’ word. Denial would be another unwinnable battle. So what if I intend to spend the days of my retirement at the computer? Getting a website up and running might be just an expensive hobby, but not as expensive as others I could think of, like boating or flying! And definitely more fun for me.

The changing view of self as transitioning through working full-time, part-time, being semi-retired, or retired is not unique to me. While some embrace the change, eager to accept every opportunity that freedom from employer demands and schedules has to offer; others like me sidestep in, with a similar appreciation of the freedom from outside expectations but an ever-increasing expectation of self.

retiring with attitude

Last year “Retiring with Attitude”, written by one of my favourite bloggers Caroline Lodge and her colleague Eileen Carnell, was published. I found the title quite intriguing and thought it may apply to me, though I wasn’t sure to which attitude they were referring. However the subtitle “Approaching and Relishing your Retirement” gave a few clues and I knew I had to read it. Were they serious?

In the introduction the authors explain that retirement should be viewed as “a time of further exciting possibilities”. They set out their goals which include convincing readers that the “old” view of retirement (they say “previous”) is no longer applicable; that possibilities abound; that outdated views of ageism and sexism should be challenged; and that “Learning is the most powerful means to handle changes and transitions” that occur in the retirement phase of life.

Retiring with Attitude” is an easy and enjoyable read which I recommend to anyone approaching (from near or far) or already in retirement. The authors have drawn upon their own experiences and many years of research from which to explain options and make suggestions for every aspect of life. While “Chapter 11: This is Your Rainy Day: Relationships with Money” does discuss finances, the book raises many other issues including seeking and accepting support as well as ways to ensure you are not over-committed to fulfilling others needs and requests.

The authors emphasize that there is no one way for everyone to do retirement but that learning and good communication are the key. They say that retirement can be the time of one’s life and that

As an older person you can develop a new identity and redefine your life.

I think that’s the ‘R’ word for me: Redefine. I’ll get to do those things I always wanted to do but didn’t have time for when my focus was elsewhere.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “Not the ‘R’ word!

  1. Sherri

    ‘Retiring With Attitude’. I love it! And I’m sure you won’t ever ‘retire’ Norah. You are merely re-defining what you are going to do in the next stage of your life. I love your enthusiasm for life and the energy and vitality you bring to blogging and I’m sure all other aspects of your life. You are truly inspirational Norah, thank you for being wonderful you 🙂

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  2. lorilschafer

    Somehow I don’t see “retired” as a word that’s going to suit you – even after you stop working 😉 Seems to me you’ve got quite a few projects in process, and I for one look forward to seeing how those progress when you have more time to do them.

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  3. Bec

    How funny that retire is seen as a bad word! Maybe this is my youth-privilege speaking here (what a concept!) but retirement to me sounds like a wonderful state to be in. The opportunity to pursue joyful and fulfilling activities rather than having to work for a paycheck (because all the work for the paycheck has already been done). But I can see how you would feel like there are some threatening undertones to the sound of retirement given the way you explain it – seeing the links between nursing homes and so on. It is a shame that the retirement age isn’t viewed as an opportunity for fulfillment as you are viewing your redefinement, rather than being the waiting room which it seems to be. I have heard at some point in the past about how many retired people contribute a great amount to society through volunteerism – driving buses, spending time with catchment groups, helping in community organisations and so on. (As a contrast, I also am aware that there is a lot of volunteerism with working people too, and especially younger people given the trends toward interning e.g. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/unpaid-internships–rise-in-official-complaints-tip-of-the-iceberg-20140812-1035u7.html – perhaps this means there will be less of an opportunity for retirement for future generations). I also think it’s interesting the way our society embraces the concept of retirement – a bit like the long weekend at the end of the working career. But what are we without some form of drive to keep doing things? Perhaps people like yourself can start a movement to redefine retirement! Make it an age of exploration of ideas, happiness, and achievement. Perhaps post-retirement can be the waiting room 🙂 I certainly feel like the idea of being freed from work obligations would be a wondrous thing, and can’t imagine using the time to simply wait out the rest of existence. So perhaps this is why I see retirement as a great thing – but what I see is really what you describe as your redefinement! The opportunity to do what you want. How funny that labels drive so much of what we think we are. Thanks for the food for thought.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec, for your food for thought. I like your description of retirement as a time for “exploration of ideas, happiness and achievement”. I am happy for it to be all of those things. It is the “long weekend” attitude that I’m not so fond of; the opinion that I have nothing important to do with my time and that what I am doing is not worthwhile. I have things I want to achieve and now is the time I am setting aside to attempt that. I’m not having a holiday but I may have some more choice and flexibility with my time, and there’s not much of that left so I’d best get to it! I like what you say about labels. I have never been too keen on labeling learners, and you were never too keen on labels on clothing, so maybe here’s a new set of labels for us to ditch, eh? Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  4. Annecdotist

    Congratulations! Having followed your blog for about eighteen months, I get the sense that this has been a difficult process for you, but I’m pleased that you now feel ready to embrace the R-word, in whatever form, and devote more time to your own interests, which I’m sure will have a significant overlap with your previous employment.
    Purposeful activity is generally considered conducive to mental health (I did a small research project on it once) but this needn’t be through paid employment – our jobs take away some of the burden of choice, so without them we just need to be a bit more creative in spending our time in ways we value. You have so much enthusiasm and so much to offer I can’t see you stagnating!
    If you don’t like the R-word, perhaps you’d like to swap it for the J-word? As I told my colleagues at my own retirement party (at a ridiculously young age, but hey), the Spanish word for retired is jubilada (or jubilado for a man), which sounds much more jolly and lively, don’t you think?
    Look forward to following your preretirement path. Have you set a date?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your supportive comment, and for your support all along. What a friendship we’ve developed in 18 months. You understand me so well. I think that’s a good thing; and then at other times I’m not so sure. I am a Gemini, you know. 🙂
      The Spanish words for retirement do sound more jolly and lively. To us! I wonder if they do to the Spaniards! Or do they get caught up on their implication rather than sound as we do?
      I have set a date to finish my current employment *retire* (whisper whisper 26 June). I have already lined up a small part-time job to start after that, so I’ve not completely backed my way out of the paid workforce yet, but am doing no more than “allowed” and still be “officially” retired. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Perfect use of your time, Rosie. I know you have a lot to share and are doing so well. Good on you! So your ‘r’ word would be ‘reflection’. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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  5. TanGental

    It’s a word that often connotes a state of mind rather than a state if being. Changing jobs even careers doesn’t carry the stigma of retired. It’s basically a mix of ageism and earning snobbery. I left the law over four years and I refused the R word if the person using it meant I was somehow taking a backward step. I wanted the time to write. I could afford it. I just stopped being a lawyer but how many people throw the R word at me. Sod them. I’m now a writer. End of. I once worked in a hotel. And a bar. I never retired from those careers either. You change your working life and if it pays less or not at all, why does that justify such a loaded labelling?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Geoff. You said it beautifully. I wish I had expressed myself as clearly as you. For the past couple of years when I have been working (for an employer) part-time, I considered it just that – working part-time. I had worked part-time earlier in life when my children were small. It was always that: part-time. Now because I’m, you know, ‘that’ age, it is no longer part-time, it is semi-retired, according to others. Bah humbug! I’m working part-time for an employer (writing) and part-time writing for me. Soon I’ll be writing full-time for me. Bring it on! 🙂

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  6. Christy Birmingham

    I think it’s great how you put it that retirement is about changing your way of looking at the world and your interests. Yes, blogging is not as expensive a hobby as many others people take up, and it is good for you mind, as well as being an online social activity. Uplifting post!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Christy; Not to mention meeting all you wonderful people and having all these wonderful conversations. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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  7. Sarah Brentyn

    No way. I know people much younger than “retirement age” who have already retired. They love it. “Redefine” is a great word for it. Some have taken on hobbies they love full-time, others are just relaxing, enjoying life. It’s all in the attitude. 🙂

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  8. macjam47

    Redefine is much more appropriate. My grandfather “retired”. He got up, had his breakfast, took a leisurely walk while he huffed and puffed, watched television, and turned in early. Today many people are in fantastic physical condition, have many pursuits that were not thought of by our grandparents, or even our parents. What will you do with all the time? Ha! Your days will be shorter, but filled with all the things you enjoy. Even though I was a stay at home mom who spent my days volunteering at my children’s schools, our children’s hospital, supporting fund raising efforts for both, plus our church, and the sports my children participated in, not to mention the endless laundry, cleaning, cooking, taxiing, gardening, reading, and the list goes on and on, at sixty-eight my days are fuller than ever. I look around at my friends and acquaintances of about the same age, and I see that they, too, have charged into the “retirement age” with renewed vigor and purpose. Norah, please don’t look at ‘retirement’ as an end, but as a beginning. You have a lot to do.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Michelle. You are right. I do have a lot to do, and unfortunately there is less time ahead than there was before so I know I’m going to have to work hard to achieve my goals.
      You too have a lot to do and, as you say, you are busier than ever.
      You mention volunteering. I think this is a wonderful way for retirees to continue to contribute. The value of unpaid work cannot be overestimated in many areas. You mention a few e.g. schools, hospitals. I look forward to doing some of that – when I finish my work!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  9. Steven

    Being born in the mid 1970’s (to me, that is the “current” generation), I can offer some mid-field viewpoints on the subject. I have no evidence or reference for these viewpoints, they are only gut feelings and my own unsubstantiated projections.
    -the “older” generation: a work colleague who had retired remarked that they had less free time in retirement than they did while working. I suppose the inference was that with no formal work committments, the retired person gets a busier social life (establishing alternative committments).
    -the “current” generation: it seems like the social “pyramid scheme” is collapsing and governments are realising this. Retirement ages are increasing so as to encourage people to stay in the workforce for longer (to reduce the financial burden on the social support system). The proportion of population (older to younger) is increasing and with relatively fewer workers to retired, either less financial support can be given to the older, or the younger experience a more significant financial burden. I somewhat jokingly remark that I will leave the workplace in a box. It might not turn out to be true, but it probably won’t be too far from it (5 years or so?)
    -the “future” generation: if I joke about leaving the workforce in a box, then it seems my children certainly will; they will work until they die or will die from being unable to work. Prices will always increase, but housing affordability seems to be decreasing at a faster rate. Family sizes will remain small, under 2 children per couple. After half a lifetime of struggle paying multi-million dollar mortgages, some of the future generation will get a windfall, as the older and current generation fall in closer succession.
    -the “unborn” generation: the future generation get a second wind later in life. With the social pyramid scheme returned back to a base level, those in the future generation still able to concieve will produce their own baby boom. If that doesn’t happen for the future generation, it certainly will for the unborn generation. The unborn generation will live a little longer than the future generation and will get to experience some level of retirement (whatever that means).

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Steven,
      Thank you for sharing mid-field viewpoints, gut feelings and unsubstantiated projections. As a child of the mid-seventies, you must be about the same age as my son. 🙂 Funny (to me) because in our previous discussions I imagined you so much more mature than that. But now that I think about it, I don’t think one gets more “mature” than that; just older. 🙂 I decided when I was about 45 that, as I had not yet reached the level of wisdom I had expected to by that age, I might as well give up on the prospect of attaining it. When I was growing up I had thought adults knew what decisions to make and how to do things. It was quite a rude awakening to realize it was all an illusion, but it was also re-energizing. But I digress from your wonderful comment. Apologies.
      re ‘older’ generation – I think what you have described is the common perception of retirees and the one that I am not comfortable with. I have too much to do yet, too much I wish to contribute. I’m not ready to sit in the sun and sip tea yet. I need to be my own boss for a good many years.
      re ‘current’ generation – I quite like your description of the collapse of the ‘social pyramid scheme’. Is that your own projection? I haven’t heard that one before but I understand the implication. I hope you don’t leave the workplace in a box, and that you have more than 5 years after leaving it before you leave anywhere in a box. It is interesting though that there is so much talk about keeping people in the workforce, but there are not necessarily jobs for them to do. Dare I say our beloved technology is taking care of some of them. It is creating some too, I know. I think when the pension age was introduced people were expected to live only a few years beyond it, certainly not the 25 that many now are. I agree that it is probably unrealistic to expect to have a working life of 30 – 40 years (after university e.g.) and then 25+ years in “retirement” all expenses paid holiday. The gradual increase in retirement age is one small part of the solution, I think.
      – I don’t like the picture you paint for the ‘future’ generation. it is very bleak. I am not in favour of dystopian futures and I agree that we must take action to ensure the situation you have described does not eventuate. Achieving this will require having some very savvy people in positions of influence.
      – the ‘unborn’ generation? Won’t we have wiped ourselves out by then? Sorry. That’s a flippant response to your very detailed and thoughtful comment. It is interesting the way you have painted almost a cyclical/spiraling picture. I guess that’s how things go in many areas. The pendulum keeps swinging.
      I very much appreciate that you took the time and interest to comment so thoughtfully on this post. You have certainly given me something/s to think about.

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      1. Steven

        Sorry it sounded progressively bleaker but I guess the point I was trying to make was that there is some cyclicality to this (and you’ve obviously picked it up with the “pendulum” idea). It is going to get worse for some as time go on, but it will reach a tipping point and revent back the other way. It’s not all bad; the unborn will probably have large families again.
        Last year I attended a conference and a guest speaker was Paul Clithero. It was a thoughtful speech in which he argued that you don’t need complex computer models to predict the future/markets, just your own logic and thought. He did also give some insights about the history of retirement. I got some of my ideas from him and used his logical projections idea when I was responding to your post.
        You are indeed correct about the age pension. Paul explained that when it was established in Australia, most people didn’t even live long enough to get it. Those that did qualify were only lucky enough to live for a couple of years before passing away themselves. This is where I describe the “social pyramid scheme” (yes, I coined the term – or at least did so independently).
        With advances in health, we have been living longer and longer, but with little change to retirement age, more and more people creep into the pension. Today, no government in their right mind would, for example, set the pension age to 90, but my guess is that it is probably a modern-day equivalent to the age that was set when it first established. Most people would protest at this (and indeed I’d like a shot at it as well), but perhaps in another 80 years or so, the average lifespan might be 95 giving the average person 5 years of “retirement”.
        All this, and we haven’t even accounted for the impact of the end of the fossil fuels or the “wiped ourselves out” aspect (I heard you chuckle as you typed that). One thing is certain – it is going to be an interesting future.
        Thanks for your interesting reply and wishing you that your “retirement” will be a full and productive one.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you Steven for once again replying with such depth and insight.
          Paul Clithero is a great speaker. He shares information with clarity and “common” sense that anyone is able to understand. I used to enjoy watching his segments on a television show back in the 90s. I followed some of his advice at the time, which I haven’t regretted.
          I’m pleased your reference to the pyramid scheme was of your own creation. I think I said in my previous comment that it is rather apt.
          The thought of retirement at ninety sounds cruel. I guess it will take a generation or two to change that attitude. However I do intend to work for as long as I possibly can, though not necessarily for an employer. There’s too much to do and learn to stop now. I think what many people find frustrating with their working lives is that it takes up most of their time and they have little left to pursue other things that interest them. Some seem to get the balance right while others never do. I have no solution to the problem. As I said, I am yet to attain that pinnacle of wisdom! 🙂
          I wasn’t really chuckling about wiping ourselves out. I think that’s a dreadful thought. But that’s a whole different topic and the younger members of my family are more knowledgeable in that area than I. I do try to be a meliorist about all of these things. It is with hope for the future that we struggle on, I guess.
          Thanks for your “retirement” wishes. I hope so too! 🙂

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