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Why we lie about being retired

Do we really lie about being retired?

I recently came across the article why we lie about being retired on the BBC website. Were they accusing me? I had to click the link to see what lies they thought I might be telling.

My take is that their reference to lying is pretty thin. The main premise being that an internet search for "retirement" turns up a bunch of images that many find is not matched by reality, ergo it's a lie. It was a catchy title, it made me click on it, but I'm not convinced the main thrust of the article was really lying about retirement.

Once past the clickbait title, the article touched on topics ranging from pointers on how to give retirement the best chance of success to why we struggle to describe what we do/who we are in retirement. It's a surface scratch more than a deep dive on the subjects, but I've picked out some of the quotes that I found interesting and added some of my own thoughts.

"While retirement might start off in a blaze of well-deserved relaxation the novelty can soon wear off". I get this, the first weeks/months of my early retirement were a little like being on holiday, something we can't expect to last. But it's hardly an insurmountable issue - the trick is to know that this initial phase is temporary and to have plans in place for the time period after. That said, those early weeks are a nice way to start retirement, so don't be embarrassed to enjoy them.

Some of my early retirement planning

"People think of planning for retirement as a financial exercise, and that's all. It also needs to be a psychological and relationship exercise as well". 100% correct. In planning terms, the financial side is almost the simpler part - there's some math and some assumptions to be dealt with, sure they're not easy, but once they're done, they're done. The planning around the questions of what will I do, will I be bored and will I be lonely are far more difficult as we have to try to imagine what our future life might look like. Because it's difficult, we may not focus on this area of the planning. As my friend says, time on reconnaissance (planning) is rarely wasted (although he normally says this only after something has gone wrong!).

"We need to think about who we will be - who we want to be when our formal career ends. The people in our study who do that, tend to have a smoother transition". This sounds like another way of saying that it works better if you make a plan. Although I'm going to put this into the kind of obvious category, it is another reminder that the planning should be much more than a purely financial exercise.

"When retirees are asked how they described themselves they will usually say, 'I'm a retired librarian' or 'I'm a retired educator' or 'I'm a retired research chemist'. They will still have that profession tacked onto who they are". It's true, and I'm sometimes guilty of this. Partly because if I say "I'm retired", what does that mean? It infers that I used to have a job, but it doesn't say what I do now.

Thinking of what I actually spend my time doing, I'm a part-time blogger, traveller, exerciser, administrator with a little bit of socialising and a few other things thrown in too. It's a bit of a mouthful, but why don't I just start saying that? I ran this past Sally who agreed it sums up what I do but she says it makes me sound like a "bit of a bum" - her exact words! I guess that's part of the problem, it's the person receiving our description who doesn't "get" the being retired bit, and we try to modify our answer to make it manageable for them.

"Work is the main source of a meaningful existence for most people...For almost everybody work is essential to play a role in the discovery of new things...The world of work is a dynamic place and it's a fantastic place for testing yourself and showing what you can do, achieving and discovering and exploring". My take is that this is a load of baloney. For a start, I'm pretty certain the article is assuming that "work" means having a job. A dictionary definition of work is to be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a result. I'm not disputing that you can get these things from a job, but a job isn't the only option. I've designed my early retirement days to include various physical and mental activities that I work hard at and that are important to me. I'm determined to make my retirement testing and dynamic and to achieve, discover and explore new things, and I'm equally determined that I don't need an employer to make this come true. In some ways, having a job is easier as someone tells you where to go, what times to be there and what to do, but these things can also be restrictive. In retirement we have to design our own "work" which can be difficult to do, but it can also come with less restrictions and more freedoms.

"What I find very important is to try to take advantage of life, not to waste opportunities. I think it is very important to have a vocation and be able to materialize it". Taking advantage of life and not wasting opportunities is very much my mindset, but I don't have to work a job to do this.

So that's my take on the article. The clickbait title about lying was, well, clickbait, but beyond that there was some interesting food for thought.


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