Now that I’ve been retired for six months, I’ve noticed some trends when chatting with people who are learning for the first time that I am retired. Almost invariably I get the following questions and/or thoughts.
- When did you retire? This is a straight-forward, easy-to-answer question to which I’m happy to reply honestly.
- How old are you? What?!!? This is not a question I’d ask anybody, no matter how curious I might be. But it seems to be considered fair game once one retires. To put the most positive spin on this, maybe they think I look far too young to retire. But if that were true, why am I now automatically given the senior discount? I can’t help but think people are just nosy. My response depends on the questioner. Sometimes I answer truthfully, but usually I just say “not quite full retirement age”. I am tempted to say “none of your business”, but then I do try to make kindness my default mode.
- Didn’t you want to keep working to increase the amount of your Social Security benefit? No! My freedom and mental and physical health are worth far more to me than the venti latte I could buy with the few extra dollars I might get from Social Security each month.
- Are you enjoying retirement? Yes! This is an easy and fun question to answer, although I am tempted to say “just look at this happy face and tell me what you think.”
- Do you miss going to work every day? No! Although I enjoyed my career, it wasn’t my life’s passion. I miss some of the people, but I still see them regularly outside the work setting. I don’t miss the work and I don’t miss the daily grind.
- What do you do all day? I used to enumerate enthusiastically the things I do now. But people don’t really seem interested in that detail, so I have taken to just saying “whatever I want”. This question is almost always followed by the next one in this list.
- What could you be doing all day? When my list of activities doesn’t measure up to what the questioner feels is a worthy use of time, they spend mental energy trying to decide what I should be doing. “You could do volunteer work, take classes, get a part-time job, take up sky-diving,” etc. etc. etc. While I appreciate thoughtful suggestions, I don’t appreciate the implication that I am being lazy and/or wasting my time. I’m having a blast! Please remember the joy of my response when I answered the “are you enjoying retirement” question.
- What time do you go to bed/get up? This question amazed me the first time I got it, and I’ve gotten it several times since then. Seriously? Why would you ask this? This is another question I’d never think to ask someone. If the inquirer seems genuinely interested or like they are gathering information to help them mentally prepare for retirement, I answer honestly. If they just seem intrusively nosy, I use a variation on my response to the “what do you do all day” question—whenever I want.
- I wish I could retire. Often jealousy prevents people from being pleased for me that I have been able to retire. For forty-plus years I wished I could retire too. But I’ve more than paid my dues and saved enough to sustain myself in retirement, so I don’t feel the least bit guilty for having retired. I respond to these people that their time will come and encourage them to save what they can and think about what they will want to do in retirement so that they are fiscally and mentally prepared when their time comes. Because their time will come.
I shall continue to entertain such questions with grace and humor. After all, it’s a privilege to be voluntarily retired. Life truly is more than good – it’s fabulous!
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