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August 22, 2008

The Retirement Process

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

As has often been noted on this blog, it's tough times in the old-media biz. One after another, companies whipsawed by the digital revolution are reorganizing processes and shedding staff. Announcements about layoffs and other spasms appear in the press almost weekly.

One recent victim of these developments has been yours truly. Or should I say "beneficiary" instead of "victim"?

In brief: The company where I worked for decades recently ran a buyout program, offering a package of enticements to the aged and the deadwood (that'd be me) in an attempt to get them to leave voluntarily. Translation into English: My employer let its long-term employees know that they'd throw a bunch of money at us to go, and that such an offer wasn't likely to come around again for a long time.

Not only was the writing on the wall, the wall was closing in. After treating myself to a good long think about the offer -- of the duration of, say, a few deep breaths -- I headed upstairs and handed in my acceptance. For a couple of months now, in fact, I've been a free man.

Don't feel too envious of me. The dough thrown at me to go wasn't gigantic. It wasn't even big. And the benefits package given to me is certainly nothing I'm gonna sneeze at, but it doesn't really come to a lot. True, barring a worldwide calamity, The Wife and I will never have to work again -- and we're only in our mid-50s. But in order to maintain our freedom we'll be living like college kids.

OK, now that you mention it, it is a little like winning a small Lotto jackpot, or maybe winding up with that small trust fund we all dream of inheriting. OK, now that you mention it, you can envy me a little bit. OK, now that you mention it: I wake up every morning, think to myself, "I don't have to go to the office today," and smile in deep self-satisfaction.

I found the process of retiring quite interesting. From the first rumors of the buyout to now, it has been more than six months.

It has been such a distinctive and weird stretch of time in fact that The Wife and I have decided that someone somewhere should make a movie about such a process. Easy, good, out-there-for-the-taking title: "The Buyout." It's an idea rich with opportunities for ensemble acting, for sociological and psychological observation, and for satire, let me tell you. And it'd certainly be timely. Robert Altman, where are you now that we need you?

A few observations about the retirement process:

Have you heard of the expression "short-timer"? A "short-timer" is someone who's still at work even though he has already made other arrangements.

I believe the term originated in the military. Gustav Hasford used the expression as the title of his 'Nam novel "The Short Timers," which became the basis for Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket." A friend who was in the Korean War tells me that the expression was used in the Army back in the early '50s too. If you know anything more about the history of the expression, please share your info in the Comments.

Being a short-timer is, in any case, a fun if exasperating experience. It's fun because -- although you're still employed, still getting paid, and still showing up -- you don't really give a damn any longer. Why should you? Practically speaking, you're just wiling away the time until your scheduled day of departure arrives. It's exasperating because you still have to show up.

Normally a person's period of short-timing runs for maybe two weeks -- enough of a stretch to gloat and say goodbyes, but not good for much more than that.

In my case, the stretch between the day I turned in my acceptance of the buyout and the day I left the building once and for all ran for nearly three months.

That was 'way too long a period for a mere farewell tour. The time crawled, and in a slightly purgatorial way. Each day I arrived at work, sat at my desk, and held my head. The Big Decision had already been made, I was on my way out. I couldn't help feeling: What on earth was I still doing on the job?

My body continued to report in for duty, in other words, while my spirit had abandoned the job the instant I handed in my acceptance.

I found it completely bizarre that my bosses expected me not just to show up but to continue to perform. Had no one ever told them about the short-timer effect? I'd attend meetings, listen to plans, take note of orders -- and think, "They have got to be kidding. They can't expect me to care about any of this, can they?"

After all, even basic work chores require at least a soupcon of tenacity and drive to accomplish. You may not care deeply about them -- but since you do care about being employed, you're able to channel some of your personal resources into accomplishing what your boss wants done.

Once you're a short-timer, though, that lust (or need) to be employed evaporates. So your will to do any work at all vanishes. I ambled through my duties in the most lackadaisical fashion imaginable. Time dragged in the worst imaginable way.

It was ... it was like your last month in high school or college. Everything's settled, everything's over. Yet you're still expected to report to class. Metaphysically speaking: Why?

(I should note here that, so far as work goes, I have always been a bit of a weirdo, at least in career-obsessed America's terms. Once I outgrew a youthful desire to make movies, I found that I had zero career ambitions. Employmentwise, my goal has always been "a bearable job," "a middle-class income," and "as much time as possible to enjoy life and pursue interests." As a consequence, despite the number of years that I spent employed by one and only one company, I had few emotions -- and no ego or dreams -- caught up in the place. I understand, if dimly, that this may not be most people's experience of work ... )

So I mainly spent my short-timing stretch trying to be Zen about it and taking note of the buyout spectacle around me.

Two things struck me strongly.

  • Some people really are careerizing assholes. When you stop being "a staffer" and start being "someone who isn't going to be here much longer," colleagues' attitudes towards you change.

    In my case, 80% of the people I worked with became more rounded, more human. We were no longer just work drones, dealing with each other instrumentally. Now we were people who had shared a lot of time and adventures together -- classmates in the School of Life, basically. Big Topics were enthusiastically launched into in conversation. Goals, plans, and personal passions were compared. Expressions of gratitude and fondness weren't in short supply.

    Most people are people first, in other words. A few people, though ... Well, I'd known they were assholes before, and they now did brilliant jobs of vindicating my judgment. In their eyes, once it became known that I was on my way out, I simply vanished. I may still have been physically present but -- being of no potential use to them any longer -- I dropped entirely off their radar screen.

    It was quite incredible how their attitude manifested itself. Passing by me in the halls, they looked right through me.

    For a few weeks I amused myself by forcing them to acknowledge me. Taking note of my presence clearly required them to overcome soaring mountains of ego and raging torrents of irritation -- and wasn't it good fun to make them endure such agonies? Then messing with them stopped being amusing. What did any of this matter to me after all? Assholes will be assholes. Big deal.

  • "What are you going to do with yourself?" As someone who was thrilled to receive the buyout offer, I was surprised beyond words by the number of colleagues who were thrown into a state of agony by it. Should they take it or shouldn't they? Long after I'd happily turned in my acceptance, I was having conversations with colleagues who were wrestling with huge feelings of wariness, fear, and even bitterness.

    What surprised me most wasn't that people might be of two minds. What surprised me most was the one question that kept coming up over and over again -- it was evidently the question that most tormented them: "What am I going to do with myself?" And, once they learned that I'd accepted the buyout: "But do you know what you're going to do with yourself?" And said in an anxious, concerned tone that presupposed we shared this common concern.

    I was taken aback because work for me has been something that too often got in between me and what I enjoy doing. I have always had tons of interests out there in the world, while I always felt next to no interest in my job. Though I did try to be open to learning from it ...

    Given my background, it always seemed me this way: Work's work. It's something that needs to be done. No one throws money at you to have fun. What you want to do ... Well, that's something to take care of (or not) on your own damn time.

    Where work went, my "career" goal was to minimize the time I spent on the job and the amount of skin it removed from my back. I had a little success in these terms, I'm proud to say. Sticking around one company as long as I did, I watched my annual vacation time grow. By the time I retired, I was entitled to six weeks of it a year. Yes!

    But my main "career" triumph was this: Once, when I'd been offered a raise, I bargained with the company. Let me do my job in four days a week, I proposed, and you can keep the raise-money. They went for it -- and for the last 20 years I was paid a fulltime salary for working a four-day week. Double-yes!

    So my response when friends asked, "Do you know what you're going to do with yourself?" was "Of course I do! I've been dying to get out of this place for years!"

    What I gleaned from their worries, though, was much more interesting than my own response was. Although many of them weren't ambitious people intent on realizing themselves at the workplace -- many of them were, like me, "job" people and not "career" people -- they nonetheless had experienced "having a job at our shared place of employment" very differently than I had. Where I'd put up with it in order to lead an arty-guy life, they'd been kinda into it. Their jobs had made them feel useful and needed. They'd even been proud of their work. Imagine that!

    Incidentally, how on earth do people manage to work five days a week, year after year? I had to do it myself a few times in recent years, and each time the experience left me poleaxed with exhaustion and consternation.

    Saturday? You're good for nothing but recuperating. Sunday? You have the wherewithal to get some necessary life-chores out of the way and maybe -- maybe -- enjoy a nice meal. Monday? You're back at work. When are you expected to do any living? Let alone pursue any interests?

    In any case: Having so many "Do you know what you're going to do with yourself?" conversations made me have a bit of a wrestle with the idea of karma -- basically the fate that you've been assigned on entering this world.

    For whatever reason, my karma hasn't involved the conjoining of "doing what interests me" and "getting paid for it." (Back here, I wrote a bit about having been steered strongly in the direction of being a "smart kid" despite having a completely un-smart-kid-like temperament. A bad fit, lemme tellya ...) Why had this particular fate been handed to me? And why had it taken so very long for me to understand that it was indeed my karma, or at least a major aspect of it? Sigh: I should really have done a much better job of contending with it than I have ...

Suddenly, after all the dillydallying, only ten days of employment remained. Then I was in the middle of my final week. Personal effects had to be hauled home. Final forms needed filling out and signing. Parties and lunches needed to be attended. Hugs, handshakes, and personal email addresses needed exchanging.

These days I'm a gen-u-wine retiree. To be honest, though, it hasn't sunk in yet, not really. I'm still figuring out some of the basics of retiree life. Are payments for medical coverage being automatically deducted from my pension checks? When I have one of my clueless questions, who do I contact back at my former employer? Since half the Human Resource staff also chose to take the buyout, this last has proven to be a puzzler.

The Wife and I have traveled a bit. But -- although we have enjoyed our freedom to fly midweek -- our trips have in truth felt a little more like "vacation" than like "something we're freely doing with our time," which is what I assume travel feels like to an experienced retiree.

We've also been busy-busy-busy. First we helped bring out our webseries. Then we buckled down and produced an audiobook of a raunchy satirical epic that we've co-written, a project that entailed weeks and weeks of picky, dedicated work in an audio studio. (The results will be going on sale soon, we swear.) We were applying focus and concentration ... We were contending with deadlines and budgets ... My first couple of months free of employment have felt like anything but retirement.

Only in the last week have things finally settled down to the point where I'm able to take a little stock of my new life.

Verdict: Retirement is good. It's indeed very very good. It's even a bit like making it to the Promised Land. What a joy to be able to do as we please, even if our thin wallets do need constant taking into account. And -- oh yeah -- which day of the week is it anyway?

I find that in a few tiny and to me funny ways I've begun to think like a retiree. I keep track of bargains. I look for reasons not to spend money, and I enjoy figuring out how to live on less than we used to. I feel indignant when political candidates don't treat inflation as the hyper-important topic that it is. Don't they know what it is to live on a fixed income, dammit? Soon I'll be taking The Wife out to dinner at Early Bird Specials.

The biggest surprise, though, has been the effect retirement has had on my blogging. Some of the fire in me has receded. I have the same eagerness to meet people and to enjoy company -- and the same delight at taking part in the blogosphere -- that I have always had. But the drive to turn observations and experiences into paragraphs of provocative (I hope) and amusing (I hope) prose ... Well, that has by and large left me. Hence the many linkathons that I've been posting. Linkathons are EZ blogging.

I think I've figured out why this has happened. It's for two reasons:

  • I used to do most of my blogging at work. The digital workplace is an odd thing, don't you find? In my case, anyway, computerization led to a certain choppiness of tempo. Loads of things would demand my attention ... And then there'd be a chunk of time when there was nothing whatsoever to do. I wasn't goofing off; time was just a big nothing. Like zillions of other officeworkers, I thought, "Why not kill the time until the next flurry of activity with websurfing?" It wasn't long before that question was replaced with "Why not fill my office deadtime with blogging?"

  • A lot of what I've done on the blog has involved expressing my mild exasperation with life in the media world. This is what these people are like. This is what this world is like. This is how you're being badly served by it ...

Well, I no longer spend any time -- dead or not -- at the office. And I no longer have any reason to put up with, or bitch about, life in the media world. I'm free -- free! -- of both afflictions. And one thing this has meant is that many of the energies and circumstances that made my previous blogging possible are now gone from my life.

I didn't see that one coming.

Eager to continue blogging, and grateful as ever to be taking part in 2Blowhards. But I'm also enjoying a few other, less-ambitious web-hobbies: keeping a Tumblr blog and noodling around on Facebook, for instance. Hey, if you're on FB too, send an email to me at michaelblowhard at gmail. Let's swap names and let's Friend each other. I didn't get social networking at first, but now I'm really digging it!

Status Update: Michael Blowhard is retired. And he's feeling mellow, giddy, and a little confused. But in a good way.



posted by Michael at August 22, 2008


Wow, what an unexpectedly personal and thought-provoking post, Mr. Blowhard.

I have been a short-timer at every job I've ever had, even on the first day! It's been my way of telling the universe that I hate working.

It's interesting that your increased free time has subdued your urge to blog. If irritation was your muse, it's only natural that you would experience apathy (or writer's block.)

I urge you to keep writing, and to resist complacency. If nothing else, I hope you'll blog about the Senior breakfast as Denny's. I always order it in Barstow on the way to Las Vegas and it's a great deal! xo

Posted by: Sister Wolf on August 22, 2008 3:23 AM

Congratulations, Michael! I do indeed envy you. We are very much alike in our attitudes to work. You expressed my sentiments exactly when you said, " for me has always been something that tended strongly to get between me and what I actually want to do". Preach it, Brother Michael!

I work in one of the Big Four tax and accounting firms, and I have made many of the same observations you made in this article. The asshole careerists, the absolute pleasure some people seem to find in being stuck in the office all day, every day, including weekends, the absolute terror some people have of not knowing what to do with themselves when not working - all of it is a source of befuddlement for me. I know it is probably just part of the territory for any corporate Dilbert-like work like mine, but still - Yikes!

Keep up the great blogging - when you feel like it. Live forever, Michael!

Posted by: Laikastes on August 22, 2008 3:24 AM

I went through the buyout process, too. I'm curious, Michael, don't the money problems interrupt the fun?

No way my buyout is going to provide me with long term security. Six weeks after my buyout, I went back to work as a consultant. I want something more than just being able to pay the mortgage. If you received a benefits package, you are one lucky retiree. For most of us, it's just cash.

I'm somewhere between the committed workaholic and your view. Working gives me a sense of purpose. Certainly, I like to focus on playing and writing music. Since I'm in the new media, I don't feel like I'm in a dying business as I think that you did. My work genuinely interests me. The intellectual challenge is constant.

I've seen too many people who retired, then slipped into aimlessness and depression. The social interaction of work, as you noted, is often irritating and stupid, but we're like animals in the jungle. We're kept alive and energetic by the battle for survival with the assholes.

So, I don't know. I'm older than you and I expect to work for at least another 5 to 7 years. First, I see it as an absolute financial necessity. And, second, working keeps me out there in the world. The music biz doesn't really do that to the extent necessary.

The sporadic nature of consulting means that I gave up my second residence in NYC, and this is not entirely a positive. Myrna and I always had an apartment in the city and our house in the country. That's no longer financially possible. I'm stuck out in the country far too much. Visiting my clients in the city and in Jersey, and playing music gets me out of the house or I'd be dying.

So, I'm bought out but I'm not retired. Maybe I'll change my mind. Maybe I'll run out of work and have no choice. So, I'm sort of in the same situation, but I have a different outlook. Right now, I'm learning a new programming language to enhance my employment opportunities (i.e., increase my rates).

My mother lost her union factory job when she was in her late 50s. She earned her LPN at a junior college when she was 63. She's now in her 80s and she continues to work two to three days a week. That, to me, seems like a pretty workable and admirable plan. If it becomes impossible to continue to work in media, I might do the same thing. That work presents the added advantage of serving peoples' basic needs.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 22, 2008 6:20 AM

And, Michael:

Why aren't you getting up at 5 a.m. to argue with me? My inner alarm goes off somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00.

I'm already of fan of the Early Bird Special. Father Rod and I occasionally hit a great one at an Italian restaurant in Elmwood Park, NJ. What a load of food! Be there by 4:30 p.m. or you won't get a table.

It's 6:23 a.m. and I'm ready for a fight. Where are you?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 22, 2008 6:24 AM

Congratulations. I took a kind of retirement at age 56 and never regretted it.

"What will you do with yourself" has never been a problem, but I've found that without an imposed schedule and with no urgency, I tend to procrastinate even on things I've always wanted to do. I had been relying on external forces to organize my day. Not an insoluble problem, though.

Posted by: John Emerson on August 22, 2008 8:31 AM

Congratulations! You will NOT be bored. A few years ago we were almost in your position and we couldn't find enough time for all the things we liked to do- I only help we'll be there again.

Posted by: Steve Bodio on August 22, 2008 8:52 AM

Uh-- that would be "hope" not help. It is not yet 7 AM here.

Posted by: Steve Bodio on August 22, 2008 8:53 AM

I've long suspected that many of the folks who become dedicated careerists do so because they don't really have any other interests. That's been my experience, in any event.

I, too, share Michael's viewpoint that jobs are jobs, and that they're mostly a necessary evil we put up with in order to pay the bills. To me, this seems a reasonable, even healthy, way to look at things, even if it means that we it's-just-a-job folks have to endure a near-lifetime's worth of toil that has no meaning beyond the ability to earn a paycheck.

But I don't talk about this attitude a whole lot, because people tend to think you're a loser if you tell them about it. Especially young middle to upperclass women, for whom getting good grades, going to grad school, and "having a career" have taken on the characteristics of a spiritual quest. Try telling a girl like that that you have no interest in grad school. You'll get a look that's somewhere between bafflement and derision. You might as well tell her you have no interest in voting!

Anyway, congratulations, Michael. Sounds like fun.

Posted by: Ron on August 22, 2008 9:14 AM

Hey, Ron... I have absolutely no interest in voting.

I'm not even registered.

I haven't decided yet whether I dislike Obama enough to register to vote for McCain, who I know I don't dislike quite as much.

Yes, when will the women get the message that very few of us work at jobs that provide spiritual fulfillment? Feminism really is a load of crap, isn't it?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 22, 2008 9:29 AM

I happend to have had a line of work that I was good at and was able to decorate the teepee with professional achievement scalps. But when I got into my second gig at Washington State's budget shop, I knew I had no likely prospect of advancement. So it was 12 years of hitting my deadlines and bringing home money to put kids through college, travel in Europe and all that. I was eager to hang it up several years before I actually did.

Also, even though (back in the day) I was considered (by those in my sub-field) a top-notch demographer, I always felt I was better at and more interested in other things.

So retiring was easy. Perhaps if my demographic data business had prospered, I might have developed one of those work/identity conflations preventing a pleasant retirement.

As I must have mentioned before, I find retirement a lot like life was in grad school: you have to get a few tasks done each day or week, but otherwise you fill your time as you please.

And Michael -- glad that you want to hang onto 2Blowhards, even with a minor web-personality adjustment.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on August 22, 2008 9:41 AM

No excuse anymore not to write the great American novel. Or better yet, film the great American indie. Or buy a beat up Winnebago and travel around America for a year. Heck, why limit yourself to America, why not drive to Tierra Del Fuego? On the other hand lying back in a hammock's nice too.

Have fun, amigo.

Posted by: ricpic on August 22, 2008 10:05 AM

Belated congratulations, Michael. Good to hear that the sporadic posting was due to time on your hands and not due to health issues. Now you've got time to really get to know your inner curmudgeon. I'm sure the fire you've always had will be shortly turned back on high. There's enough idiotic things happening out in the world to replace the frustrations of the media land you've left. And just because you're no longer indentured to the Media Man, doesn't mean you still can't write about the Media with the laser wit and insight that you've always displayed.

Posted by: DarkoV on August 22, 2008 11:01 AM

Don't retire. It will kill you. Start up a mow and blow service. Paint apartments. Write novels. Write your memoirs. Deliver pizzas. Create sculpture. Go on trying to earn money. It will keep you interested and keep you living. Do whatever you damn well please. But DO! When brain rot sets in, it's hard to reverse.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on August 22, 2008 11:41 AM

Ah, Michael, you have limned my whole attitude to work with perfect clarity and completeness. I have never had any career ambition at all, no "fire in the belly" about work EVER. I have always felt alienated from mainstream Canadian society because I have never wanted a career, house or family. I've always felt alone in those non-desires, but now I see I am not. Now I know why I've always liked you, Michael.

You'll have no problem with brain-rot in retirement. As for your blogging, you know Parkinson's Law: work expands to fill the time alloted to it. Blogging isn't only work for you, but it is a bit. And now that you don't have something worse to mask that "worky" bit about blogging, it's there right up front. After all, you now have lots of time for even more fun things, don't you? Blogging was the best way to take breaks from work (and look like you were working...admit it, Michael! No Solitaire stuff on your computer screen, nothing for your bosses to see over your shoulder...admit it!). Now it's the closest thing to work you may have, at least when you're at your computer.

I hope it doesn't affect 2Blowhards, but I do find I get more worky stuff done the busier I am, not the reverse. Keep coming here, you! I don't what I'd do without you.


Posted by: PatrickH on August 22, 2008 12:23 PM

Everyone over 50 got an offer at our place. My department head wouldn't release me at my suggested date, but agreed that I could go a year later. So I was semi-detached for about 15 months; very productive months, they turned out to be. Then I was immediately hired back for 3 months for a few hours per week in the winter of '08. Then I was offered rather more part-time for Spring/Early Summer; I declined, pointing out that those are outdoor months. And that, I suspect, is that.

Posted by: dearieme on August 22, 2008 3:17 PM

Here you go dude: Link.

Posted by: Brian on August 22, 2008 3:25 PM

Interesting. Maybe blogging opened up the mental space for your other projects, and, now that you have more time, you can devote yourself to those projects? You don't need the blogging anymore. It's primed you.

I used to use my old blog to deal with the unhappiness of my old life at my old job, and now that I moved and have a job I do like, I don't really need a blog like that anymore. I don't feel the old urge to emote in that way anymore, if you see what I mean.

Funny. I guess blogging can be a displacement activity, eh?

Posted by: MD on August 22, 2008 4:09 PM

Great post, and congratulations!

Posted by: jonathanjones02 on August 22, 2008 5:37 PM

In the Army, they have acronyms. FYBIGMO stands for "Fuck you buddy, I've got my orders"...

Posted by: dave.s. on August 22, 2008 8:36 PM

It's wonderful that you got to retire, Michael. I did a few years ago and have never regretted it. I feel like a king every time I reflect on the fact of not having to show up to some office at all, let alone every day. What motivated me to strive towards young retirement was a dread of decades more of working, working, working. I can imagine being passionate about work if it was highly creative and autonomous, but how many people are that lucky? Perhaps a few tens of thousands worldwide?

I do feel listless enough sometimes to think about doing some sort of work again, but, for me, that's a malady that soon passes. I stay stimulated by tending my pile of potatoes and by surfing the net; great gawd, what a delightful thing, reading material without end and free to boot.

I can identify with your newfound attention to bargain-shopping. That's a great pastime with me, figuring out new ways to reduce expenses. One way: leave the States! Radical, but in combination with a prudent choice of locale, a quite potent means of cutting one's overhead to the bone.

One thing that does make me concerned for my fellow young retirees is the question of how long the US dollar will last. It's now 37 years old, the all-time record for a fiat currency. Of course, for a fiat currency to be treated as the global standard of value is also historically unprecedented. Given the surreal amounts of debt/obligations Washington is piling up (see the new documentary IOUSA), how long can the dollar avoid cratering? I don't know, but it seems frightfully unlikely to me that it will last as long as most of our tickers will.

For heaven's sake I hope you have a good chunk of money in commodity investments, including nature's politician-proof yellow currency. Being elderly, flat busted, and reliant on a bankrupt military empire for one's survival would be very unfun.

Posted by: Poseidon on August 22, 2008 10:06 PM

Good for you MB!

I'm nowhere near your age, but I had a stretch of four months of voluntary unemployment where I got laid off and wasn't looking for a new job. It was quite nice for about a month or two, but then it began to grate on me a lot. I really need something to do where I accomplish something tangible. Its just me, I guess.

My experience with retirement comes through seeing others who are retired, like my dad and co-workers. Usually the co-workers were all hyped up about retirement. Then they were back at work (albiet part-time) within two years. Money and boredom. My dad retired at 62 and was back working within two or three years. It does keep people vital and interested in life around them.

I don't know what your experience will be in 6 or 12 months time, people are so different. But enjoy it to the hilt nonetheless.

As for your live to work or work to live, I'm probably in the middle. I think people work too much, and that the govt. takes too much of what they produce. I also agree wholeheartedly with the observation that 5 days of work per week is too much. I work four days. That extra day off is truly magic. But like I said, if I'm out of work too long, I want back in. Less work , but still work for me.


Posted by: BIOH on August 23, 2008 12:51 PM

Seems to me that this debate is applying somewhat restrictive meanings to 'work' and 'retirement'. In a narrow reading, 'work' is what you have to do to make a buck for most of your life and 'retirement' is when you stop that, and hope you don't get bored.

In another reading, 'work' is the process of exerting effort in the engagement with life (paid or not, employed or not), and 'retirement' is simply slowing that process down, at whatever pace seems right. What make this a binary thing when continuous will do?

Under the second reading, you've been working at something you love for some time Michael, and may it continue. Your voice is unique. It will be missed even if it just clicks down a bit rather than vanishes, but if that's the case so be it. We'll keep reading.

For the record I write this as someone who has spent a lot of time, and gotten a lot of satisfactions and money, from my day jobs. No problem there--in fact I am happy that has been my lot. I have no need to 'retire' in the first sense of the word. But I do worry about how to drop out of an employment market that has actually been a source of satisfaction, and to successfully 'retire' in the second sense.

Posted by: Fenster Moop on August 23, 2008 9:35 PM


Great post. Really, this is a terrific post.

It also feels quite timely, because my wife and I have been talking about what it would take to retire.

Posted by: James on August 24, 2008 12:36 PM

I'm 57, and semi-retired.

I own my own business now, as a consultant, and work about 8 hours a week. I could work a hell of a lot more hours, but don’t feel like it.

My wife and I are financially secure enough, after decades of "real" work, to where we don't need to worry about income anymore. (My wife is also retired, at age 54).

We wake up when we want to, go to sleep when we want. We no longer own alarm clocks. No more battling rush hour. No more having to put up with people you don’t like. (I have terrific clients. The one client who was kind of a jerk—I dropped him. Nice to have that option.)

Mary and I watch classic DVR'd movies during the morning. I "commute" upstairs for an hour and a half each day, then we work in our garden, prepare elaborate meals, sit at our breakfast nook table, or out in our garden, sharing a beer, and just talk. I've never been happier.

It's so great to no longer be a wage slave.

Posted by: Ralph Robert Moore on August 25, 2008 7:50 PM

Ralph, you live the life that many people dream of living. I envy you. Congratulations to you and your wife for achieving a civilized way of life.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 25, 2008 11:34 PM

I weep with envy.

Especially since, with an 11 year old in the house, I'm tied up here until she finishes college. Color me 70.

I have two comforts. One, there is zero chance of me advancing any further here so I have, essentially, a decade of short timing ahead. Two, I can honestly say that I don't hate this job significantly worse than I did when I walked through the door twenty years ago.

I'm good to go.

Posted by: Sluggo on August 28, 2008 12:43 PM

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