‘Howdy, Beautiful!’ my friend
of four decades shouted from snow country,
thousands of miles away. "Been watchin’ your website for years and I read all
your stories. Love ‘em. But I thought you were retired!"
How many times over the
twenty-plus years since we left the conventional work force have we heard that
challenge? Our responses have ranged from surprised silence to justification of
our volunteer work, to just laughing out loud.
a popular website,
photograph our travels and share our lifestyle adventures with people like you.
Some think that by doing this, we have somehow become unfit to call ourselves
Today I would like to pose this
question to you: "Once you leave the mainstream labor-for-paycheck world and
become financially independent, aren’t you free to choose what you do with your
time? When is something considered work, and when are you pursuing a passion?"
Receiving Monetary Compensation
Most people with whom we have
this conversation have one particular definition of retirement:
You are not
retired if you are receiving money for work performed.
Well I guess that rules out all of the Wal*Mart Greeters… but seriously, we’d
like to counter this simplistic point of view.
If you are a landlord with
several rentals that bring in monthly retirement income, can you ever be
considered retired? Do you not have to oversee the
properties, be responsible for making repairs, pay for maintenance and upkeep
and search for qualified tenants? At the very least you must concern yourself
with your manager.
What if you are like a friend
of ours who discovered he had a latent talent for making sculptures, and now
sells his bronze statues all over the eastern seaboard at Toney art shows? He
receives funds from his commissioned work, but he couldn’t be happier following
his passion. What does he care if someone doesn't think he is retired?
Other friends whom we know well
sold their accounting firm and moved to a working ranch - a dream come true for
them. Instead of pushing paper and tax forms, they now raise horses,
scoop poop, grow grapes to make award-winning
wine, and cultivate boutique vegetables which they sell at local farmers
markets. Is that work? No question about it. However, they are undoubtedly
following a passion and their lives are enriched because of it.
A friend of ours is a domestic
goddess with unmistakable artistic flare, and her husband is an adventurous
handyman. They purchase old Victorian homes, renovate them room-by-room and then
sell them at profit. Sure they receive income from their labors, but this income
isn’t what sustains their portfolio. And why not utilize your talents and
implement your dreams at this time of life that should be yours?
If you have left your
Monday-through-Friday job but own a diverse portfolio which you must manage, or
if you are trading stocks or receiving dividends, does this monetary
compensation for your lifestyle disqualify you out of the official definition of
being retired? What if you find the world of finance riveting? Are you supposed
to stay away because someone somewhere will think you are disingenuous or not
If you are working you are not retired
Some people believe that if you
do any sort of activity that would be considered in any fashion to be work, or
if it takes any effort whatsoever, you have become unsuitable to wear the "I’m
Yet we know all sorts of single
retired women who raise dogs to sell, train rescue dogs for animal shelters or
have a modest dog-walking "business" that they run in their neighborhoods. How
many older retired men have we met over the years and in numerous communities
who will fix your plumbing for a pittance, solve an electrical problem or put
down some flooring in your home? What if you want to write music, direct a play
or act in one? All of this takes effort,
What if you wanted to build a boat, restore old classic cars and sell them, or
play in a jazz band for the clubs in your town? Are you back to the working
grind - or engaging your passion?
On the other side of these examples we know people who
refuse offers of compensation for entertaining guests on cruises or on
tours because "then they would no longer be retired." If you have left the working world, are you
not ever "allowed" to be productive?
Volunteering or mentoring
One may or may not receive
compensation for donating time and expertise. Teaching English as a second
language could get you out of the house and add dimension to your day, or it
could defray the cost of airline tickets to a foreign country. If you allow this
skill to enhance your travel budget have you transgressed against The Rules of
Thai massage in Mexico
for free and created a note card business for the local women in my
neighborhood. Billy coached a
team to the finals, imported an electronic scoreboard for the city gym and
built tennis courts
in this same Mexican town. Was this work? Definitely. We both put in more hours
than we want to know, but the return was making friends and having personal
satisfaction for helping others.
Had we continued in our careers, none of this could have been accomplished. One
of the benefits of being financially independent is that you can pursue your
dreams – whatever they might be. Having a passion to infuse your days just adds
so much zest to life.
Who decides when a hobby becomes a job? Or when following your passion becomes
something more than you bargained for? You do.
We believe the aim of leaving
the traditional workforce is to activate the freedom to choose how
to live your life no matter what stage you find yourself in -- rather than
letting someone else dictate your future ambitions or put a label on you. Once
you’ve reached financial independence, you can easily move into rewarding
activities or the next challenge of your choice.
How you contribute to others in
your retirement, and how you spend your time and your money is up to you and
only you. Have confidence in yourself, and know the value of your talents and
endeavors. It is from here that you will make all the difference in your world
and in the world around you.
If you find yourself in a
position of wanting to retire without giving up entirely on being active, there
are more options for you now than ever before in history. You may want to seek
out opportunities for
artistic pursuits, and spiritual quests, become RV hosts in a campground, take a
volunteer vacation, or seek job adventures
now abound with information on how to help adults in the second half of life set
a course, connect with peers, and find pathways to significant service.
working and saving money your entire life for
retirement, and having the courage to decide to unhook from conventional
routine, the last thing you need is peer pressure at sixty
years of age.
Leave that rocking chair on the porch for someone else. This is your time
to create the life you’ve dreamed of.
Brave Boomers simply won’t go
quietly into the good night.