Retirement Defined

The Oxford dictionary defines retirement as “The period of one’s life after leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.”   I believe this definition has become outmoded, at least for 21st college-educated retirees in the United States.

I was spurred to consider this question after a dinner conversation with a 80+ “retired” attorney who is still “Of Counsel” at his former firm and does occasional legal work for friends and former business associates, and by an email joke sent by my younger brother that goes through a process of deducting from the total population the number of people that are retired, in school, incarcerated, out sick and disabled to conclude there are only two people left actually working and one of them is reading this joke, so get back to work.

As I survey in my mind the retirees I know, almost to a person they are all still doing occasional consulting or engaged in volunteer or board positions in which they invest a significant amount of time and produce positive results, but for which they may not be paid.

The Oxford dictionary defines “work” as “Activity involving mental or physical effort done in or to achieve a purpose or result.”   Virtually all the retirees I know are engaged in multiple activities done to achieve a purpose or result.   The dictionary does not define work solely as “a means of earning income”. but, even if this narrower definition is used, many retirees I know are engaged in some productive activity from which they derive income even if this is not essential for their retirement.

I propose that we redefine retirement as “The period of one’s life when one shifts from working primarily for the means of earning income to working primarily for the satisfaction of producing a purpose or result while devoting additional time to recreation, education and leisure activities.”

2 thoughts on “Retirement Defined”

  1. Hi Jerry, My wife Rachel and I, both Hopkins alumni (A&S ‘83 and ‘80, respectively) are now partly retired and just discovered your blog. Love the practical advice you provide. Rachel was thinking along similar lines regarding retirement as you have been, and wrote a short book on it last year. Everyday Retirement, by Rachel S Fiore and Carol Meyer, available via Amazon and free on Kindle. Wanted to let you know in case you think it’s worth reviewing. Thanks and keep up the great blog! Tony Fiore.

    1. I have neglected my blog for the last six months, as both my wife and I dealt with some health issues. We moved to Roland Park Place last Wednesday, June 5, 2024 and I intend to begin sharing with readers of my blog what our personal experience moving to and living in a retirement community is light. I will order a copy of your wife’s book. Once I settle in at Roland Park Place and have a chance to settle in, it would be interesting to compare notes. I see a lot of opportunity to advise retirees and their families about senior care options and help them deal with transitions in their lives but, except for some long-time friends, but I have not wanted to commit the time and the emotional commitment it takes to see someone through the process.

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