…perhaps, being inspired by Bill Clinton, depends on what the definition of definition is The name of this blog is Early Retirement Extreme, but the question comes up again and again—at least often enough—whether I (or we) are really genuinely retired?
According to the dictionary, being retired means having withdrawn from one’s professional occupation, which I think implies having withdrawn permanently, or at least the intention to withdraw permanently, from any kind of employment.
Here I cleverly excluded those who are euphemistically speaking “temporarily retired” because they got laid off. That doesn’t count.
I also kept the word professionally, sneakily, to imply the receipt of a paycheck.
My understanding of the dictionary entry thus means that a retired person is someone who no longer is employed working for money or seeks such employment.
I use employment in a very wide side. A businessman is not employed—he is the employer, yet if he still works for money, he is not retired in my opinion.
The money question is determining to a large extent. Financial independence is certainly a useful duck test(*) to see if someone is retired. All we need to do is to look at a person’s cash flow.
(*) If it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck.
However, does this now preclude any kind of earned income. I have seen(**) many retires doing part time consulting along with their golf and sailing and yet I would still call them retired and I think most other people would too.
However, suppose a retired person decides to pick up a 9–5 job because that’s more fun to him than playing golf. I think he fails the “I know it when I see it”-test, but he still passes the duck test,…
…unless part of the duck test also included living in a retirement home, participating in “activities” and having the grandchildren visit.
I think this is exactly where extreme early retirees get in trouble. The “age”-part of the duck test. We are too young and rare for most people to have a good idea of how we should be defined. Everybody has a typical image of the retired 60+ year old. Everybody has a typical image of the retired 50+ year old and there are even some retired 40+ year olds being described in the money magazines. 20 and 30+ year olds are extremely rare although I bet they are not functionally much different. For instance, since I retired—still subject to the final definition, which will be given at the end of the post—the mean age of the people I do stuff with has increased substantially, into the more traditional (early, but not extremely so) retirement age.
I offer the following definition of retirement:
You are retired if you each can do whatever you want (within reason) with no obligation, financially, economically, contractually, or socially, to continue doing so.
By this definition, I am retired.