What is Retirement

Retirement is one of life’s major transitions. In the year 2011, baby boomers began turning sixty-five, and in the United States alone 10,000 are retiring each day. Furthermore, people live longer now than in the past, spending more years in retirement. With such a large percentage of the population in, or quickly moving into, retirement perhaps the time has come to re-examine its definition.

Google “What is the definition of retirement,” and this is what you will see:

1) The action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work

2) The period of one’s life after leaving ones job and ceasing to work

Does this traditional definition still work? People are living longer and healthier lives. First wave of baby boomers, who are rapidly moving into retirement, have a collection of skills and knowledge too valuable to ignore. Besides, many modern seniors have no intention of being relegated into an abyss of rocking chairs, knitting, golf, and bridge games.

If we define retirement as leaving a job, then we must also define what a job is. In order to be considered a job, does the task need to offer payment for services rendered? Must it be a full time occupation, or can it be a profitable part-time passion? Can it be something you always wanted to spend time doing, but were too busy earning money to work at? Perhaps retirement is not so much ceasing to work as much as it is changing vocation to avocation.

Not so very long ago, everyone worked until the end of his or her life. Work was what one did in order to earn money. By the 1940’s, retirement became commonplace, and lasted about ten years. Now, retirees can look forward to a retirement that could last a quarter of a century. Golf and bridge might become quite boring over that length of time.

Ken Dychtwald, President of Age Wave, which is a marketing and consulting firm specializing in the analysis of the demographics of aging populations, said,  “Retirement is no longer an end; it’s a turning point.  A chance to take a break and then reinvent yourself. Retirement is morphing into a rich and enriching third act of work, education and leisure.

People prepare financial profiles, and diligently save in preparation for retirement.  But until recently, few who were planning retirement gave any thought to preparing a career or life plan profile. Today, workshops are popping up everywhere designed for retirees seeking to redefine their lives. Defining who you are, and what you want from life, is no longer a topic considered only by the young. It has become a periodic life long process.

Nancy K. Scholossberg, EdD, a former psychology professor at the University of Maryland, has categorized six types of retirees

1) Continuers – continue to use existing skills and knowledge, either part-time or in a voluntary capacity

2) Adventurers – start new activities, careers or set-up businesses

3) Searchers – have yet to find a retirement niche, and are seeking a redefinition of themselves.

4) Easy gliders – like the idea of unscheduled time.

5) Involved spectators: – stay involved in their pervious field of work, but from the sidelines, acting as a lobbyist or consultant.

6) Retreaters – remove themselves from life.

 Nothing is etched in stone. Throughout our lives we encounter twists, turns and transitions. Retirement is no longer the end of work, but the beginning of another of life’s stages. And so, as retirement is being redefined there are new words to describe it. Third age, third act and middlessence are being used more and more often.