A year or two ago, Dear Abby printed a letter from someone who complained that retired friends were hounding him to retire. Obviously, no one should coax anyone else to make such a major life decision. But Abby went beyond that in her answer, so I wrote to her as follows.
Sorry, Abby, not everyone agrees with you that "retirement" is a dirty word. Like it or not, that is the accepted term for leaving the work force--or at least ceasing to work full time--when length of service entitles you to a pension or Social Security. Individuals have the right to work as long as they choose. But you do not have the right to insult those of us who are happily retired.
I was trapped for years in a job I hated and wasn't good at. Why was I trapped? Because my employer didn't have a portable retirement plan, and I'd put in a lot of years before the job morphed into my worst nightmare. I had to leave for work at 7:00 every weekday morning, and didn't get home till after 6:00; I was too exhausted and stressed-out to enjoy my evenings. To make matters worse, I live in a region that has brutal winters.
So I jumped at the chance to retire at 55, and I've never regretted it. I'm now 62. When I retired, I couldn't have predicted what I'd be doing at 62. But I have a wonderfully fulfilling hobby, shared by thousands of people: writing fan fiction based on a favorite TV series, for posting on the Internet. At last I'm doing something I'm really good at! It's a terrific feeling.
When this interest peters out, I'll undoubtedly find another. Maybe, ten or twenty or even thirty years from now, I'll try to write professionally--without the pressure of having a financial need to succeed at it. Or maybe I'll just fill my hours with reading and studying. If I were still working, I wouldn't even have the energy to watch the great documentaries I'm seeing on the History and Discovery Channels.
I don't feel guilty because none of my current income is derived--directly--from a job. I worked, saved, and suffered for years to earn the freedom I have now.
I do have one regret concerning my retirement years: that I haven't been able to travel more. The reason for that is that I have health problems, which began while I was still working. The cause of my medical condition is unknown. So it may well have been caused, at least in part, by job-related stress.
I would never "hound" anyone about retiring. But I do tell friends that I've never regretted my decision--not for a moment. And I warn them that if they delay too long, they may not be in good enough health to do all the things they're putting off.