One of the tricky adjustments in retirement is figuring out your new identity. I call it the cocktail party dilemma. You meet someone new at a cocktail party, and one of the first questions they ask you is what you do. And by “do,” they usually mean your job, not “do” like piano and blogging, unless of course you play at nightclubs or blog for the Huffington Post.
While I wasn’t really too attached to my accountant identity, it was a thread with which to weave a conversation. And even though that conversation might eventually stretch into non-work related topics, that starter was useful fuel in launching most cocktail party chatter.
After I retired, I found that telling people I was retired didn’t have the same effect of propelling the conversation forward. I think that retiring right into a huge recession might have had something to do with that. Perhaps some people thought “retired” was a euphemism for out of work, and were concerned about how to tiptoe around that possibility. Other people responded by asking what I did all day, usually accompanied with the assertion that they would die of boredom if they retired. And to be fair, when you list out what you can recall that you actually “do” all day, it does sound kind of boring.
But Bob Lowry recently made me realize that I now have solid credentials for a new identity. After five years of retirement, at the next cocktail party I attend, I think I can safely call myself a professional retiree. Not only have I spent all these years blogging here about retirement, I’ve blogged about it for U.S. News & World Report, as well as a few other finance blogs. I’ve enjoyed contributing content to magazines and blogs, and to a book called “65 Things to Do When You Retire.”
In my role as professional retiree, I was interviewed for Laura Vanderkam’s book, “All the Money in the World,” and for one of her Fortune magazine articles, and then most recently for a post at Free Money Finance. I was even on the radio a couple of times.
But back to Bob Lowry. He just published an eBook, “Living a Satisfying Retirement,” in which he interviews a bunch of retirees about our experiences in retirement. Although as far as actual identities go, ours are all changed in the book. But if you’re a regular reader of the blogs listed in the back of the book, you’ll find it pretty easy to figure out who’s who. And since I’m embracing my new identity as a professional retiree, I’ll save you the guessing: I’m “Shirley L.”
It’s a great read even for a “professional” like myself. There are so many responses that I can totally relate to, like “Gail P’s” least favorite part of retirement, “Still only having 24 hours in a day. That was a big surprise to me and I still feel cheated.”
I love “Roger W’s” advice to new retirees to “Go with the flow. Don’t think that you can, or have to figure it all out ahead of time. You will become a different person in retirement than you ever imagined, but the amazing thing is that the person you become will be pretty much up to you.”
And while it was almost unanimous that people did not miss working, it was almost as unanimous that folks missed some of the day-to-day relationships of the workplace as well as “the camaraderie,” as “Doug N.” puts it.
Bob also included some not-yet-retirees in his book. I was surprised to read that for most pre-retirees, their target retirement date has not been affected by the recession, although financial concerns did loom fairly large. And I’m happy to read the last question, “What is the one question you’d like a retired person to answer for you?” because it gives me plenty of new ideas to blog about!
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