(Photo Details: Pool at Grand Hotel D'Angkor--Siem Reap, Cambodia)
If only this one was as easy as turning off the TV.
Yesterday I posted about how it seems like we’re not allowed to be happy about good news yet. Yes, maybe it’s that bad news sells. But I also think it’s because we feel guilty about feeling happy when there are still so many people whose circumstances are not as good.
I think that’s why I get so many emails from readers who feel like they have to downplay their happiness about being retired. Since many of these folks have retired before their friends or family members have, they feel like they can’t share their excitement about being retired.
One reader told me he doesn’t really talk about trips he’s going to be taking. If it comes up in conversation he might mention that he’ll be out of town, but doesn’t volunteer any more details. Another reader told me that two years into her retirement, she still hadn’t told her parents that she’d retired. She just remained intentionally vague about her future work plans.
I know what they are going through because I felt the exact same way the first few years of my retirement. You want to share your excitement, but it feels like it’s in poor taste when all your friends are still toiling away. I understand. But now that I’ve been retired for six years, I realize people are fine with me being retired. I think they are happy that I’m enjoying myself.
Here’s what I think is really going on:
Your friends and family actually want you to be happy. When my friends used to tell me they were going to have a baby, I had mixed emotions. I realized it was going to change our relationship. They wouldn’t have as much time to spend with us anymore. They would have new priorities. They wouldn’t be able to be as spontaneous.
At the same time, I was happy for them because they were so excited. They didn’t feel badly about sharing their excitement. We threw showers for our friends. We contributed ideas for baby names. We fantasized with them about the futures of those tiny creatures.
Just because we’re not going through the exact same life event at the exact same time does not mean we can’t be happy and excited that our friends are happy and excited. Retirement is no different.
Your family is just worried about you. If you sense negativity from your family when you announce your retirement it may be because they are worried about you, not that they aren’t happy for you. My parents know me well enough to know that I’m a very good planner. They knew that if I thought I had enough money to retire, they didn’t need to worry—they could go ahead and be happy for us.
But other members of our family really were concerned about our financial wellbeing. It’s easy to take this the wrong way. Now I know to cut them some slack. They’ll get more comfortable with it as time goes on. It’s not that they aren’t happy for you—they are just worried. And actually that’s kind of sweet.
You are no different than you were before you retired. I think when I first retired, my friends thought I couldn’t relate to the struggles they were going through anymore. And that may have been a little bit true. A few years into my retirement I took on a part-time job and was reminded exactly how those struggles feel. I noticed a dramatic change in many of my relationships with friends when I went back to work. We were on the same page again. I’m not sure if it changed me, or just how my friends saw me, but somehow this improvement carried over even when I returned to full-time retirement.
Just like with that announcement of a new baby, your friends are worried about a change in your relationship. One of my best friends is a woman I worked with before I retired. We were both sad that we wouldn’t see one another every day anymore. But we’ve kept up our once-a-week lunchtime walks for six years now. Sure, it’s not exactly the same, but we didn’t really need to fear losing this friendship to retirement’s jaws.
You can use your free time to make your friends’ lives easier. In some ways, our friends’ lives got better with our retirement. We have more time to meet our friends more than half way now. Weeknights are busy for our working friends. So we bring dinner over to their house. We’ve got time to cook and they don’t. So we get to spend time together and they don’t have to cook. A win-win.
We are almost always available to dog-sit now, giving our friends the peace of mind that their canine companions will have all-day-long companionship while they are out of town--as well as saving them a few bucks at the kennel.
I’ve helped babysit in a pinch. Doug has installed drip irrigation, fixed computers, and installed stereo equipment while our friends are busy at work. When they get home from work, they have time to enjoy a glass of wine with us instead of having to squeeze in those chores.
Since we’re not working, we have time to drive an hour or two to see friends, saving them precious time they have so little of on the weekends. More win-win-win all around.
The truth is, we can’t control how other people feel, and we can’t really predict how they will feel anyway. So there’s really no point in trying to protect our friends and family from feelings they might never have in the first place. Go ahead, enjoy your retirement and eventually everyone else will be able to enjoy it with you.
Happily Retired With the Science to Back Me Up
Why Retirement Won’t Make You Happy
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There's a answer to all that. Just hang with other people that are retired. But just when you think your happy,Syd doesn't post for a month. If you think you got it bad try being a retired Gov. worker. Hell, we now have secret hand shakes.
Posted by: fred doe | July 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM
I think you've put your finger on an increasingly important issue -- the great divide, esp. among baby boomers, between workers and retirees. The relationship between the two is fraught with sensitivity, sometimes resentment, jealousy and envy. But among the people I know -- the older boomers -- the people who are still working are those who really want to work. And I say ... good for them if they still like their jobs and thrive in the work environment.
Posted by: Tom Sightings | July 15, 2014 at 01:35 PM
I don't concern myself with what others think BUT I am very mindful of others feelings. I don't take 'being happy' for granted. I equate it with the same as 'being happily married', 'being a happy parent with great kids' 'being a happy camper'........well, you get the idea.
I don't brag to my girlfriends (whether now or in college, for example) about all the fab things hubby and I do. Because I know not everyone has found their SO. Lots of loneliness out there. So, I'm mindful and respectful of others feelings. I also don't brag on my children because I know there are many parents out there who are having difficulties.
I feel the same way with my retirement. I don't brag about it because I know my friends still struggle and are very stressed out over the current economic conditions.
I'm always shocked when I tell people I'm retired and they congratulate me. As if I graduated from college or discovered the cure to the common cold. I don't think I did anything special.
In any event, I am always mindful of those around me and I am respectful of others feelings. I'm a little bit freer when in the company of fellow retirees, but even then, I just won't brag about my good fortunes. I think it has to do with our current economy climate. Not everyone is doing well. In fact, too many of the people I know are just treading water.
If people are jealous or envious of me, I don't give it much thought BUT I really am concerned of offending others.
Hey! That's just me.
Posted by: Cindi | July 15, 2014 at 04:18 PM
I think in any area, retirement or otherwise there has to be a difference between "bragging" and "I,I, I" in terms of sharing good fortune or good times. I come from an area of a wide variety of ages, incomes and lifestyles. I guess what I'm trying t say is that there is a way to enjoy a lifestyle without talking about it all the time. If that makes any sense at all. And to remember that we all have different wants and wishes.
Posted by: Barb | July 15, 2014 at 06:49 PM
I surely agree that being retired helps those around me. I can help my ladyfriend in many small ways, from having packages delivered to my place to being able to do things during the day at her place nearby. I have been able to expand my square dancing (which includes many retirees) at night because I don't have that work thing and its awful commute to get in the way any more. And I have nearly no scheduling conflicts wwhen it come to my volunteer work which takes place midday on weekdays. So, why are any of those people going to give me any grief when they benefit from my increased availability?
As for family members, my dad has been retired for 20 years so he benefits from being able to call me if there is a problem. I can also visit him on midweek nights as long as they don't conflict with anything else because neither of us have to get up the next morning.
I had been working only 2 dasy a week before I fully retired in 2008 so everyone around me was already used to my not working full-time. Bottom line - I'm the same person I was before I retired.
Posted by: deegee | July 15, 2014 at 08:39 PM
Tom: Yes, there are certainly a lot more people of "retirement age" that are choosing to continue working. We are much healthier at every age now and many people still have a desire to contribute in that way. Also, there are plenty of younger people that have told me they never want to retire, they think they would be bored. We don't need to assume everyone is envious of retirement--another reason to go ahead and be honest about it.
Cindi and Barb: I agree. And there is certainly a lot of room to operate between the two extremes, bragging about good fortune and intentionally trying to conceal it. Of course, some people think anyone that is actually happy is bragging. Not a lot you can do about that. Like deegee, I think the best approach is probably sharing your riches of time in a way that helps people.
fred: I guess that's a whole 'nother issue, huh?
Posted by: Retired Syd | July 16, 2014 at 06:59 AM
Can't say that I've had the same issues you mention, Syd. My coworkers and family heard me plan and plot my early retirement for so many years it couldn't have come as much of a surprise to any of them.
I did have a former boss who used to tease me by asking when I "was coming back to work" when I would visit. Since I had moved 330 miles away across the mountains, as soon as I retired, I just pointed out to him that the 660 mile commute would be "brutal" and let it go. After a couple of years he realized that I really had been serious about retiring for good, despite being in my mid-forties.
Never got any flak from my family (far away in Oregon) about early retirement. My parents knew perfectly well that I was the financially responsible, thrifty, child. They enjoyed telling their friends that I was retired when asked the traditional question about what I did for a living.
So, yes, it is ok to be happy with early retirement. As I've said before, I dealt with the "guilt factor" of no longer being a productive member of society by doing lots (and lots) of volunteer work. I find it more fulfilling than I did my career and I can do it or not, when I please, if I please. Sure beats working for a living!
Posted by: dgpcolorado | July 16, 2014 at 10:15 AM
I have only one friend that is envious (I would say to the point of resenting it) of my time off - everyone else is happy for me that I have a choice to work as little or as much as I want. They know how hard I worked and that I've put that money towards my priorities (time off) - just like I'm happy for them if they buy a new Mercedes or a house $1M or travel every year to Europe plus lots of other trips.
I was thinking about this recently as a couple of people on a forum I've gone on a bit revealed that they have had significant problems with their kids (self mutilation for one and clinical depression for another). You just have to say "there but for the grace of ____ (luck) go I." I wouldn't stop being happy inside that my kids are pretty fantastic but Canadians in general are pretty self effacing.
I don't think I feel that "excitement" anymore. Sometimes, unfortunately, wherever I go or whatever I do, there I am. ;-)
Posted by: Jacq | July 16, 2014 at 10:42 AM
Well this is true,that you get a little gun shy (as we say down south) to just telling people you are retired. They always turn and put themselves into it by saying that they cannot retire anytime soon, maybe never. You never show how happy you are to be retired.... it is almost like gloating. Well it shouldn't be because we worked hard, some of us over 35 years. You put a positive spin on this and that is probably the best way to look at it.
Posted by: Robert @RetirementMedia | July 20, 2014 at 06:06 PM