The art of being retired


The founder of Olderhood, Bill Storie, and I have been good friends for ages. He has helped me through some tough times, and I occasionally make him laugh. On one point, however, I fear we may disagree: the meaning of retirement.

Both of us have ‘retired’ in the past year or two. Bill’s idea of retirement, as far as I can tell, is to work as hard as ever he did, promoting Olderhood, the Duke of Edinburgh’s awards and other worthwhile projects, while remaining at large in the business community, bringing his unusually fecund mind to bear on important economic matters.

By contrast, my idea of retirement is doing as little as possible. Don’t get me wrong: I’m busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do. I’m never bored, nap whenever the mood takes me, and generally focus on hanging out.

The point here is that neither of us is wrong. Retirement, if you have your health and some modest savings, is the time to do whatever you want to do. Or not do, as the case may be.

For example: retirement is often promoted as a time to travel. If you want to, fine. For my part, I travelled so far and so often during my working life that the thought of going any further than the end of my street appals me. I haven’t flown anywhere in 2013, the first year of my life that has happened since 1975. I’m not sure if I’ll ever fly again. Flying, as they say, is for the birds.

Bill, on the other hand, still flies regularly. He might as well have his own set of wings. But he’d be the last to suggest that flying, or anything else, was mandatory for the retired. He and I agree on that: in the words of Aleister Crowley, an occultist and all-around nut-job, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. I’d add only that not breaking the law while you do it is always advisable.

I would argue that Bill hasn’t retired and never will. He’s just too full of invention, ideas and beans. He enjoys doing; I enjoy being. Neither is better or worse. Bill regards himself as retired because he’s not doing the 9-to-5 jive, and not everything he does is remunerated. I lived like that for the last 20 years of my working life.

In retirement as in life, it makes all the difference if you like what you do. I’m a writer, and always have been. When an offer of paid writing — journalism — came along, I jumped at it. Making money doing what I liked doing was the best thing that ever happened to me. For me, do what thou likest shall be the whole of the law.

Bill enjoyed his career in finance and banking, but stopped doing most of it when the pay stopped flowing in. Smart man. I, on the other hand, keep writing because the content, in the words of Lightnin’ Hopkins, is in and it’s got to come out.

There is no right and wrong to retirement, other than enjoying life and not getting under other people’s feet. On that, Bill and I are wholly in agreement.

2 responses to “The art of being retired

  1. thanks for this post and for giving a voice to an aspect of retirement that is not well highlighted. there are plenty of us like you . i am totally with you, but by the very nature of it, we dont run around in crowds and if not for u saying so, i guess very few people thinking of retirement will realise that it is one of the nice things about retirement.

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