Semi-retirement

pickup

Last week, I was deputed to collect the takeaway dinner from the Chinese restaurant. I was staying at my brother’s, and the Chinese fellow behind the counter somehow knew that. “You Jon brother?” he asked as I entered.

His next question was an odd one. “What you do? Semi-retired?” he asked. It so happens I am, but he didn’t know that. It dawned on me later that no one retires any more. They semi-retire.

In my case, that means writing whenever I’m asked, which is about three times a week these days. At the peak, I was writing four or five articles a day. So, strictly speaking, I’m 80% retired, but for these purposes, semi-retirement is as good a name as any.

The retirement age of 65 was set almost 100 years ago. Not that many people made it to 65 then; nowadays we all stand a good chance of getting there, all things being equal. And when we do, we are still relatively vibrant, most of us, and often willing to carry on working. Not many of us are allowed to.

Instead, we seek ways of doing a little here or there, justifying the title of ‘semi-retired’. For those few souls who have the means never to work again, good luck. Most of us, though, appreciate a little pay, rather than none at all, to help us through the golden years.

No government of which I am aware chose to set aside the pension contributions made by its population, preferring to throw the money into the general pot and hope that later generations would make up the slack. This massive theft was appallingly short-sighted. Now that the Baby Boomers’ generation is semi-retiring, there are not enough members of succeeding generations to pay the pensions. The official retirement age is therefore being increased.

Amusingly, the youngsters are all howling about how long they’ll have to work. Poor babies. Contrast that with the way older people no longer seem to want to fully retire. Sometimes, the driver is financial; at other times, it’s to have something to do.

There’s this, too: being retired is an admission of uselessness. When I first retired, at the age of 35, people at parties would ask what I did. “Nothing,” I’d reply gleefully. Wrong answer. People would just walk away, having deemed me a non-contributing member of society and therefore a waste of space. I got over that by saying I was writing a book. When I finally, actually retired, I’d learned my lesson. I now reply “I’m a writer”, which is true, rather than “I’m semi-retired”, which sounds lame.

We shouldn’t much care what other people think of us, but we do. What the Chinese guy knew is what the rest of us are learning: that ‘retired’ is a dirty word. ‘Semi-retirement’ suggests we remain plugged in. It’s wrong that we’d have to take this line, but there it is.

I shall now semi-stop writing for a bit and watch a DVD. As research for my work, of course. What do you think I am, useless? (Don’t answer that.)

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