That Damn ‘R’ Word

A long standing problem on this blog and many others is based in terminology around that damn ‘R’ word: retirement.  While we typically use it fairly flexibility on this blog to mean several different but similar states of being, yet for other people the word is very firmly locked up with their own idea that once you are retired you shouldn’t work.

The issue arises about the fact that retirement is a broadly used word that the majority of people recognize to indicate the basic idea of several possible states of being: in a nut shell you are free to do what you want within the capacity of your savings.  While that general statement is correct the exact definition doesn’t just have to be either black (working) or white (not working).  As in most things there are many shades of grey between the two states.

If you really want to be technical I suppose the correct term for what Robert has done is financial independence.  He has enough income from his savings that he don’t have to work, but still has an interest in doing some work in a different field.

In my case my dream is likely best described as semi-retirement.  I may alter my plans enough that I won’t be fully financially independent as Robert, but instead may have to do some work for a number of years prior to full retirement.  This is completely fine with me as I have always planned to have some degree of work after 45.

The point of the matter is the two states of being are very close to each other and frankly rather than getting bogged down in terminology issues we both tend to just use the word retirement.  Yes it might not be completely correct, but since I keep flipping back and forth on my plans between the two states it makes things easier for anyone who happens to read the blog.

Heck even at one point I tossed out the idea of: Life 2.o to explain what I’m doing.  The point is there isn’t a great term for it, so we make do with what we got and keep things simple with: retirement.

So what do you call what you are trying to do? Why do you pick that term?

9 thoughts on “That Damn ‘R’ Word”

  1. Is being semi-retired like being semi-pregnant?

    Instead of asking for elasticity in a term when it suits you, why can’t we just call a thing what it is?

    Retirement is one thing, working part-time is another.

    What you have in mind is working part-time not semi-retirement. You are retired or you are not.

    I can’t understand why there seems to be some difficulty in a calling a thing what it is but not wanting to call something else what it is.

    Retirement will require that you are first financially independent, not so the other way around. So how can one be the same thing as the other?

    No big deal, I know, but no big deal either way, right? But being inexact with your verbiage will make your planning inexact, as well: Are you planning for retirement or are you planning to achieve financial independence or are you planning to work part-time or not at all?

    Each of those is it’s own “thing” and each will require a different strategy to get there even if there is considerable overlap.

  2. Tmgbooks has a good point.

    I was originally drawn to early retirement because, well, I’m honestly pretty lazy and would rather not work. As I’ve become more involved in the community, I have changed my perspective slightly. Now, I aim for financial independence rather than early retirement.

    I still have things that I would like to accomplish after i am financially independent; I want to be a winemaker, coach a sports team etc. Retirement is often used I think because it is the easiest way to explain it to the general population.

    I love the life v. 2.0, I think it really encompasses what most of us are trying to do.

  3. I feel very similarly to Brian. It’s sort of a process of: I don’t want to work, I don’t need to work, I want to contribute, I may as well get paid for it. Would people get so stuck on the terminology for a 65 year-old who gets a gold watch and retires from his position, to take up a hobby that earns some income, such as playing in a band or playing golf tournaments or doing wood-working? With apologies to TMGBooks, I don’t think the problem is the terminology so much as people’s mental model that is inelastic.

  4. When I was working part-time from 2001-2008, I would describe myself as “working part-time,” not “semi-retired.” Instead, I described myself as “halfway to being retired.”

    I became financially independent at the same time I retired early in 2008. This was due to acquiring a large lump sum of company stock I cashed out when I left the company. I planned this all out, of course.

  5. When I finally retire (hopefully before 45) it will be with the intention of not working again. I will be “retired” in truth. I agree with the first post in this thread – if your intention is to continue to work in some fashion you are a “part time worker” – which is a great accomplishment in of itself…

    All the numbers say I could retire right now at 39… but there is a chance that events could conspire to force me back to work at some point – that is not acceptable to me. For the next few years I am bascially working and saving to ensure there is ample funds so that I don’t have to live ultra frugally or go back to work. I am so miserable in my work that this concept is the only thing that keeps me going at times.

    I want to be “retired” with no CAVEATS.

  6. My level right now is financially independent in terms of basic needs (plus a bit). But I would like to be at the level of financially independent including major potential financial catastrophes and all of my wants. And to get there through part time employment or entrepreneurship. I don’t know what it’s called that I’m doing but it’s not “retirement” – lots of regular sabbaticals from part time work that I like – or maybe just lazy contracting?

    I said the same thing about Ernie Zelinski and Derek Foster. They weren’t retired (I don’t think either of them were financially independent but I could be wrong about that), they became authors about retirement. Yet I would have said that Dianne Nahirny WAS retired and I would say that Jacob at ERE is retired as well, yet they are both authors that make money from their writing about retirement. I think the difference is whether they really need the money from what they’re doing. But then taking even a dime from anything means you’re not actually retired.

    My 91 y.o. dad is helping my brother out on his farm doing the work he did to earn money all his life yet not getting paid. Is he still retired? I did an audit years ago on a company where one of the employees was 70+ y.o. and never cashed his paycheque (back in the days before auto-deposit) – was he retired?

  7. To retire is to fall back or retreat in an orderly fashion. To withdraw or remove oneself. Therefore, it is accurate to state that you will be considered to have retired from a full-time or career oriented work environment.

    In following your journey though, I believe that your goal is financial independence.

  8. Hmmm… I agree that continuing to work part-time does not fit within the definition of “retirement”. At that point you would be financially independent and choosing to work for either enjoyment or an extra benefit (could be money or free membership).

    The loophole is that although you may not be “retired” as per the definition of the word you will still be “retired” from your career. Therefore, you can be retired from your career and at the same time not be considered retired in the official sense since you choose to maintain some type of employment.

    Example: My father-in-law recently retired from his management job where he worked 70 hours/week. He now works 2-3, 5 hour shifts at a golf course for which he get minimum wage and free golf. He is definitely retired from his career but decides to continue to work so cannot be considered officially retired.
    In any event, he is extremely happy and couldn’t give a damn whether he is or is not officially “retired”.

  9. Blue is not red but there are shades of gray. Of course, I get all that but the place where semantics matter is when you are planning.

    Do you plan to truly retire and depend entirely on passive income?

    Do you plan to shift from a full-time job to a part time job and arrange your finances so that a part-time income will suffice to meet your costs of living?

    Or do you plan to shift to part-time work but augment your income with passive income to make up an acknowledged short-fall?

    Do you plan to retire with a pension that will be insufficient to fund total retirement so you will plan to augment your “retirement” with part-time work for added income?

    Do you plan to achieve total financial independence before you are eligible for a pension and Social Security?

    Or do you plan to achieve financial independence AFTER you begin drawing a pension and Social Security?

    All of those are individual goals that will require a different plan and execution to achieve. If you don’t define the goal, fuzzy logic will give you fuzzy math.

    When the differences between goals are nuanced, fuzzy math won’t get the job done and is like driving at night with the lights off.

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