No Longer Hiding My Retirement

Early retirement for someone under 50 can be a bit of tricky thing because you have to decide how the answer the question: what do you do for a living (or one of variations of that question)? Because the question comes up in all sorts of casual meetings with people and can cause some issues for the retiree.  Because are you suppose to answer with ‘I’m retired’ or ‘I’m working on hobby X’?

It comes down to how do you tell someone that you are retired when you still look decades away from the standard picture people have in their heads of what you should look like?  And then you often end up having to explain the idea of FIRE and saving lots of money up early in life and then living of your investment income rather than a job income.  Then face the confused or blank stare of someone who just doesn’t get it.

Initially I thought I would tend to hide the fact I was retired before 40 from complete strangers because I didn’t want to have an argument with a complete stranger on: you are too young to be retired or you must have won the lottery or what ever other misconception people would have about it.  I didn’t save my money for ten years to meaningless debates with people I will likely never see again.

But then once faced with the question a few times I started just telling the truth: I retired last fall from engineering to focus on writing. Which then typically leads into a conversation on what I write and what projects am I working on.  (By the way, I just passed the 200 page mark on the new retirement book and I hope to finish the first draft soon.)

Despite writing this blog it isn’t like I really advertise what I’ve done.  I still run into to people that don’t know I’ve made the change despite having left work about 18 months ago. I did it and I’m moving on with my life. Yet it sort of feels good to just tell people I meet that I am retired and not having to come up with some vague answer or white lie to cover my tracks so to speak.

Oddly enough the reaction from most people to date has been more focused on the writing side of my life than the early retirement. It’s like they can’t understand the one that well so the focus on what they find more comfortable discussing. I will of course answer some questions on the early retirement side of the house but often there isn’t as many as I expected.

So what do you tell people about your retirement?  Or what do you plan on telling people?

11 thoughts on “No Longer Hiding My Retirement”

  1. Seems easy to me, you’re answer could be even less descriptive. What do you do, I’m a writer. Doesn’t matter if you can prove success at it our not. What do you focus your time and energies on.

    Plus people in the arts are given all kinds of social leeway to stray from the society’s norms.

  2. Yes awkward conversation; my wife and I attended a Cycle Class orientation. As part of a friendly conversation the instructor asked us how come we are able to here at this time of day?
    Our response was that we are “taking a year off a break or sabbatical” – she replied “that’s brave”.

    What I want to avoid is people thinking we have a “lot of money”, most people simply do not understand money and think it is for spending rather then providing an stable pool for investment income. They are “goats staring at lightning”.

    I need to come up with something like “Private Pension Fund Manager” or Entrepreneur.

  3. Hi Tim, great post and believe or not I was in a similar situation as BG yesterday when I went for my physical exam at 1pm. The nurse asked casually if I’m working and what type of work I do because I had my appointment during work hours. At that moment I hesitated to tell her that I have retired, maybe because she was taking my height and weight and I wanted her to focus on that instead lol, so I just said oh I’m not working for now and taking a break. I said the same to my dentist when letting them know that by date xx my insurance will end. I just said I’m taking a break from work and to spend more quality time with my mom who has serious illness. So I’m not quite there yet where I can just tell people that I have retired but I will try to change that!

  4. I retired 10 years ago at age 45 (which is how I found your blog, Tim, doing a search for similar people or wannabes). At the time, I was asked those kinds of questions (“How can you do that?”, “What will you do all day?”) To answer the first one, my answer was usually short and quick: “No kids, no debts.” To answer the second one, I would list some of the hobbies I was already pursuing or had just taken up. Sometimes, if I knew the questioner a little better, I would add, “Company stock paid off bigtime,” to the first question.

    Now at 55, I don’t get asked these things much any more. Those who know me already know my story, and those who don’t already know me aren’t so nosy.

  5. Retired at age 38, in 2004. I’ve always told people I was retired. I especially enjoyed waving to them as they went to work in the morning; and I went down the driveway to get my paper:)

  6. I’ve found the same thing, that a lot of people just don’t get the idea of being retired early. I took a buyout from a company at age 34 and from then on worked on and off, enjoying the time off between jobs. I had a lot of puzzled people asking me how someone my age can do this kind of thing, even though the same kind of people would wonder why I don’t throw my money away on purchases like a new car every few years. I’ve even been told that somehow I’ve been depriving myself because I don’t blow money on lot of expensive stuff.

    Fast forward to now in my fifties, and quite healthy I should add, and am not asked about being retired early anymore.

  7. Retired at 47 and like previous poster BG I did not want the attention so I simply say I’m doing some consulting work (its true when the kids are in school I have sometimes worked up to 2 days per week). That way if someone wants to know how I can travel for an extended period of time I simply state I’m between projects. Kind of an undercover retirement. Its been 5 years now so I’m getting closer to a more accepted retirement age perhaps at 55 I will disclose it but in your 40’s no good comes from the attention (or jealously) that it will bring.

  8. Very cool hearing from you all you have actually retired early.

    I am about to pull the plug myself, at 46. Hopefully, retirement start July 1.

  9. Hey Tim,

    It really depends on the situation with me. I find myself at times still battling feelings of guilt when I tell people I left my office job and work more casually as a handyman. I love the way you phrased ‘I retired from xxx to focus on yyy’ and think I may borrow that line myself! Having been brought up with the stern belief to ‘work hard at what you’re best at’, perhaps I just need to re-wire the thought as ‘live best with what you’re happy doing’.


  10. I hid it for a year.
    Even though I retired at 58, that seemed like “early retirement” to most people I know – both close friends and vague acquaintances.
    After I got used to being retired, and was really happy and comfortable with it, I started simply admitting it.
    When asked: “How are you able to do that?!”, I just say: “I manage my investments”.
    Unfortunately, there are a lot of very envious people out there.
    You quickly find out who your real friends are.
    Not that many.

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