Me, retired? No way!

The other day I was at my local bank branch doing some business and the teller asked me how I was enjoying my retirement.

Hearing that surprised me but then I realized they had a message on their computer system that identified me as a retired employee of the bank.

For some reason I felt the need to defend myself and started to explain that I in fact was not retired, that I was busier than ever running my blog, selling my book, serving as a retirement coach and doing public speaking. But then I had a sudden change of heart and decided to stop what I was doing. I realized that defending myself was the OLDME raising its ugly head again and I don’t like OLDME anymore.

Label Me Anything But Retired!

The word retirement is being thrown around these days, describing so many things from the old style “full stop” retirement to everything but the kitchen sink. I believe lack of clarity is causing confusion for a lot of people these days.

Why should we automatically label someone retired just because they decided to leave a job which in my particular case lasted for 36 years? We have to stop thinking this way. Maybe the company feels it is a way to connect with customers, but many people like me are tired of having to explain to people that they are not retired. In my case a better message on that bank computer would have been survivor or even better escapee. Now that is something I would enjoy having to explain to people. I would have a lot of fun with that.

The word retired is not a good description of what is really happening out in the world these days. Few people really “retire” if you think about it and because of that I have developed a really narrow definition for the word.  Retired to me means you have decided to pull back from life, when you’re unable to take care of yourself, when the game is almost over. Everything before that is living and today that period of healthy living post primary career could last for 20-plus years. You better find some interesting things to do with all that time or boredom will set in and boredom can end up killing you.

Victory Lap vs. Retirement

Our book Victory Lap Retirement has nothing to do with being retired. Think of Victory Lap as a time of celebration for all the hard work and sacrifices that you made over the years. It’s finally your turn again to do the things that you want to do.

We wrote the book for people like ourselves who want more out of life, for people who say to themselves “I didn’t come this far just to come this far.” At this point in our lives with most of our major obligations now behind us it’s our turn again to do what we want to do, what we feel we need to do in order to live well.

In my case I felt the need to continue working — maybe it’s better to call it participating — but I wanted work that would be fun, give me the flexibility I craved as well as generate some active income so I could fund the many future adventures I have planned for me and my family.

The book is really about lifestyle design and work (paid or unpaid) is one of a number of key components in that design. The goal in Victory Lap is to create a low-stress fulfilling lifestyle for yourself, one that would give you a good reason to get out of bed in the morning, and one that would optimize the quality of your remaining years.

Bottom line, we have paid our dues and now we finally have a chance to do what we always dreamed about doing. Why would you ever consider retiring when you have an opportunity to really start living again?

Time to replace the traditional Retirement Party?

I felt weird attending my own retirement party because most everyone there knew I wasn’t retiring; I was leaving and although I did not know it at the time, I was going on to big things. Can you say Victory Lap!! The Corp. felt the need (obligation) to give me a party along with the traditional retirement card.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, but truthfully I would have much preferred a bon voyage party and card, something with a sailboat on it.  Now that would have been fun!

I think we are celebrating the wrong things at these parties. Instead of celebrating leaving (escaping) from something, why not celebrate what lies ahead for us? Why not give a speech about all the great things you have planned for your Victory Lap. Now that is something worth celebrating about!

Mike Drak is an author, blogger and speaker based in Toronto. He can be reached at Victory Lap Retirement, co-authored with Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau, is now available for orders online and on Kindle and Kobo ebooks, where it is a bestseller. The paperback edition is available in Chapters Indigo and many independent bookstores, as well as Costco, and the book has been on the Globe & Mail bestseller list. This blog originally ran on Mike’s blog on Feb. 23 and is reprinted here with permission.

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