Please stop telling me not to retire!

When did retirement become a dirty word?

It used to be the goal for working Americans. Work hard at your job, do your best and then enjoy the pleasures of retirement. This might not be the case anymore based on the reaction I got from coworkers, friends and family when I recently announced I was planning to retire after almost 40 years in the workplace.

I was expecting congratulations, best wishes and even some jealousy on my happy news. Finally, at age 62 I would have all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. Pursue new interests, rediscover neglected passions, create interesting experiences. No more meetings, deadlines, office politics. After all, if you could stop working tomorrow, wouldn't you want to?

Apparently not these days.

Most people seemed surprised and disappointed that I no longer wanted to work. Why leave the workforce? Aren't you going to miss it? What are you going to do all day? It was almost as if I became less worthy in their eyes, somehow flawed for wanting to call it quits.

What's going on here? What am I missing? I actually started to feel a little guilty.

Terence Hurley
Source: Terence Hurley
Terence Hurley

Yes, part of the anti-retirement rhetoric was the financial aspect but they gladly gave many other reasons why I should continue to work. Work defines who you are they told me, it gives a sense of purpose, belonging and direction. It provides mental stimulation and self-esteem, is better for your health and adds meaning to your life.

These well-meaning people even sent me news stories with ominous headlines:

"Why Retirement is Bad for You"

"6 Reasons Why You Should Never Retire"

"The Case Against Retirement"

"Why Even Thinking About Retirement Can Be a Bad Idea"

I learned that many American workers have begun proclaiming the end of retirement. A recent AARP survey tells us that forty percent of baby boomers plan to work "until they drop." The message apparently is forget retirement, keep working, 80 is the new 65. The question no longer seems to be "How early can I retire?" Instead, it's "Why retire?"

Has retirement become less and less culturally acceptable?

I don't know about you but to me retirement is a hugely significant event for which I have spent years working. It provides new opportunities to create, to learn and to live. It holds great promise for me to pursue personal goals on my own timeline and be able to try things I've never done before. Retirement is a beginning for new accomplishments, not an end. The last thing I'm worried about is losing my identity and "sense of self." I accept that the world will get along just fine without my continued contributions to the workplace.

So I'm not buying this retirement backlash and don't care if the rules are changing. I will appreciate my good fortune at being retired and have no regrets about leaving the workforce. I've had a fine and rewarding career and now it's time to move on. I'm growing a David Letterman retirement beard. I'm joining the ranks of fellow 2016 retirees Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Tim Duncan, Alex Rodriguez and President Obama. Death won't be my retirement. I'm getting out while I'm still healthy and able to do new things. I'm done and have no shame so please stop telling me I shouldn't retire.

Commentary by Terence Hurley, 62, has been in communications for almost 40 years, working at leading public relations agencies on consumer brands (Kraft, Burger King, Gillette, General Mills to name a few) and for the past 17 years at a leading pharmaceutical/biotech company promoting medicines that treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions.

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