Since when did retirement become a dirty word?

By Rodney Brooks

"It's time to move on. I'm growing a David Letterman retirement beard. I'm done and have no shame so please stop telling me I shouldn't retire." Photo / Getty Images
"It's time to move on. I'm growing a David Letterman retirement beard. I'm done and have no shame so please stop telling me I shouldn't retire." Photo / Getty Images

With all the stories about baby boomers rejecting retirement and embracing encore careers - and there are many - we sometimes forget that there are people who really can't wait to retire.

Terence Hurley is one of them, and he got so tired of friends acting like there was something wrong with him for wanting to retire at 62, he wrote a story for CNBC.com, "Please stop telling me not to retire."

"When did retirement become a dirty word?" he says.

Hurley, of in San Francisco, was stunned at the reaction of his friends and colleagues when he said he was retiring from a biotech health care company, after 40 years in the workplace.

"I was expecting congratulations, best wishes and even some jealousy on my happy news," he wrote.

"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?"

Instead, his friends were surprised and disappointed that he no longer wanted to work. They even sent him news stories about how it was a big mistake to retire. Hurley isn't buying any of it.

"I will appreciate my good fortune at being retired and have no regrets about leaving the workforce," he said. "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."

What prompted him to write the story in the first place?

"The anti-retirement sentiment I've been reading and hearing about over the past year," he said in an interview. "It seems many people really are opposed to the idea of retirement, which I found shocking and kind of odd. Ernest Hemingway has that famous quote: 'Retirement is the ugliest word in the language' and I guess he never did.

"Also, friends and co-workers seemed disappointed when I told them I no longer wanted to work. Retirement is something I always looked forward to, so I wanted to express the pro-retirement point of view. I must say, the feedback to the story has been very positive, which is reassuring to me."

His wife was "ecstatic" and his two adult children were supportive, he says. The reaction from his siblings, however, was mixed.

"A common question was what are you going to do all day?" he said. "I think some people perceive retirement as generally not having much to do since you are no longer in the workforce. I see it as just the opposite.

"The possibilities are endless and I plan to be grateful for every moment, every day. I will approach this next phase of my life with wonder, enthusiasm and openness."

Rodney A. Brooks writes about retirement and personal finance for The Washington Post.

- Washington Post

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