Do we really need a new word for retirement?

Recently, Donna McCaw, author of her retirement book It’s Your Time wrote an article on her blog suggesting that we need a new word for ‘retirement’.

If you think about the word ‘retire’, it can have some negative connotations to it. If you retire something (not someone) why would you retire something? Probably because it’s broken, old, worn or just useless. There was a time we retired people for kind of the same reason. This happened at a time when we statistically worked to the age of 65 and we statistically died at 70. We retired because we were old, worn and maybe useless. In fact, there was a time when retirement was forced upon us at a certain age. These were the days when mandatory retirement was a common term. It no longer exists today. McCaw says “Too many of us associate that word with STOP signs, rocking chairs, gold watches, rapid aging, impending death, uselessness, losses and the end of our working lives.”

Retirement today is different

Do you want retirement to be the best years of your life? If so, you probably don’t see retirement this old way. Retirement today is very different and the main reason is because retirees today are younger and more active than the previous generations of retirees. When I talk about younger, I am not just talking about age. Today’s retirees are younger physically, mentally, and spriitually. Today’s retiree is capable of so much more. Today, a 65 year old retiree can easily live another 10 healthy, active years of retirement. As McCaw puts it “Boomers are healthy, energetic, engaged, and dynamic people who have so much to offer.” I could not agree more.

Do we need a new word for retirement?

Given that retirement is very different today, do we need a new word to describe it? Many other’s have tried to suggest this:

  • Mitch Anthony wrote a book called “The New Retirementality” written 10 years ago in 2001
  • Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners wrote a book a year later (2002) called “Don’t Retire, Rewire
  • Alan Roadburg wrote a book called “Re-tire with a dash
  • And yes, even my book “10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Retirement” talks about the changing landscape of retirement.

I’ve heard many suggestions over the years like rewire, refocus, and re-tire (with a dash) but at the end of the day it will be pretty tough to replace the word retirement. And for many, the word retirement can be a very positive word that inspires positive feelings.

Retirement can mean anything you want it to mean

Retirement is a period of transition where you move from one stage of life to another. Retirement does not have to be a line or a fence that you jump over from one life to another.

In fact, retirement can be anything you want it to be . . . so what do you want it to be? There is no universal definition for retirement and what it means anymore. The secret to success is to take some time to define your retirement personally by creating a retirement vision. For some it will include work. For others it will be about pursuing activities? And for some it might be similar to the old picture of relaxing and slowing down. Retirement is about choice and you have the opportunity to figure it out. Part of retirement planning is about the money but it’s also about planning a lifestyle. The one thing McCaw, myself and all these other books agree on is that retirement is more about figuring out what you are going to retire TO as opposed to dwelling on what you are retiring FROM. Look forward and plan accordingly.

For me, it’s not about replacing the word but making sure people replace the old ideas of what retirement meant and what happened during that period. What do you think retirement means to you?


  1. Donna mcCaw

    Thanks for the mention, Jim, and as usual you have framed the question with great background and insights. I would be very interested to hear what response you get as well.
    I mention you when I give talks and workshops here and use the “picture on the boX” analogy and give you credit for it.
    Cheers, Donna

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks for the inspiration to write the article!

  2. My Own Advisor

    Nice post Jim – will tweet!

    Certainly for me, retirement is all about choice. It’s “choicement” 🙂 Yes, I created a new word but it makes sense to me!

    Unfortunately like many 30-somethings, I have no choice. I need to work. Probably another 20 to do. I’ve love to have the choice not to work, do so on my terms, my time, my agenda. I wish 😉

    • Jim Yih

      I’ve never hear do CHOICEMENT before but I like it! not sure if it will take off but it makes sense to me!

      I think working is part of CHOICEMENT too! Many retirees are choosing to work because it is a productive and important part of our life. I think more young people should embrace it!

      Thanks for the comment and the new vocabulary

  3. UltimateSmartMoney

    A very nice post! I think retirement is freedom! No children to take care of and no work. It should be stress free life!

    • Jim Yih

      I would just add freedom with a plan. Sometimes too much freedom without a plan is not a good thing. Freedom is great only if you know what to do with it!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Grady Pruitt

    It seems like “retirement” these days doesn’t mean what it used to. People are finding ways to enjoy themselves. Many others still find they have to find employment, but no longer are welcome in fields where they were working. Some do it for the activity of having something to do, but just as many do it because they have to in order to survive.

    Retirement means different things to different people. You need to decide what that means for you.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. K

    Abdicated – free agent
    Hakuna Matata
    Can’t decide which. I left my last employment at the top of my game as part of an early retirement package cohort. It was like my birthday & Christmas all rolled into one.

  6. Katherine Burnett

    Why do we have to define it at all? Why can’t it be just childhood and adulthood? I am a veterinarian. I tell people that I am no longer in private practice, and this is (fill in the blanks with advocacy work, volunteering in or outside your field, , travel, whatever) what I am doing now. People are leaving paid work at 60 or so, and it’s not uncommon for them to live to be 95. Do we really want to define those years as “retired”?
    I think it’s an antiquated term based on a time of much shorter life expectancies when people left the workforce and died soon after. I never use the word, and am not looking for a substitute word or phrase. I think it perpetuates stigma.

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