Retired? How Do You Know?

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Gary L. Clark is an author. After a thirty year career he retired to write a novel. He then joined a counselor-in-training program at the local community mental health center and worked three years as a substance abuse counselor. He retired again and has written two more novels. He recently completed the annotation of a self-help book on faith-based self-help. Two published novels (available on address social justice. Mr. Clark is the Editor of He lives in St. Joseph, Missouri.

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Retired? How Do You Know?

Grand Canyon Cave ManI live in Missouri, northern Missouri.  I tell people that I am one generation removed from hillbillies – which means my parents were most likely rednecks, and it follows that I am a redneck too.  Or was.  I went to college and the rednecks disqualified me.  Anyway, I know some hillbillies, rednecks, and the watered down rednecks with an education (our redneckism is diluted with education so we are dilusional).  Each of these cultures has a different idea of what it means to retire.

On of my uncles, on my father’s side, proudly announced one day that he was going to retire at age 62 and move to south Missouri.  I asked, “So what are you going to do?”

He said, confidently, “I am going to retire.”

“But,” I asked, “What are you going to do?”

He looked flustered, looked to my father for help, and looked back to me and said rather emphatically, “I am going to retire.”

I got the point.  He was going to retire.  My problem with the whole idea of retirement must be that I somehow think that people keep doing things after they retire.  I am now at that age of potential retirement.  Regular paychecks have been a thing of my past for several years.  Is that what retirement means?  No more regular paychecks from gainful employment?

People ask me today, “Are you retired?”

I say, “I don’t think of myself as being retired.”

They say, “Do you have a regular income?”

What does that mean?  A regular income?  And does it make a difference?  If I write books and get royalty checks once every quarter – checks that come regularly but are not regular amounts – then does that qualify as a regular income?  If I get a regular income does that mean that I am not retired?  It depends.  If a regular Social Security check comes in the mail every month then we might think of the recipient as being retired.  If I subsidize my royalty checks with income from a 401K then writing must be a hobby and I am retired based on where the ‘regular’ check comes from.  (An aside – I get no regular checks from my 401k).

If one receives Social Security checks but also has a job then how might we categorize that person?  Personally, I don’t know why we have to categorize people – but others seem hellbent on categorizing me.

My truth is that I do not fit any of the predefined categories.  I am warm in winter, cool in summer, have food, and my car starts when I turn the key.  Doe anyone have the right to know more than that?   Does anyone have a right to know that much?

Why does anyone care where I get my food or how I pay for gas in my car?  The funny thing about people is that they have some sort of need to pigeon hole everything and everyone.  They say think outside the box – then they put you in a box.

aaa17I recently took a rather unusual trip.  A group of us took a raft trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  Some people said I was ‘on vacation.’  On vacation from what?  If you are retired and you take a trip are you on vacation from your retirement?  Might we say that we are taking a sabbatical from retirement?  How does that work?  Or do we just say we had a ‘paid vacation,’ one of the benefits of being retired?  People ask me what the trip cost?  I usually tell them – it is not a big secret.  I can see them pondering – “Hmmm, he doe not punch a clock, has no visible means of support, and is taking extravagant trips. Hmmmm?”  I took a nap while rafting – surely I am retired.

I am a private person.  Some might take exception to that statement because I present as an extrovert – but that just means to me that those who take exception do not understand the meaning of extrovert.  I generally do not talk with others about my finances – and I generally do not ask others about their finances.  Sometimes in my volunteer work people will tell me about their struggle on $731.00 a month in Social Security.  If they ask me for financial advice then they open that door and I will ask questions and give counsel.

IMGP1277While rafting we took breaks to hike the side canyons.  It is something of a tradition for rafters on the Colorado to hike Elves Chasm to a beautiful waterfall.  Tradition dictates that we climb to the top and jump off the falls.  Does that sort of behavior speak to age or retirement?  Is retirement a financial designation or an age designation – or what?

Do private people write internet essays about themselves?  Well, look it over and ask yourself how much I revealed about myself in this seemingly open essay?  You tell me.  Am I retired?


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