Why My Friend Larry May Flunk Retirement

JamesP

Two female friends of ours recently announced that they plan to retire from their jobs in September.

But not my friend, Larry.  The idea of retirement bugs him.

He is 64 and has no plans to retire anytime soon – (in part due to the recent addition of a lovely screen porch on the back of his house where he plans to relax if he ever retires but he first has to finish paying for the screen porch so he can’t retire anytime soon even if he wanted to.)

But he actually doesn’t intend to retire. Ever.

Larry likes being a lawyer. He worries about how he would fill his time once he is retired. So far he has come up with only two retirement tasks.

The first is to clean out his garage.

He and his wife, my friend, Susan, have lived in their house for 32 years where they raised two kids, now young adults, and a cat named Phil who thought he was a dog; sadly no longer with us. The clean-up of Larry’s garage is long overdue.

That should take about 10 days, he figures.

The second task is to organize a large collection of family photos. Ektachrome slides taken by his late Dad beginning in the 1950’s, color snapshots of his own family taken in the 1990’s and a jumble of more recent travel shots residing on his iPad, iPhone and various computers in his basement.

Larry thinks the photo organization project will take about two weeks.

So if he were to retire, let’s say, as of September 4, he will be done cleaning his garage and organizing his photos by about September 29th. Then Larry would go sit on his renovated porch, have an iced tea and think about what he will do for the rest of his life.

This is why Larry is concerned about retiring.

He only can think of two things to do.

He does not play golf or tennis. He does not have a man-cave to putter around in. He does not want to start a new business.  He already bikes, travels and does volunteer work.

So why retire?

I told Larry that retirement isn’t what it used to be. We aren’t supposed to sit at home, on our renovated porches or otherwise, and just rock ourselves into mental oblivion. The new thing is to reinvent ourselves upon retirement. Why not, I suggested to Larry, take a look at one of those popular web sites that encourage pre-retirees to find their passions and reconfigure the second acts of their lives.

Larry’s response: that’s a ridiculous idea. Why should I have to reinvent myself?  He has already had 40 years in his working life to invent himself and he doesn’t think he can come up with anything new. Nor does he want to.

We had a small friendly argument about this recently.

I had to retire; I was cardiologically-told that going back to DC law firm life was not a possibility. So Larry tells me –  you had to stop. I don’t. I like working for a living. My income is quite useful. Why should I give it up if I am still capable?

Maybe thinking about retirement is scary because we don’t want to face old age?

The very word “retirement” does have unpleasant connotations.  It comes from the French word retirer – “to go into seclusion”. The Oxford dictionary defines retirement as “leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.” The word retirement is also said to refer to “the period between employment and death.”

Swell.

The thought of not being able to go to work every day makes Larry quake. He believes that he isn’t old enough to stop working and that (unless fate knows otherwise) he is too young to die. Larry has been leaving the house every day to go to school or work since he was five years old. He likes putting on his suit in the morning and commuting downtown to his K street law firm office. It is a big part (the main part?) of his identity.

I liked lawyering too but it didn’t define me. Like many women, I always had interests beyond my day job. As I hit my late 50’s and retirement loomed on the post-60 horizon, I could easily think of a number of productive and fun projects and activities to look forward to doing –  none of which involved cleaning out the garage or organizing my photos or even playing golf. (not that golf isn’t a fine sport, just not for me.)

So I wonder:

Do men – more than women – fear leaving their day jobs because they can’t think of what to do in the (hopefully) long pre-death stretch of years?

Larry recently had his annual physical. He told me that his female internist asked him about his future plans.  Larry told his internist that he did not intend to retire. His internist nodded in approval, “Good”, she said, “Men don’t do retirement well.”

Really?

So are some men like Larry, bound to flunk retirement?

And women of many interests like me and my friends destined to get straight A’s?

Not that it is a competition or anything.

But sometimes, according to Larry, it just seems easier to keep on going to the office everyday than to have to come up with a creative retirement plan beyond cleaning out the garage and organizing photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

Filed under Men vs Women

15 responses to “Why My Friend Larry May Flunk Retirement

  1. Stephanie Lebow

    Great! But – wait a minute – Larry looks like your husband!

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  2. suzannestavert

    I think you are right on! Larry should definitely NOT retire. BTW organizing photos is not my idea of fun! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. siouxknox@aol.com

    So does this mean that we have to start calling Jim “Larry”?

    I know that we talked about this, and it continues to be very thought-provoking. Maybe it’s societal. Men are more single-focused–they’re supposed to work. Women are supposed to keep the home fires burning (which by definition requires multi-tasking), and so we are more creative in thinking about our lives. Having said that, I had lunch with my law school friend Laura Handman the other day. She’s a partner at Davis, Wright, Tremaine. When I asked her what her plans are, she said that she thinks she’ll die with her boots on. She said she doesn’t really have any hobbies, and she likes what she does. Her husband (Harold Ickes) is 75, but she said he’ll never stop working as long as there political campaigns, so he’s not a reason to retire. Maybe her single-minded devotion to her job is why she’s a more successful lawyer than I am!

    I think that you could write a longer, more serious article about this that maybe you could get published. Interview lots of people. It would be anecdotal, but maybe you could draw some interesting conclusions.

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  4. Personally, I cannot WAIT to retire…unfortunately, it’s probably never going to happen. And can Larry come and clean out our garage? He’s gonna have time on his hands…

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  5. To begin with I don’t think we all need to retire. As a writer I don’t intend to, and my husband likes what he does as well so we call ourselves “semi-retired” because we are fortunate to be able to adjust our schedules, travel and do all sorts of things because we make up our own schedules.

    But with that, I agree that some men seem to have trouble with retirement. I happen to believe it is because they, as you say, so closely identify with their role at work. I believe most women are more multi-dimensional and have lots of different interests even when they do work. Plus, women tend to be more social and if men don’t have a traditional job they might have few of any friends. ~Kathy

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  6. My husband likes lawyering. I think he lives in fear of the day when his ‘of counsel’ days are over–working 10-15 hours a week suits him. He could go on with this forever. But of course, he’s thrilled to have given up the responsibilities of full-time partnership. Part of it is he has no other interests. “What would I do?” is common among those kind of professionals.
    C
    http://carolcassara.com/follow-heart/

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    • Carol – yes, I don’t miss my law partnership (billing hours, competition) at all! My Dad, however, is still practicing law at age 91 and has no other interests or hobbies (except for crossword puzzles and watching baseball). He also has the “what would I do?” problem. Not me!!

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  7. I guess I’m not like most guys I know… I can’t wait to retire, to stop working for other people who don’t really care about me, and would lay me off without a second thought (I’m in advertising). I’m so close, I can see it and my wife and I are trying to figure out how to make it happen sooner rather than later.

    I don’t plan on sitting on my porch, of course, I’ve got other plans… Most guys define themselves by their jobs. Or maybe it’s American society who continually asks each other: “what do you do?” waiting for the butcher, baker, candlestick maker kind of reply. I wonder if men think that way iso they don’t have to actually think about “who” they are because the “what” covers it for most men. Women have a better handle on who they are as people, I think, so they don’t have to define themselves by what they do for a living.

    -w

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    • I like your comment Walter. Maybe so that we are very hung up in American society (particularly in the big cities) on the “what do you do?” question. Men more so that women. Interesting point. Thanks! Nancy

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  8. I “retired” into a new career as a writer and therapist specialized in midlife psychology in my early 50s, and my husband just officially retired this summer. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but I would say we are VERY GOOD AT IT! 🙂

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  9. I can’t imagine what my husband would do if he retired. He’s still young, only 54, but even in 10 years…it’s hard to imagine him without a job. I think part time retirement is the way to go.

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  10. I don’t think retirement is right for every person so good for Larry, to keep enjoying what he does.

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  11. Great post. To me the point of retirement is to work or play based on what appeals to us, as much or as little as appeals to us. For some people that means continuing in their current work. For me, it ‘ll mean working part-time for a few years while I explore some hobbies I haven’t had time to try. Cleaning the garage is definitely NOT in that list.

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