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How do you explain your ER situation to old friends or new people you meet?
Old 05-22-2013, 09:17 AM   #1
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How do you explain your ER situation to old friends or new people you meet?

June 15 will mark my 1 year FIRED anniversary. Unfortunatley, I still haven't found a comfortable way to respond to the old "So,...what do you do?" question that I inevitably get asked when meeting new people. I also have a high school class reunion coming up so I am wondering how best to respond to some of those people that I haven't seen in so many years.

The bottom line is that some folks just don't need to hear that I have retired if they happen to be struggling from day to day just trying to make ends meet. On the other hand, maybe it shows that there is hope. (??)
Has anyone else found a way of dealing with these potentially sensitive situations that doesn't make you come off as a pompus hiney?
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:20 AM   #2
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Keep them guessing - instead of retired just say "I'm currently not working" but for many years I did X
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:51 AM   #3
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I have struggled with this question since I retired. Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago when I ran into a former work colleague.

She asked "What are you up to? Are you still at (former company)?"

I decided to leave it vague. "No, I left there in 2011. I no longer work".

This was a mistake. It left her confused and irritated: "Huh? Did you win the lottery or something? Or were you laid off?"

A better, clearer approach, which I intend to use going forward, would have been: "No, I decided to retire from there in 2011. Although I didn't mention it to people at the time, early retirement had been a long term plan of mine for years, and once I achieved my financial goals, I decided to call it quits."

Better to keep it clear, honest, and unapologetic, I think.
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:56 AM   #4
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Say you work for the intelligence community, and are not allowed to say what you do.

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Old 05-22-2013, 11:28 AM   #5
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We have our 40th high school reunion coming up in July. DH has been retired for 3 years and I'm comfortable saying that he's retired.

When it comes to us living just fine on his public pension that's where I've found there are people who act like he's taking something he doesn't deserve or that they won't have access to in their future. So if it's asked, I just say that we worked hard and got our cost of living down so that when he lost his job, he no longer needed to work.

I've had people react to "public pension" like he's getting big bucks, when the reality is that it is far less than most could get by on. But then, we're very careful and live on very little. All that seems to be too much info for party conversation so I try to state the fact that he's retired and not comment further than that unless asked.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:48 AM   #6
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DH plans to say he's working for me. Which will in turn make them feel sorry for him, rather than envious.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:51 AM   #7
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Old 05-22-2013, 12:00 PM   #8
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I keep it simple and treat it similarly to the way that parents explain grown-up subjects to their kids i.e. give a simple response and from there on allow the subsequent questions (if there are any) to dictate the level of detail I give in my answers.

It usually begins with "I don't work anymore", which is often enough. If they want to know how I managed that, I say something about living off a mixture of savings and investments.

The only time I have broken that rule was when, in answer to a "how did you pull that off" kind of question, I told her (an old friend who was getting back in contact) that I did it by saving between 35 and 40 times my annual expenditure and investing it in a mixture of stocks and bonds, from which I draw my income. Waaaay too much information. I got an "Oh, that's cool" kind of response and never heard anything more from her. I think I scared her off. She was undergoing a career change to becoming a lawyer and in her world, 35-40 times annual income is probably a very large amount. We never got to the part where I told her that I live in a small studio apartment with 2 cats and a bicycle as my sole form of transport
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Old 05-22-2013, 12:46 PM   #9
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Excellent conversation to have here.

I have had this problem. I am not retired, not because I can't afford to, but I need to wait for my kids to graduate college and have free time. I also enjoy spending time with them when I can and what to be around for them.

So I figure - I might as well be a coaster!!!

I did retire from my last co @ 45. I am now 50 and people talk to me about it because I have no debt and really no needs. All the earnings that I can into a State annuity and 403B plan.

Here are the responses from people when I tell them that I am working for pleasure and not $. It is also the same response when I tell them that I can retire anytime.

Step 1: Disbelief - They say "That's impossible", "Your too young", " It's not good to retire too early - you need a purpose", "That's a big risk", "I know people that have done that and they ran out of $"

Step 2: Jealousy - "No way", "You'r making a big mistake", Eye rolling usually follows and they start with the confirming questions

Step 3: Confirmation - " How did you do that", "How do you figure that", "How are you going to pay your bills"

Step 4: Response - "I starting working when I was 12", "I set a goal and saved to meet it", "I educated myself on how to do it", "I'm not retiring just doing what I want to", " I treat every saved dollar like its a free employee working 24/7/365"

Step 5: Still disbelief

This morning people who are ~52 told me that they just left their financial adviser and he said that they would run out of $ if the retried @ 62 @ 69. They were shocked. Since they are not savers I asked why are you shocked. They asked when I started saving for retirement. My response, for my kids the day after they got a SSN, for me in my household it was just a financial mindset - Independence - so the moment that I got my first nickle!

My strategy going forward is to not tell anyone and just keep it to myself. I want to celebrate my success but can't - kinda anti climatic. Funny how this is so many peoples goal but we feel like it's bragging when it's really just celebrating the achievement of a hard earned goal.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:08 PM   #10
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I'm going on vacation in July with a group of friends. We get together every couple of years for these trips, but aren't in much contact in between, so we spend some time finding out everything that happened in the last three years. My big news is that I retired at 48. I think this will be hard for me to explain because I feel guilty that I've been able to retire and so many others are far away from that. I know that I worked hard for years to save enough and mostly to live a frugal life, so I have earned my ER, but I really am struggling with this guilt.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:18 PM   #11
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I'm going on vacation in July with a group of friends. We get together every couple of years for these trips, but aren't in much contact in between, so we spend some time finding out everything that happened in the last three years. My big news is that I retired at 48. I think this will be hard for me to explain because I feel guilty that I've been able to retire and so many others are far away from that. I know that I worked hard for years to save enough and mostly to live a frugal life, so I have earned my ER, but I really am struggling with this guilt.
Hi, our neighbors are retiring early and moving on. I am the only person that they can talk to about it because of all the emotions around this topic. It is so hard not to come off boosting. When I do say something it it goes like this. I am so thankful, lucky and blessed to be able to stop working and pursue my other interests. That seems to work, for me anyway.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Delaney View Post
I'm going on vacation in July with a group of friends. We get together every couple of years for these trips, but aren't in much contact in between, so we spend some time finding out everything that happened in the last three years. My big news is that I retired at 48. I think this will be hard for me to explain because I feel guilty that I've been able to retire and so many others are far away from that. I know that I worked hard for years to save enough and mostly to live a frugal life, so I have earned my ER, but I really am struggling with this guilt.
As long as you've done nothing unethical or illegal, you have no reason to feel guilty. If your friends are indeed true friends, they'll be happy for you. Hopefully they're not like this -

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Old 05-22-2013, 01:29 PM   #13
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This would have given me paws pause, too...cats as a form of transport

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2 cats and a bicycle as my sole form of transport
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:30 PM   #14
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It's pretty easy for me, for the last couple of years I worked as an independent contractor primarily from home, so if the topic comes up among people with whom I don't care to share my new reality, I just stick with that and no one's the wiser.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:31 PM   #15
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I struggle with this as well. I am finally getting comfortable saying that I am retired in many situations and not feeling too guilty about it but we have our 40th HS anniversary coming up and I know that I'll be asked "what do you do" many times that evening.

I have given thought to:
  • Just saying that I am unemployed.
  • Or a retirement planner (I have a financial background).
  • Or I retired for health reasons (I was sick of work )
  • Or even a professional golfer (after all, I did win $17.50 last week - and leave out the fact that it cost me $40 in green and entry fees to win $17.50 )

I haven't yet had anybody probe me about how I did it but if someone does I plan to emphasize that I worked hard and longer hours than most people, went back to school for an advanced degree while working, made good money, lived below my means regularly saved and invested and that some of my investments did very well - and I feel blessed by my good fortune to never have had a job loss or major illness or divorce (and all of which happen to be the truth).
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:33 PM   #16
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This would have given me paws pause, too...cats as a form of transport
It took me a while to figure out how to attach the cats with pieces of buttered toast rubber-banded to them, to the bicycle, but it works like a charm
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:34 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by ICNTR View Post
June 15 will mark my 1 year FIRED anniversary. Unfortunatley, I still haven't found a comfortable way to respond to the old "So,...what do you do?" question that I inevitably get asked when meeting new people. I also have a high school class reunion coming up so I am wondering how best to respond to some of those people that I haven't seen in so many years.

The bottom line is that some folks just don't need to hear that I have retired if they happen to be struggling from day to day just trying to make ends meet. On the other hand, maybe it shows that there is hope. (??)
Has anyone else found a way of dealing with these potentially sensitive situations that doesn't make you come off as a pompus hiney?
I don't volunteer that I'm retired, but if asked 'what do you do?' I just say I'm retired. If there are follow up questions, I answer briefly so the conversation moves on to something else, and it's worked fine over the past 2 years. I usually act neutral about being retired and say there are dis/advantages to retirement and dis/advantages in working - and there are. I often say that I haven't ruled out going back to work at a second (different) career - and indeed I may. You would be a card carrying "pompous hiney" to gloat or say how wonderful being retired is to someone who is still working IMO.

IMO it's worth assuming the other person is just making conversation, there's no need to read more into it until proven otherwise. I did make the mistake early on of over-answering a few times, when the other person wasn't bargaining for it, as I came to realize after.

And if someone who asks me what I do, decides I'm a "pompous hiney" for answering honestly & humbly, that's their problem and I wouldn't worry about it at all. I struggled at work some days for 35 years too, but work is not all bad, certainly shouldn't be...
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:37 PM   #18
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After a round of golf, the question came up. I replied that I had recently retired. The person asking has recently ERed too. Next question: what did you DO? When I replied that I was a physician, she responded "but how can you do that, physicians don't retire!"

It is clear that we have a lot of education to do!
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:38 PM   #19
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IMO it's worth assuming (until proven otherwise) the other person is just making conversation, there's no need to read more into it.
Precisely. In my experience, few ask for details, as they don't imagine it's anything they'd be able (or want) to do.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:38 PM   #20
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In the first 6 months or so of being ERed, I was a little uncomfortable about how to reply. But now I simply say, "I'm retired." If someone asks how I did that (which is actually pretty rare, I am happy to say), I just say, "No kids, no debts."

Despite the "Revenge of the Nerds" temptation, I have no interest in going to any HS reunions, so I won't get to play this out with any of those bozos who treated me like dirt most of the time I was there.
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