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"So, when are you going to retire?" (LONG)
Old 10-21-2012, 04:57 PM   #1
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"So, when are you going to retire?" (LONG)

People at work have been asking more and more often, and I don't know how to handle it. Heck, a security guard I didn't even recognize came up to me the other day in the parking lot and announced, "You've been here as long as I have - I've seen you around for years - so, when are you retiring?" I did not know how to respond to this unwelcome familiarity.



The true answer is “Not any time soon,” and I say that, but it’s like people don’t want to believe it. I know it’s not that I look or act "old" – I’m quite active and highly competitive - it's more that lots of people ARE starting to retire, and it's well known that I've been around a long time.



So, I can handle that. What concerns me is that once it's believed that someone is retiring, that person gets put on the shelf for good assignments, and sometimes moved to undesirable assignments or seating. As a manager, I have insight into this mind-set. Managers rarely ask straight out, because no manager wants it on his/her record that he/she said anything that could bring on an age discrimination suit (although nobody ever wins those).

However, the grapevine is such that the moment someone breathes a word about retiring, it seems like everybody knows in a week. Therefore, I do not want to discuss retirement plans at work. OTOH, the perfectly polite response of “I don’t discuss my retirement plans" gets taken as a "snap." "Oh, I get it - you don't want anyone to know!" It's weird.

This summer, my boss's boss took a great interest in how much "use-or-lose" annual leave I still had for 2012. Usually you get asked one time each year to provide your leave plans. I always volunteer my plans up front, never take leave when there's a crisis, and never forfeit leave. But this year, I had to explain my leave plans 3 separate times (in writing). I finally wrote a letter saying that my leave use was on the exact same schedule as 2011, and produced a pay stub to prove it. The only reason I can think of for this untoward interest is that somebody was trying to find out if I was avoiding taking leave, so I could retire at year's end and get a payout.

I'm especially concerned that when I do decide to retire, management will figure things out by mid-year and I will get grilled. Anybody had to cross this bridge? How did you handle it?


I just wish people at work would confine their questions to work, the weather, family, etc.



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Old 10-21-2012, 05:05 PM   #2
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Maybe, when asked, you could just blow it off by saying something like,

"When I have something to say about retiring, believe me! You will be the first to know."

Just keep telling yourself that the just aren't thinking when they say these things.
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Old 10-21-2012, 05:06 PM   #3
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Is your agency facing big budget cuts? A possible RIF?
Perhaps they are nosing around to see who might be applying for a possible VERA/VSIP deal. I've seen people get really cut-throat about that.
Next time someone asks gets nosy, just tell them you are on your way to the ladies' room, and walk away fast.
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Old 10-21-2012, 06:14 PM   #4
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two possible answers.................and, it really is a typical question asked of all long term employees everywhere......OK, you could say; "Not anytime soon" or "when I find someplace where I enjoy the people as much as I enjoy the people here, thanks for asking".....smile and walk away.

I'm close to retirement age and I know I ask others my age all the time......it's just part of life. Happy working!
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Old 10-21-2012, 06:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
People at work have been asking more and more often, and I don't know how to handle it. Heck, a security guard I didn't even recognize came up to me the other day in the parking lot and announced, "You've been here as long as I have - I've seen you around for years - so, when are you retiring?" I did not know how to respond to this unwelcome familiarity.
I think you have two choices on how to respond to something like that. The first is something snarky like "I'm waiting for you to go first!" The second is to look faintly puzzled and say "Sorry, I don't know why you would think that", and change the subject as though they'd uttered a faux pas.

A minor side issue may be the question of how a security guard can be working there for such a long time and yet you still don't recognize them. But that's not relevant to the discussion at hand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
The true answer is “Not any time soon,” and I say that, but it’s like people don’t want to believe it. I know it’s not that I look or act "old" – I’m quite active and highly competitive - it's more that lots of people ARE starting to retire, and it's well known that I've been around a long time.
OTOH, the perfectly polite response of “I don’t discuss my retirement plans" gets taken as a "snap." "Oh, I get it - you don't want anyone to know!" It's weird.
We're not there when these things happen, and we may be on the wrong track, but perhaps this is not about you. Maybe the question is coming up because people see you as the experienced veteran who has the inside track on news like layoffs or a lump-sum offer or a buyout. Maybe they really don't care about you or your work status at all and they're just trying to tap into the gossip to figure out what's going on in the company. Then you say something like "We don't discuss submarine operations" and everybody thinks that they've stumbled across some super-secret warning signs. What may have offended you as a personal question might not have been asked as such, and your response makes them infer that you're keeping management secrets.

If you act perplexed ("This is not about me") and change the subject, then perhaps people will begin to think that there's nothing going on.

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Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
So, I can handle that. What concerns me is that once it's believed that someone is retiring, that person gets put on the shelf for good assignments, and sometimes moved to undesirable assignments or seating. As a manager, I have insight into this mind-set. Managers rarely ask straight out, because no manager wants it on his/her record that he/she said anything that could bring on an age discrimination suit (although nobody ever wins those).
Well, isn't that the whole point of retiring? Why do you care about your status or assignments if you're retiring? Many times the prospective retiree has other plans and doesn't want to work up to midnight on their last day. What seems "undesirable" now may be perceived differently when you're working on your short-timer's chain. Management also has to train the relief, so they can't afford to "waste" a good slot on you. I'm not sure what "seating" means, but if you're not going to be working there much longer then why care where you sit? Age discrimination is an issue, but when someone has quietly shared their retirement plans then it would seem a waste of time to pursue a suit on the subject.

Either that or your company has a habit of assuming that someone is getting ready to retire, and then starts treating them as a pariah. I'll get back to that in a few paragraphs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
This summer, my boss's boss took a great interest in how much "use-or-lose" annual leave I still had for 2012. Usually you get asked one time each year to provide your leave plans. I always volunteer my plans up front, never take leave when there's a crisis, and never forfeit leave. But this year, I had to explain my leave plans 3 separate times (in writing). I finally wrote a letter saying that my leave use was on the exact same schedule as 2011, and produced a pay stub to prove it. The only reason I can think of for this untoward interest is that somebody was trying to find out if I was avoiding taking leave, so I could retire at year's end and get a payout.
Heh-- here's a funny accounting story. When my spouse was working at a non-profit, the auditors were going over the payroll records. They got into a huge hissy fit over the file of a 30-year employee who almost never used vacation time or sick leave (which could be rolled over). Their concern turned out to be that she was a liability on the books for approximately 2x her annual salary, and if she retired (which she could hypothetically do at any moment with minimal notice) the company would practically have to seek financing to be able to pay her the days that she'd be cashing in.

The issue wasn't that she had so much time on the books, either accumulating or use-it-or-lose-it. The issue was that the company had a significant material financial deficiency that they'd failed to account for, and worse yet had failed to even notice. So for the next couple months, the accountants had to scramble around to verify everyone's leave/sick days and properly account for the implied liability. Could that be the situation at your workplace?

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I'm especially concerned that when I do decide to retire, management will figure things out by mid-year and I will get grilled.
Well, the "good" news is that (judging by your reaction this year) everybody will be afraid to even bring up the subject next year... so maybe you've nipped that problem in the bud.

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Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
Anybody had to cross this bridge? How did you handle it?
This is going to sound simplistic, but you're not ready to retire yet and you may not appreciate the mindset yet. When you're ready to retire then none of these issues are going to have any significance, and you're just not going to give a crap what anyone thinks or what status you have. You'll have better things to think about. You'll probably end up taking your leave so that you can vacate the workplace earlier than ever-- because you'll have better things to do. You won't care who knows that you're retiring (let alone when) so you'll give minimal advance notice and leave the office the minute that you're ethically/legally able to do so... because there's no reason to hang around that place while a big beautiful world is out there waiting for you.

Now here's another question, getting back to security guards and your bosses assuming that you're retiring when you have no such intention: if this is your office environment in which you're spending at least 40 hours/week, then why do you still want to work there?
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Old 10-22-2012, 05:53 AM   #6
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My experience in government was that people ask about retirement all the time. If you worry about the impact of people thinking you may be leaving soon, I don't understand why you don't respond with what you describe as the truth - "not anytime soon."
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:16 AM   #7
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This is going to sound simplistic, but you're not ready to retire yet and you may not appreciate the mindset yet. When you're ready to retire then none of these issues are going to have any significance, and you're just not going to give a crap what anyone thinks or what status you have.
Amen...
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:24 AM   #8
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I'm especially concerned that when I do decide to retire, management will figure things out by mid-year and I will get grilled. Anybody had to cross this bridge? How did you handle it?

I just wish people at work would confine their questions to work, the weather, family, etc.

Amethyst
People like to gossip, there's nothing more exciting than unfounded talk and speculation about coworkers. Hoping they limit their questions to work and the weather is like asking people here at the forum to answer only if they are qualified and have specific knowledge on the thread topic.

I've been on the other side of this - the manager pestering employees about taking their earned leave. In my case it was always because of pressure from above. It may be happening to others and you don't see that. The manager may have made a mistake. I wouldn't read too much into it, if they really had it "in" for you they probably would be more devious or discrete in their approach.

When you are ready to retire I'm sure things will be much easier than you fear. Management is most concerned about workflow continuity and budget. If you help them manage through those when you leave it'll work out.
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:56 AM   #9
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My boss (with whom I had a very good relationship) casually inquired about my retirement plans while we were having breakfast on the road one morning. I responded "Eh...I don't know, but probably zero to five years from now."

I think the zero got his attention as the firm made good money on my time. As it turned out it was 6 years as I delayed for a year after the economy tanked.
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Old 10-22-2012, 07:53 AM   #10
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I've never worried about what others might think in general. And it's hard to tell when someone asks whether it's a thoughtful serious question, or a thoughtless 'making conversation' or outright nosey question. Whenever I was asked, I laughed it off and said "I've got a least 10 more years to go." There will be plenty of time to field questions from those who are really interested, and you want to share with, after you've announced.

I can't think of any benefit in revealing my plans to others. DW was the only person who knew my plans, I didn't even tell other family members, much less friends or co-workers. Why? Keep your options open, keep control of when. When I told my boss and co-workers, I was ready to go that day. They were all completely surprised, that was kind of amusing, no downside in waiting that I can think of.

And whether we like it or not, most of us lose touch with most of our co-workers pretty quickly and maybe all of them in time...no need to worry about their knowledge of your personal plans.
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Old 10-22-2012, 07:53 AM   #11
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At my place, it was regularly whispered that it was time for "new blood to take over" by some new arrivals. I had been there for 34 years and they wanted to get hold of the throttle.

I finally obliged at age 52 (with an obscenely generous buyout) and the place folded within 18 months! What losers!
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:19 PM   #12
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The true answer is “Not any time soon,” and I say that
Then I don't get the question (or it seems like you've answered it yourself). If that's the truth, and that's what you tell them, fine. I'd continue to tell them that until the day you absolutely have to announce retirement, and not one nanosecond sooner.
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:30 PM   #13
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People (more and more of them and more often) as I rapidly age before their very eyes ask me when I plan on retiring. I ask them what makes them think that I haven't already retired.
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Old 10-22-2012, 07:28 PM   #14
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I second Nords' last paragraph where he talks about your readiness to leave/retire. I've always been told, you will know - and I've reached it in one area of my life (can't pull the plug for a 1 and several months yet). How do I know - I'm tired of the BS and frankly don't give a $*** what they think....my patience with dealing with the people, projects and overhead is limited and my interest level has severely dropped. There are only a few people there I enjoy interacting with - all the rest I tolerate......so, mentally, I am ready to move on.

As for an answer to the question - I like the "that's an awfully personal question - when are you retiring?" or "I don't discuss those things outside of my immediate family." That should nip it in the bud. It's really none of their business. You could also just re-direct - "Oh, isn't the pie at the cafeteria good today?" "Did you see the asteroid belt from Haley's comet Sunday?", etc.
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Old 10-22-2012, 07:39 PM   #15
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When my Megacorp had one of those age based packages a few years ago, my boss was pretty miffed by this question. A lot of people asked him if he was taking the package. He had to say "no" since he wasn't eligible.

So, not only were people brazen enough to ask about retirement, they were also prodding him on age.

He wasn't too pleased that he apparently looks so old either.
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Old 10-22-2012, 08:45 PM   #16
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I get asked that a lot by the 6 people directly under me. They know it's really stressful and that I have some chronic illnesses. I think their reasons for asking are not because any of them want my job. It's because they know it could be one person they really don't like replacing me, or an outsider and it scares them.

We've all worked together 20-30 years and I let them work independently. The person they don't like is someone who is constantly checking and criticizing. But she is most qualified educationally and by experience. When they ask, I tell them it will be a few more years without a specific number. I hate it though. I really hope it's 3 or less.
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Old 10-22-2012, 09:02 PM   #17
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My experience in government was that people ask about retirement all the time. If you worry about the impact of people thinking you may be leaving soon, I don't understand why you don't respond with what you describe as the truth - "not anytime soon."
That is my experience about working in government, too. It is almost a part time hobby in itself. Most people would broadcast the exact year and day they will retire. There also, however, was a small minority that viewed questions about it to them as being extrapolated into " you need to go, you are old and not wanted here anymore". Seniority and such protections in government probably provides a more secure environment to broadcast ones intentions than the private world, I imagine.
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Old 10-22-2012, 10:38 PM   #18
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I would look at them in shock and say "How old do you think I am, taking like that." like I am really offended. (I actually would be offended.). Then I would say "You think I'm rich or something?". Do both with a Brooklyn accent.
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Old 10-23-2012, 12:47 AM   #19
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Use the cryptically sarcastic (?) Katharine Hepburn line from "Desk Set" (1957):

"I love it - if I didn't work here I'd pay to get in".
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Old 10-23-2012, 02:45 PM   #20
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There is a lady who has worked for our nonprofit for 50 years. She's 71 and if you dare to ask her when she will retire, she says she will retire when people stop asking her about it. She still does a good job and she used to tell new supervisors "I was here when you got here and I'll be here when you leave."
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