My wife say’s I’m not retired. I say of course I am. Since 2004, we have been living in the city of Oaxaca in the southern Mexico state of the same name. I was a Toronto litigation lawyer until age 53, when I packed it in and we moved south. A year or so after relocating to Oaxaca we opened a bed & breakfast, did that for several years, then stopped.
During the course of vacationing in Oaxaca two or three times a year since 1991, I developed some expertise in the area of mezcal. Mezcal is the agave based Mexican spirit most of which is fabricated in an artisanal manner in small mom and pop distilleries known locally as palenques. And so in retirement I began leading educational excursions into the villages where the spirit is produced, for both novices and mezcal aficionados alike, teaching bartenders, and assisting entrepreneurs wanting to begin an export brand. I “work” about three days a week, typically not on weekends. I charge for the services I provide, but pretty well all the income derived goes to charitable purposes. I also write about mezcal and industry sustainability for online and print publications, rarely if ever receiving payment for my musings, although a few years back I was on contract for the Mexican government’s Mexico Today program, hired to write short pieces promoting tourism and investment in and for the country. Am I retired?
Let’s begin with a provisional definition of retirement: If you’ve had a career or a job for a long time, don’t want to do it any longer and don’t have to because you’re debt free and have enough money to last for the rest of your life and are satisfied that your children and/or partner will be looked after just fine after your passing, and you then stop doing what you had been doing for that extended period of time during your adult life, then you’re retired.
Just because you thereafter decide that you want to do something more than sit around the house or play cards with friends or travel, doesn’t detract from the status of being retired, even if you are earning money and your new vocation keeps you busy 40 hours a week. Perhaps we should add something to our definition: Retirement can include thereafter doing something new, including having one or more hobbies, even if it produces revenue, as long as you can do it whenever you want for however long you want with no adverse implications for you if and when you decide to do it less or not at all.
If you’re an A type personality, you’ll always be one, even in retirement. And so there ought to be no worries about no longer doing your day job with concerns about how you will spend your time. I had no idea how I would spend my days when we first moved to Oaxaca.
Using my personal example, one might reasonably ask, “what does he do four days a week if he’s supposedly retired and working only those weekdays?” Well, a young bright indigenous Zapotec woman, a god-daughter of ours, has been living with us for the past four years, and will continue to do so while we are putting her through medical school here in Oaxaca. Those readers who have children understand that just because your progeny are over the age of majority does not necessarily mean that they are independent. She occupies some of our time.
Think about it: while working for a living, you finish Friday late afternoon and of course are too tired to go out that evening. Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon are times for yourself. You can’t go out Sunday evening because you have to wake up early for Monday morning at work. You’ve brought some work home from work, so your free weekend is not entirely for personal time. So you basically have one weekend day and an evening to socialize and do cultural activities. If you live in a big city you understand that on pretty well a daily basis there are dance and music performances to attend, gallery openings to see, new restaurants to try, movies you’ve been told you shouldn’t miss. And you don’t have time to see your friends during the week because you’re working, and evenings you’re too tired.
In retirement you can take advantage of what you couldn’t see or do during that one weekend day and evening, whenever you want.
Back to my previous question, here’s what I did yesterday beginning at 8 am and finishing at 7 pm: took our god-daughter’s car in for servicing and returned home in a taxi; dropped my wife off at the periodontist then bought a bag of ice and came home; picked up my wife and came home; finished working on an article, had my wife edit, correct and upload it to the internet; drove with our god-daughter to pick up her car; attended at our orthopedic surgeon’s office to pay him; got a haircut; came home.
To my thinking that’s a lot for a day in retirement when I’m not doing a mezcal tour, going to a new art installation or to a music concert. And, some of my errands were run on the motorcycle; if I had to do it using a car, it would have taken two days. As it was I didn’t have time to get to the bank. Banking, writing this article, and going out for dinner to the new location of our go-to Moroccan restaurant are scheduled for today.
Retirement is a state of mind. It can be a full-time job. Perhaps once my wife edits this article she’ll understand that I’m retired; perhaps she still won’t. At least now I have enough time for what I was too tired to do when I was working to make a living.