Deciding to Retire

People retire for many reasons, and some for no conscious reason at all other than acceptance of the notion that people are supposed to retire by a certain age if they can afford to. Disabilities such as heart disease, hypertension, injuries, and mental disorders force many older adults to retire, even before age 65. In addition to health problems and disabilities, job loss or dissatisfaction, financial security, retirement of a spouse, pressure from younger workers, opportunity to participate in leisure and volunteer activities, feelings that they are not as productive as the once were, and discouragement over their inability to find a job all affect the decision to retire (U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1991; Human Capital Initiative, 1993). For many older adults, their jobs become increasingly burdensome and they begin to engage in a preretirement role-exit process (Ekerdt & DeViney, 1993).

Most older adults elect to retire as soon as it becomes financially feasible. In certain occupations, such as the military and civil service, this can be done after 20-30 years of service. And in some industries, workers in their late fifties and early sixties may be "bought out" by management and save money

The Many Meanings of Retire

English can be a confusing language, especially when you are very young and the words aren't familiar or heard clearly. Imagine what visions phrases interpreted as "gladly the cross-eyed bear," "The Not-See Party," and "I led the pigeons to the flag" conjure up for a child. Even for adults, the meanings of single words, such as affect and effect, eminent and imminent, and emigrant and immigrant are hard to keep straight. Take the word retire, for example. When I was growing up, retire meant to go to bed and sleep-even if you didn't want to.

No one I knew when I was a child used retire for stopping work forever. The only people who "retired" in that sense were not sitting in rocking chairs on porches and reminiscing about how things used to be; they were either in the nuthouse or the graveyard. Reportedly, these permanent retirees would occasionally come back to finish some task they had not lived long enough to complete-such as scaring the living daylights out ofpeople they didn't like.

In school I learned that the meanings of words can sometimes be figured out by breaking them up into smaller words or syllables. Knowing that re meant "again," I interpreted "retire" as "to get tired all over again" or "to put a new tire on a car." Obviously I was on the wrong track.

When I became familiar with the game of baseball, "retire" meant that the batter or the side was no longer at bat. I started collecting cards containing pictures of famous players, and learned that an occasional superplayer's uniform number was "retired" after he had played his last game.

Some years later, when I joined the U.S. Marine Corps, I learned another meaning for retire—to retreat from a battle or any other source of danger. I was also told that you can "retire" your debts, "retire" from office, "retire" a ship, and "retire" from duty. Incidentally, I was quite anxious to do the last for most ofthe time that I was in the Corps.

Eventually, I consulted a dictionary and discovered that all activities designated by the word retire refer to some sort of withdrawal, leaving, removal, or retreat. And so it finally made sense that a person could "retire'' from ajob, avocation, or a career. However, I also found out that most people who "retire" do so in a very limited way. They may terminate their involvement in one type ofproductive activity, only to go on to another and another until they can "retire" no more. The last time they retire, they presumably expire. Whether they end up playing a lyre or fighting fire is a matter of conjecture.

for organizations during a time of slow economic growth and retrenchment. Less popular than early retirement is partial retirement, in which an employee's workload and salary are gradually reduced each year until he or she has completely retired (Quinn & Burkhauser, 1990). More men that women elect to retire early, presumably because they can afford to or have worked longer. In any case, the increasing number of retirees—the majority of whom are men—is somewhat offset by the increasing number of older women in the workforce.

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