What does "retired" (or "semiretired") mean to you?

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people seem to be using those words differently than I do. First, I will describe how I use/understand them and then I will give other examples of how I have seen them used. I’m trying to figure out if I am the outlier.

I would refer to someone as a “retired (job title)” if they retired from a job that provides a pension - a “retired firefighter” is one who is collecting a pension from the fire department regardless of any other employment they currently hold. Someone who is no longer working and is living off some combo of a pension, Social Security and investments is retired. Someone who has left their regular occupation, is collecting Social Security and has a part-time job is “retired” . “Semi-retired” would be someone working very part-time at their previous occupation while collecting a pension/Social Security/retirement investments - for example, a teacher who retired from one school system who sometimes works as a sub in a different system or a dentist who downsizes her practice to one or two days a week.

Now , how I’ve seen people use the terms- I have an acquaintance who has been talking for years about how he was going to retire at 59 . By that, he meant he was going to quit the job he had at the time and get a new full-time ( or nearly so) job. He could never explain to me in what sense this was retirement and I still don’t understand. I’ve seen people below SS age talk about being “retired” or “semi-retired” while keeping the same job but dropping to 4 days a week or 6 hours a day or some combination - I don’t see how that’s being “retired” or “semi-retired” rather than simply working part-time. Surely no one would consider a 20 year old working that schedule “semi-retired” but I’m not sure how it makes sense for a 50 or even 60 year old. Same thing for people I’ve read about who “retired” in their 30s or 40s and now spend their time managing their multiple rental properties or running some other business - I just don’t understand how you are “retired” if you are actually spending time running a business.

Is it just me who thinks that the situations I described in the last paragraph are not really retirement?

I agree with you- semi-retired revolves around keeping your toes in the working world because you enjoy it, but not having to do so. I’m not sure where the dividing line between working part time and being semi-retired is though.

Doing some sort of professional retirement (military, government, athletic) and then working a different full-time job doesn’t count as the classical “retired”. I’m not sure about say… saving up enough to retire, and then stopping working, and then volunteering full-time, or working for a non-profit or something like that at a pay rate not commensurate with your experience or skill. Those are interesting things to consider.

“Retired” means completing your tour in the working world and living entirely from the proceeds (SS, pension, investments, etc.). No work at all and none necessary.

“Semi-retired” means the above, but producing extra income from a job for whatever reason (boredom, need, hobby that pays).

I’m not entirely sure where landlord fits in these descriptions – I guess it depends on the level of effort and active involvement.

I don’t think a pension in particular is part of the definition. There are many forms of income possible after leaving work permanently, and many people never have a pension.

I think maybe “semiretired” should apply to me. I’ve worked full time for decades but now have gone down to a 4 day, nominally 32 hour work week. Employers have various definitions of “part time”; my employer considers me part time now. This is a 20% step toward being fully retired, so I’m partly retired, right? But perhaps by “semi” should more specifically be meant 50%, or something else.

Yeah, i dropped from full time to 60%, because i didn’t need the income of working full time any more, and i wanted to work less. I could have just retired, but was worried i would rot away without regular responsibilities.

I consider myself semi-retired, even though I’m not collecting any “retirement income”.

I can see it like Puzzlegal expressed it, you can afford to work fewer hours, you could afford to retire but you keep working for something to do. A younger person works full time usually because they need to do it for the income (or because their chosen profession doesn’t handle part-time very well, or something like that). They have fewer choices.

If you are able to move from working for someone else to working for yourself, I can see why you might think of yourself as retired.

You can be retired military, meaning you put in all your time (20 years?) and be getting the benefits. But if you went into the military at 18, put in 20 years, you are still quite young and probably going to another field.

I think this is part of why the definition has become muddled. A cousin of mine did exactly this - went into the Army at 18 and retired at 38. He lives and works near his last posting and it’s typical for people there to identify as “active” or “retired,” since there are lots of both.

I think that. gradually, more and more people followed the example of someone actively collecting a pension being “retired” even though they’re still fairly young and working.

I do think the FIRE movement people need to just focus on the FI part - while many are Financially Independent, few seem to have Retired Early. They just do something they like more now, or treat working like a hobby

Well, I retired from a professional job at 39 to become a stay-at-home parent. I do sometimes call myself retired (more typically “retired from Megacorp”). I don’t work, but I don’t collect a pension. I may get a paying job again some day, or maybe not.

And, as mentioned, “retired Air Force” has a specific meaning that has nothing to do with whether you are working at another job now.

I think the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement is gradually changing our idea of retirement away from whether someone is working to why someone is working.

Mr Money Mustache has a couple of great posts on retirement.

The “internet retirement police” (IRP), which you’ll meet in various online forums, have established five main directives:
In principle you can only participate in certain pre-approved retirement activities such as beach-sitting, staring out the window, and receiving visits from your grandchildren. Traveling is also okay, as is eating “delicious food”, just make sure you don’t cook it yourself, see below. Think twice before doing anything that’s not on this list! The IRP is watching you.
The IRP does grant one exemption should you become bored with the activities above. You can work for a nonprofit organization. Make sure you’re not getting paid though even if you have to plead your case with the CEO to put in special exemptions.

I propose that you keep right on working well after your retirement date, and in an ideal world you keep working right up until the last day of your life. Only then and with the satisfaction of countless decades of doing your best, is it really worthwhile to take that final rest.
If this sounds like a prescription for living hell, the problem is not with my proposal. It’s with your definition of what “work” really is. The problem is likely that you are doing work because you need the money, rather than for the joy of getting the most out of each of your days. And there really is a better way.
[Retired People] no longer need to work for money because their investments cover their (usually below average) spending. And yet, at the present moment almost all of them are still doing things that look like working. A couple of them are still charging away at expanding their companies. Others are still productive at writing books or investing and helping others start companies of their own. Even I get accused of not being retired on the grounds of either carpentry or writing. But there’s a reason behind all of this work-like activity, and it’s not money.

I consider myself semi-retired. About five or six years ago I had a breakdown, and never really went back to work. But I fell into owning half a small business. I work about five or ten hours a week - and make more than half what I did when employed. And I wouldn’t NEED to work - but then my husband still works full time in a high paying career job. If I were 30 with small kids I would have become a SAHM rather than “semi-retired” - but I’m 55, so - semi-retired. But then he wouldn’t NEED to work if we sliced our expenses down to minimum - we could still live better than a lot of people who work full time, but that wouldn’t leave any money for fun.

What it sounds like to me is a certain type of person who feels that life is about being productive in some way.

To my type of personality, that very much does sound horrible. I don’t need to be productive for my life to have meaning. I’m fully aware of the fact that much of what I do is not productive, but it does make me happy.

For some, the fact life is short means that you need to get as much done as you can. For me, it’s that you should enjoy it while it lasts.

It doesn’t mean I won’t ever work toward something I enjoy. But it does mean I don’t mind if I’m not working in any sense of the word.

It’s a close call.

I worked for 36 years (all with good pension schemes), then retired.
However I still teach chess + bridge - to friends locally.

Now I really enjoy this (the students are keen to learn and it keeps my mind active.)
I have offered to do it for free, but my friends insist on paying something (which, after tax, I spend on curries!)

I call myself ‘retired’.

I might not have been clear- I don’t at all think the definition of “retired” must include a pension, only that collecting a military/firefighter etc pension would mean I might refer to someone as “retired military” or “a retired firefighter” even if they were currently working a different full-time job while if they left after 10 or 15 years without a pension, I would refer to them as “former” rather than retired.

Yes, this is key. The choice.

Honestly, i mostly tell people that “I’ve dropped to part time.” But i think of myself as easing into retirement.

Can you explain ? - I mean I can definitely understand why someone would prefer to work for themself rather than to work for someone else. What I don’t understand is why you might think of yourself as “retired” if you are actually spending time running a business - the landlords I referred to didn’t have own a house with four apartments and rent out the three they don’t live in . They had enough apartments that managing them was a full-time job - and if they had paid someone to manage them and simply collected the profit I would absolutely say they were retired , just like I would say the owner of a hardware store is retired if someone else is running it and the owner just collects the profit. But I wouldn’t say the hardware store owner who is behind the counter five or more days a week as retired and I don’t think the landlords who spend five days a week managing properties are retired.

I am now wondering if there is some sort of stigma to working part-time or being a SAHP that referring to yourself as “retired” avoids - I mean working part-time as a way of easing into retirement I absolutely understand , but it seems like certain assumptions are being made. Like for example :

A younger person works full time usually because they need to do it for the income (or because their chosen profession doesn’t handle part-time very well, or something like that).

I know plenty of younger people who work part-time for various reasons - - and not everyone has a “chosen profession”. My niece stopped working full-time at approximately the age of 25 because she had her second kid. Now, she doesn’t work outside her home at all - she’s a SAHP to 4 kids at the age of 32. But I doubt anyone is going to refer to her as retired after working a few years total at places like the cable company CSR line and retail stores.

To me, “retired” means you are done working for someone for a living. Your time is entirely your own without any employment obligations of any kind to anyone. “Semi-retired”, or what I call "retirement with a small ‘r’ ", means that you have retired from your full time career job but still work in some capacity. You may work part-time for someone else, or you might be self-employed, but it is ramped down from the full time career job you left.

I call myself semi-retired because I retired from my 40 year state job, draw my full pension, and work 30 hours a week for a consulting engineering company. Not working full time, not retired full time. Maybe a better term would be quarter-retired in my case.

I understand there is a wide range of definitions but generally breaks down as retired = done with work and semi-retired means almost done with work and has cut back. Also there is ‘retired from’ which means done with that line of work.