photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

I am turning 63 this year, and am being increasingly asked by friends: “When are you going to retire?” It’s a fair question, since AARP started sending me membership cards 13 years’ ago. In my case, I don’t want to retire because I really like the work I do: having a private practice, doing workshops and writing books and newspaper columns is (mostly) fun for me, so why would I quit?

However, in reality, some day I might want to work less. Or, if my health changes, I may need to work less. In that case, what would I do with myself? How would I be as a “retired” LGBTer? I’m not sure, but I’m sure thinking about it.

While I haven’t had any clients who were lottery winners (yet), I have had a number of clients who had the opportunity to retire early. For example:

A client who, at 35, sold his business for several million dollars. Initially, he was really happy, but after taking several long, luxurious vacations, he misses having a purpose and a structure for his life.

A client who was diagnosed with a serious disease in his early 40’s and thought he should retire, but was afraid that if he did, his will to live might falter.

A client who, at 47, inherited over $2 million dollars and wondered if she should stay with her job because even though it’s stressful, she finds it very fulfilling.

A client who, at 62, is just burnt out from his job and has the money to retire, but afraid to because “without my job, what would I do with my time?”

A client who retired at 65 and now, at 68, has been offered consulting work that he might enjoy. Should he jump back into the working world, or stay with “retirement”?

After much reflection, it seems to me that it’s okay to retire, but not to “quit” on life. Without our work, what do we do to create meaning and structure? We all – regardless of age – need to have certain elements in our lives to be fulfilled. These include:

Mental stimulation – We need to be around interesting people who talk about provocative subjects. The Taoists says, “travel is the best teacher”, offering us lots of new people, places and things to be intrigued with and stimulated by.

Body – Our bodies need to be stretched and exercised. Regardless of our health (or lack thereof), our bodies need movement, and not movement that we hate. Finding something that is enjoyable is the only way that most of us will stay active.

Spirit – This is often overlooked. I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about a spiritual connection, e.g., “This isn’t just about me, there’s a big world out there and what is my place in it?” and “What am I here to give and what am I here to get?”

Social connections – Loneliness is a killer. Literally. How can we keep our friendships alive, particularly as we get older, our peers begin to die and we find ourselves increasingly older than the majority of the LGBT community?

Fun – What’s still fun for us? It may have changed since we were younger. Have we given up on fun and become bitter, cynical elders, or are we open to trying new stuff? As a younger person, I thought gardening and walking were boring. Now, at 62, I enjoy both of these activities. I still like to dance to interesting music, but nightclubs aren’t such a good fit for me anymore. As we age, what is fun for us and how do we find it?

Most of us won’t be able to retire before our 60’s, so these questions may not reflect a pressing need for you. But, why not plan ahead a little? Surely, you’ve changed in the past 10, 20 or 30 years, and those changes will continue into the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Why not give some thought to when you’d like to retire (if at all) and how you’d like it to be.

Who knows? It may happen sooner than you think.

Whenever it happens for you, may it be the most fulfilling time of your life.