Unretirement

retirement calendarunretirementBack in 2016, I was preparing a conference keynote presentation to give at the  Rutgers University Online that I titled “The Disconnected.” That is my name for a segment of the population. These people are not disconnected in a detached or unengaged sense but are instead disconnecting from traditional modes and sources of information and learning.

In doing my research, I found a podcast that is called Unretirement and realized that in my own process of learning to retire I was probably entering unretirement.

Chris Farrell, who wrote the book Unretirement and hosted the podcast, defines unretirement as a “grassroots movement rethinking and reimagining the second half of life.”

At that point in my life, I was pretty sure that I was done with my full-time work in education which has been my career for 40 years. But I wasn’t sure that I wanted to completely stop working. I knew there were things I wanted to do that wouldn’t count as “work” because there was no remuneration involved. I wanted to get serious about my poetry and painting I wanted to see friends more often. I also wanted to do more travel and things that would cost money. Spending money but not making money could be a problem.

Farrell’s book is subtitled “How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life” and as a Boomer, I could identify.

I began, almost accidentally, retiring into consulting. I was asked by two colleges if I would be willing to work on projects part-time. No contract. No benefits. Very flexible hours, including working virtually from home for a good part of it.  I agreed.

Both jobs required me to formalize this path and I created an LLC so that I could be paid as a business rather than an individual. That was required by the colleges as I was now a vendor or independent contractor.

I was also doing web design work for clients who I knew beforehand. My own definition of unretirement meant that I worked when I wanted to work and at things that I wanted to do for people or organizations I liked.

I also did volunteer, no-pay work. I was teaching about filmmaking and enjoying it. That was also part of my unretirement plan.

After a year of being unretired, another college asked me to do a six-month project. This project involved open education resources (OER). Like the previous projects, this was an area I had worked in previously.

My wife wasn’t thrilled in me taking on a project that was longer term. Web jobs and volunteer work took a few weeks. She didn’t want me to do anything that would close out our ability to pick up and travel. But the college team was very willing to let me adjust my time on campus.

Then in September 2018, I was offered another gig at a different college. This was a different commitment. It would be a one-year contract to help create online courses for a new project. “Contract” was not a word I or my wife wanted to hear.

Gig, as in “gig economy,” is certainly a part of my unretirement and the unretirement of others.  A gig economy is usually defined as an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.

I took on that one-year gig because the pay was good, the hours were totally flexible and the work would be about 90% virtual. Billable hours.

I finished that gig this past September and agreed with my wife that “contract” would not be a part of my future unretirement. I’m still doing my web design work. I’ll be making less income, but I’ll have more time for the non-paying gigs that I really enjoy.

This might really about the differences in having a job, a career or a vocation.

 

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Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

One thought on “Unretirement”

  1. A good friend who has written wisely on these topics refers to the process as “Rewirement.” My version of your essay is to accept contracts but pass on gig assignments to others for about 90% of the fulfillment, leaving time for me to devote to my writing, family, etc.

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