I’ve heard it said that if you have a job, you’re not retired.  If you own a business, you’re not retired.  If you earn money doing something, you’re not retired.  In the classic sense, that might be correct.  Dictionary.com defines retire as: “withdraw[ing] from office, business, or active life, usually because of age.”  Fifty years ago, that was probably accurate.  People retired at 65, used up, lived for a few years and died.

I’m not sure that fits anymore, however.  Many folks plan to be retired not for several years, but for several decades.  Many of us retire younger and live longer.  The idea of retiring to an old folks home,  shuffling around the golf course everyday or knitting in your rocking chair just doesn’t fit anymore.  More and more retirees are young, active and many of us are choosing to continue to contribute to society instead of retiring in the traditional sense.

That’s where a lot of people get confused.  If they volunteer, start a small business, go to school or get a part-time job, are they really retired?  Well, no and yes.  As society changes, so must our assumptions and expectations.  Retirement may no longer be the right word.  Maybe we need to add to or modify the definition. In many cases, it just doesn’t work.

And when it comes down to it, does it even matter.  It’s ultimately a semantics game.  You left your career and are financially independent, so you’re retired.  But on the other hand, you took up photography and now sell your photos on the internet, so you’re not retired.  Who cares?  I used to think that being financially independent was a requirement, but I’m beginning to rethink even that.

I know of people who are living their dreams, free to do what they want when they want, but have to make a little money on the side to sustain that but they’re following a passion to earn that income.  I’d call them retired.  Not financially independent, but retired.  I also know people who have millions and continue to slave away at something they would rather not be doing.  They might be financially independent, but they’re surely not retired.

Ultimately, retirement is defined by the individual.  If that includes work and making money, so be it.  Retirement is what you make it.  I love quiet afternoons on my porch, fishing quiet lakes and small streams, travel and spending time with my wife, Jen.  But I’m also writing a book, editing another and planning several more.  I hope to make money doing that, but I’m retired as surely as anybody and I love my definition.

So what’s your definition?  If you’re working at a job you hate, are you planning your exit strategy?  If you haven’t planned well and have less money than the “experts” say you need to retire, are you changing your lifestyle to prove them wrong?  If you’re just plain afraid of giving up the security of a regular paycheck, what are you doing to find your courage?

Whatever you do in your retirement and no matter how you get there, if it’s on your terms and it makes you happy, you’re doing it right.  Don’t let the naysayers, the uncertainty or the fear stop you.  If you were the timid, follow the crowd type you probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway.  Find your definition, set a goal and follow through.  It’s never too late, or to early, to be retired, no matter how you define it.