Life After FIRE – Fitting In

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This post is part of the MrFireStation.com series called Life After FIRE …

For MANY years, when we would go to church the weekly program would announce what the Retired Men’s Group was doing that month.  It sounded FUN.  They were golfing, they were listening to an expert on a local business or project, they were raising money for a good cause,or they had a speaker coming in to talk about a current local political event.  It sounded really interesting to me and I often told my wife and son that when I early retired, I was going to become part of that group.

That day came earlier this year when I retired on April Fool’s Day and there was a Retired Men’s Group a few days later on April 4th.  One of the things I thought about was that while I was now eligible for the Retired Men’s Group, at 49 years old I still wasn’t eligible for the Church’s 50+ Group that also has monthly events!  This is a funny aspect of achieving financial independence & retiring early (FIRE).

So that Tuesday morning I drove over to the church not really sure what kind of a greeting I was going to get.  Candidly, I was a little uncertain if this was a good idea or not.  In fact, before I went into the building, I decided I would park in the lot and see who else was going in.  Would I know anyone else?  Would there be other relatively young people like me?  I quickly found that the answer to both questions would be NO.  In fact, among the 5 or 6 guys I did see going into the church, a couple were quite elderly and walking with canes!

My doubts were magnified at this point and I did wonder if I should just turn around and go HOME.  I wondered if it was even appropriate for me to show up and if my attendance would sort of seem like a bit of a folly to them.  That said, I decided I only had one chance to be the early retiree at the Retired Men’s Club and I could probably learn a few things about being retired from these pillars of retirement wisdom.

When I went in, the guys were congregating in the church coffee shop.  There was a rack to hang your jacket on and as I started taking off my coat I did notice a few questioning stares.  One gentleman got up and came over with a ‘I think you are in the wrong place’ kind of look in his eyes to help me out.  Before he could say anything, I decided to go on the offense by reaching out a hand, saying my name with a smile, and announcing loud enough for others to hear that “I just retired last WEEK.”  Before he could say anything, a number of the guys immediately got up, joined him in shaking my hand, and quite hospitably welcomed me to the club!  Another guy took me around, got me signed up on their roster, made sure I had a doughnut and beverage, and explained who some of the group leaders are.  It was very NICE!

What I learned is that the group is largely a service club established to raise money for the church and community charities.  The guys work at the local grocery store the day before holidays and earn tips by packing groceries and taking bags out to people’s cars.  The money is used to pay for things that aren’t in the church budget or a local agency that has a funding need.

The speaker that morning was another retired guy who has a side hustle of doing “Historical Presentations”.  He did a 45 minute presentation on the history of the Statue of Liberty.  He had a flyer that talked about the couple dozen other presentations he has written on a variety of other topics including Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination, and the building of the Panama Canal.  Lastly, I learned that the group gets together and golfs once a month during the summer.  I signed up for the first golf date and came home HAPPY with my new involvement.

The story doesn’t have a completely happy ending at this point, however.  I went golfing and attended another meeting last month hoping that I could engage well with the other guys.  That’s not happening as quickly as I hoped, since there is a clear generational and lifestyle gap with the other members.  For example at the second meeting I attended, a couple guys at my table (who I hadn’t met before) clearly thought I was mistakenly attending.  When I told them I was a bona fide early retiree they initially looked at me like I had CORN growing out of my ears.  When I went golfing, I was introduced to a lot of guys, but I didn’t feel like I fit in very smoothly.  The group members seem to know each other pretty well and have longstanding friendships and extracurricular involvements. Everyone kind of had their ongoing foursomes organized and I was a bit of an “extra” who really didn’t have an obvious place.

Overall, I felt a bit like the new puppy on the farm that the old dogs didn’t really ask for or need around.  They weren’t being cliquey – they just didn’t quite know what to do with the young guy suddenly showing up in the group.

A couple guys have chatted with me a bit after the events and I talked at length with one at my son’s friend’s high school graduation party (I’m a HS grad Dad, he’s a HS grad Grandpa). He encouraged me to KEEP coming to the group.  I plan to (although away on vacation for the next meeting & golf outing) and will see where it goes.

What I’ve learned so far is that being retired might not be enough of a shared experience to base an immediate affinity with someone else.  A lot of the group’s conversation centers on topics that are more senior citizen-focused and that leaves me a bit OUT of the loop.  As an early retiree (now 50 years old), it will likely take more engagement and involvement to overcome the generation gap and difference in lifestyle.  Obviously, I will ‘grow into’ the group as time goes on (and my age catches up to normal retirement age), but I think it will take considerable time before I fully feel like I’ve put the ball in the hole in gaining acceptance with the group.

Image Credit: Pixabay; MrFireStation.com

18 thoughts on “Life After FIRE – Fitting In

  1. Sounds like a nice thing to do, but if at some point things aren’t clicking or still awkward maybe you should let it go and look for other opportunities or groups to get involved with. At least you gave it a try.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll pick up with them after we get back from vacation – and if things don’t click, I’ll give it 5 more years. 🙂

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  2. Since we are the same age I really relate to what you are saying. I have never thought about joining our local retired teachers group and I think the age piece is a part of that. I know they do wonderful things for the community but it would definitely be out of my comfort zone to show up to their meetings. This gives me something to really think about though. I will be interested to follow your progress here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Has anyone from the group asked about how you retired early? I’m sure you would meet this type of atmosphere with any established group. You’re the new guy it will take some time to fit in, but at the end of the day the age gap may be too difficult to overcome. I took a look at meetup.com to see if there where any FIRE groups. I did find a Financial Freedom group, maybe you just need to find something that more aligns with you age, way of thinking.

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  4. The golf part sounds pretty awkward but I bet they will warm up to you after a few more months.

    I am surprised they haven’t asked you to share your story

    Liked by 1 person

    • A couple guys have asked – but they are already retired, so it’s not as interesting to them. Many of them said they would have retired earlier, but health insurance coverage was an issue. Obamacare took care of that.

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  5. That’s too bad you haven’t felt more welcomed, but like you said it may just take more time meeting the folks and getting to know everyone better. It would be nice if there was another early retiree in the group though. I think it’s great that you got involved, I would have had some hesitation initially too. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. That’s a bummer. I wonder if there would be enough interest by other people if you started an early retiree meetup group (www.meetup.com).

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    • I guess I’d be scared of hanging out with “normal retired people”. That’s exactly how to “feel old”.
      Any thoughts on this aspect?

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      • Well … I definitely couldn’t live in a place like Naples FL, where there are SO many older, retired folks. That said, individually I find most retired folks in their 60s and 70s a pleasure to chat with.

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  7. Interesting. Not all people like different, and I know it’s a stereotype but specifically older people don’t tend to adjust to different quite easily. I’m sure they’ll eventually warm up to your early retirement!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haven’t given up, but no worries if things don’t click right now. Lots of good groups to get involved with.

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  8. It’s awesome you took a risk and went for it! I understand wanting to find new friends a little closer to your age, though! Do you have any hobbies that lend themselves to daytime gatherings? You’re making me realize that this is a big benefit of living in more of a resort town — so many people move here to pursue their outdoors passions (and often to the detriment of their careers) that there are plenty of people who aren’t at work during the normal 9-5 hours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t had any challenges finding things to do or people to do them with. I was just interested to see if I would fit in with a group of more “traditionally retired” folks. I thought that we both might get a kick out of it. We’ll see!

      Liked by 1 person

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