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