FIRE Station Funny – Conversation Pivot

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When people learn that I retired early, they will almost always enthusiastically ask “what it is like to not go to work?”  In response, I often say “Truthfully, it’s the best job I never had.”  That answer is always worth a quick laugh, conveys the truth of the situation, and provides me just enough ‘cover’ to then change the subject to weather, sports, politics, travel, or anything else.

Unless you know the person well, it doesn’t serve any purpose to get into the details of early retirement.  It’s not hard to notice that my visible age doesn’t add up to a typical retirement age and saying you don’t work makes me feel like a bit of a cheat or a scoundrel when I am out goofing off on a sunny day.

I wrote a post about the awkwardness of chatting with hard-working people you meet in everyday activities when they ask “what do you do for work?”  It’s a surprisingly common question and since work is about money, as much as anything else, it’s awkward to answer in any detail.  As a result,  I notice more and more since I stopped working – more than a year now – I try to say less and less about my circumstances and shift sidewalk talk to something less unusual than my situation.

What will/do you say when people ask “what do you do?” when you don’t any longer?

Image Credit: Pixabay


10 thoughts on “FIRE Station Funny – Conversation Pivot

  1. This question has long fascinated me. Culturally, in he US, people are defined by “what do you do?” Occupation supersedes all other human categorizations but name. Yet occupation is but one part of who I am. To answer “retired” in our culture actually implies what I DON’T do. So my answer now is “I’m a grandfather.” It defines a key part of who I am and what I do. Inevitably it leads to questions about my grandchildren, which delight everyone. So try this next time, in answer to “what do you do?” — “I’m a father.” See if it leads to interesting talks!


    1. Yes – this is an interesting phenomenon. Last fall, I took a sociology class and they called this concept your “master status”. It’s the social position that is the primary identifying characteristic of an individual. Occupation is a key one that follows people through many years. “Criminal” is a master status that also takes precedent – negatively – for the lives of many ex-cons who find it hard to get back on their feet after prison. “Grandpa” is definitely a good way to go – and much better than “criminal”!


  2. Probably the truth. It’s just fun to see the looks on peoples faces when you tell them you don’t need work to live life. Really looking forward to that day….
    That being said, I like discussing, regardless of the topic. Probably even more in real life than via the typed route. Therefore would go for the “confrontation”, rather than avert the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – I do tell people I’m early retired, but pivot off of it into something else pretty quickly. It has a certain master status to it, which the narcissist in me likes. The longer you dwell on it – because people are very interested – the more awkward it becomes.


      1. Can imagine it does get awkward at some point. Perhaps it is a better idea to divert the discussion sooner to a different topic. I have a lot to learn πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I normally tell them what I used to do (which although isn’t complicated, isn’t something easily understood by a lot of people ). And tell them I’m taking a long period time off work as I think ‘retired’ seem to make me sound very old especially when I have ‘retired’ a lot earlier than the normal retirement age.

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    1. Your approach is more common among other people I know who are FIRE’d. It would be easier to say I am a ‘Marketing Consultant’ or something, but I do like seeing the shock/puzzlement on people’s faces!


  4. Even tonight, when I was asked what I did and I said I was retired, the immediate next question was … so, what did you do?! And this was at a table of retired women (at a charity function). Obviously they were trying to define my “master status”! (Love that phrase.) Then, since they were all older than me, they called me “just a baby” since I had retired early. I wasn’t one of “them” yet. I didn’t have retiree master status. It was an odd exchange.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Pat – when I go to the retired men’s club at our church, I certainly don’t fit in and I am not considered a retiree to them. I am more of a novelty! I do find that overall being a early retiree is my new master status.

      Liked by 1 person

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