Doing Nothing in Retirement

Does anyone aspire to a leisurely retirement anymore?


When asked what he would do if he had a million dollars, Peter Gibbons, of the cult movie classic Office Space, replies, "I would relax. I would do nothing." Later in the movie, he actually seems quite happy about his choice to slack off and says, "I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be."

After all those years of work, haven't you earned a little leisure? Why must retirees immediately hop into a deluge of activities similar to the productivity of work? Jonathan Edelfelt, author of Who Said You Need Millions? Retirement Strategies for the Rest of Us (and a frequent Planning to Retire commenter), recently wondered on his blog why we don't read about any older people simply relaxing and enjoying their retirement. Even Edelfelt's favorite personal finance writers pushing retirement age—Scott Burns, Ben Stein, and Suze Orman—don't seem to have retirement on the agenda, even while they coach others about how to do so.

Last week, I spent some time with a group of retirees volunteering at a nonprofit garden in California. Although most were over age 65, they rattled off lists of activities that would exhaust many 20-somethings: gardening, table tennis, softball, woodshop, hiking, and part-time jobs. In fact, no one even mentioned stereotypical retiree pastimes like bingo, shuffleboard, or just watching TV. The retirees seemed quite pleased with their active lifestyles and said they couldn't imagine slowing down. And most baby boomers indicate that they intend to work past traditional retirement age for financial and personal reasons.

Tell us, do you aspire to a retirement of leisure?