How To Respond To Retirement Question


What is the best response to co-workers’ asking me when I plan to retire? (Most colleagues my age–60–retired in their mid to late 50s. I can’t because I changed careers midlife.)

I’m sensitive to being one of the oldest employees and becoming increasingly annoyed by the question asked ad nauseum.




Dear Annoyed:

Any question asked repeatedly becomes irritating, so I can understand your frustration. It’s bad enough when people ask just to be making small talk, but it’s particularly irritating when they ask as though one is either working for the fun of it or has stayed too long. So, it would seem that the manner, tone and perceived message would have a lot to do with how you respond.

If someone is just chatting, maybe about their own retirement plans, you can simply say you don’t know. You may make it adamant, “I have no idea and don’t even want to try to quesstimate.” Or, you can be light-hearted, “Any time between five minutes from now and twenty years, I really have no idea.” “I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that, because if I did I COULD retire!”

If you are being asked in a mean-spirited way, with a tone of unpleasantness or trying to embarrass you, that is something that should be brought up with your supervisor or manager. You can also respond more directly and firmly to that kind of person. “Why do you want to know?” “Is there some reason you’re asking?” “That’s between HR and me.” “I don’t like it when you ask me that, especially using that tone of voice.”

According to the totality of the circumstances, it may be that there is an element of age disrimination involved or border-line harassment. In either case you would want to ask for assistance from your manager or HR.

However, to the person asking, it’s probably the first time they’ve asked it, so they don’t realize it’s excessive. That may help you tolerate it a bit better if you can’t stop it.

So many people work a long way past possible retirement that you certainly are not alone. I hope you enjoy working until the time is right for you to stop–and you’ll probably know several months before you do it. THEN you can announce your retirement plans and everyone will ask you what you’re going to do since you’re retired. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.