How not to become suddenly invisible after your retirement

Reading: How to Stay Visible – Even After You’re Done


How to Stay Visible – Even After You’re Done

You no longer get a paycheck but that doesn’t mean you no longer have value

By Erica Baird and Karen Wagner

The day after we retired, just like the day before, we were smart, energetic, interested, engaged, stylish, collegial, problem-solving women. The only difference was that, after almost four decades of working full time, we had retired. But there was a problem. Everyone looked at us–if they could see us at all–as if we had morphed into little old ladies who had lost the power to think and the will to live. What was going on?

Our colleagues and friends congratulated us, and many expressed envy at our good fortune. That made us uneasy. What exactly was our fortune? One day, we were highly sought after, even powerful, lawyers. The next, we were—what? Did we no longer have value? We were anxious and scared.

We missed work, and we understood why. We liked having colleagues and a support staff and a reason to get dressed up in the morning. We liked saying “I am a partner in an amazing enterprise”—emphasis on “am.”   We liked having an office, business cards, scheduled calls, and meetings, and we even liked leftover to do’s from the days or weeks before. We loved our jobs and we needed to mourn for a while.

But we still did not understand why, overnight, we had vanished. Of course, we no longer had jobs, but to our minds, those jobs provided the crucial foundation for the next step–using our experience in different ways in the same larger world. We were surprised that instead there were no roles for us in a world that seemed unready for what we had to offer. It reminded us of when we started our careers. Then, we were part of a new cohort of professional women making our way in a man’s world, largely without role models. As we and a large cohort of other women moved forward, we invented the roles we wanted. Now, it seemed, we had to do it again.

We realized we were both feeling the same thing and decided to face it together. We talked to everyone we could find, we asked a lot of questions, and we listened hard. We read everything entitled “Retirement.” We met a retirement expert. We interviewed for new jobs. We came to understand that we did not want to work as we had before–especially as we could never get jobs as good as the wonderful ones we had had–but we wanted to be engaged in a purposeful relationship with the wider world. But we could not find a match. While there were new models for employment in the freelance economy, people did not seem to visualize retirees in those roles.

Our investigation invigorated us. We realized it was up to us to show the working world what we could do, and how we wanted to do it. Our circumstances have changed, but we have not. We are the same people we have always been. Our brains still work and our experience is valuable.

We have always liked a good challenge. Styling a modern retirement is the perfect next step.

Adapted from

  1. John Leonard

    This is amusingly ironic. I googled “retirement invisible” hoping to find advice as to how I CAN be invisible after I retire. I don’t want work to chase me into retirement. I just want to retreat into my private space, read books, listen to classical music, kill email (TOTALLY kill it) and become. . . invisible. Is this really so very strange? Am I the only one? Instead I come to this site and these two ladies who want to stay in the rat race. It makes me wonder why they opted to retire. There is value in NOT being valued (on a daily intrusive basis). I think that is the greatest value of all. Am I really the only one to think this way? It’s not that I hate my job (I have a great job), but I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life. I just want to take walks, drink wine, and smell the coffee! I respect and admire these two ladies, but there is something incongruous about these juxtaposed sentences (from the article): “We met a retirement expert. We interviewed for new jobs.”

    • lesley

      Thanks for the note John. Maybe it’s that men have always been more visible than women. Women have only been visible when they are young and beautiful. So it may not be the same for me. But we do understand wanting to escape at some point.

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