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That is the only true time, which a man can properly call his own, that which he has all to himself; the rest, though in some sense he may be said to live it, is other people’s time, not his. ~ Charles Lamb

Retirement is the time in life when a person stops working for their survival and starts working at more personally satisfying pursuits.


  • The land of easy mathematics where he who works adds up and he who retires subtracts.
    • Núria Añó, in the short story 2066. Beginning the age of correction.
  • The great stoic Seneca repeatedly urged his fellow Romans to retire in order to “find themselves,” as we might put it. In the Renaissance, as in ancient Rome, it was part of the well-managed life. You had your period of civic business, then you withdrew to discover what life was really about and to being the long process of preparing for death. Montaigne developed reservations about the second part of this, but there is no doubt about his interest in contemplating life. He wrote: “Let us cut loose from all the ties that bind us to others; let us win from ourselves the power to live really alone and to live that way at our ease.”
  • Seneca the Younger, in advising retirement, had also warned of dangers. In a dialogue called “On Tranquility of Mind,” he wrote that idleness and isolation could bring to the fore all the consequences of having lived life in the wrong way, consequence that people usually avoided by keeping busy—that is, by continuing to live life in the wrong way.
  • Man sagt sich oft im Leben, daß man die Vielgeschäftigkeit, Polypragmosyne, vermeiden, besonders, je älter man wird, sich desto weniger in ein neues Geschäft einlassen solle. Aber man hat gut reden, gut sich und anderen rathen. Älter werden heißt selbst ein neues Geschäft antreten; alle Verhältnisse verändern sich, und man muß entweder zu handeln ganz aufhören oder mit Willen und Bewußtsein das neue Rollenfach übernehmen.
    • One often says to oneself … that one ought to avoid having too many different businesses, to avoid becoming a jack-of-all-trades, and that the older one gets, the more one ought to avoid entering into new business. But … the very fact of growing older means taking up a new business; all our circumstances change, and we must either stop doing anything at all or else willingly and consciously take on the new role we have to play on life’s stage.
  • Let’s put a limit to the scramble for money. … Having got what you wanted, you ought to begin to bring that struggle to an end.
    • Horace, Satires, Book I, Satire i, N. Rudd, trans. (2005), v. 92-94.
  • Sit mihi quod nunc est, etiam minus, et mihi vivam
    Quod superest aevi, si quid superesse volunt di.
    • Let me keep what I have now—or less even—so that I may live the rest of my life for myself (if the gods grant me any more life to live).
  • I have indeed lived nominally fifty years, but deduct out of them the hours which I have lived to other people, and not to myself, and you will find me still a young fellow. For that is the only true time, which a man can properly call his own, that which he has all to himself; the rest, though in some sense he may be said to live it, is other people’s time, not his. The remnant of my poor days, long or short, is at least multiplied for me three-fold. My ten next years, if I stretch so far, will be as long as any preceding thirty.
    • Charles Lamb, “The superannuated man,” Last Essays of Elia.
  • In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, anniversary of his birth, Michel de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned Virgins, where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.
    • Inscription painted on the wall of the side-chamber of Montaigne’s library.
  • Retirement without the love of letters is a living burial.
  • Libertas, quae sera, tamen respexit inertem,
    Candidior postquam tondenti barba cadebat
    Respexit tamen, etlongo post tempore venit.
    • Liberty, which, though late, yet cast an eye upon me in my inactive time of life, after my beard began to fall off with a greyish hue when I shaved: yet on me she cast her eye, and after a long period of slavery came at last.
  • Most retired business people "know how to work but they don't know how to play; they are completely devoid of the spirit of relaxation and recreation. Such forced idleness is ruinous to the morale of many of the more capable men of affairs."
    • Dr. Burrill Bernard Crohn, speaking at the second annual graduate fortnight of the New York Academy of Medicine, 15 October 1929.

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