Let’s Retire the Term Retirement

The term ‘retirement’ is outdated; let’s retire it!

I often hear people apologizing for using the term ‘Retirement.’  I understand that notion; the word doesn’t feel right when describing a time of life for a vibrant, active person who is contributing to the world.

I have created a survey to ask people what term they would choose and I would love for you to take it.   Let me know your ideas for what to call this most interesting phase of life.

Before I began to explore some other possible names for life past about age 60, I wanted to find out the origins of the term.  Why do we use the word “Retirement”?

How did the word ‘retirement’ come into being in the first place? 

The term was borrowed from the French, around the 16th century. Originally, it was used in a military sense; i.e. “to withdraw to a place of safety or seclusion” (from the French ‘re’ (back) and ‘tirer’ (to draw)).

The word ‘pension’ also came into use at around the same time.  Also in the military sense, meaning “a regular sum paid to maintain allegiance” (from the Latin ‘pendere’ To pay). Both terms have negative connotations, implying a burden on society, of people who don’t contribute.

In 1935, when Social Security was first enacted, the age of retirement was set at 65.  

Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was only 58 years for men and 62 for women.

Now, that is actually a little misleading because life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due to high infant mortality.  If this interests you, here is a link where you can see the Social Security archive on this.

Social Security History

retirementIn the 1930s, if you made it to 65, you WERE in the last phase of life.   You were stepping back, or retiring away from active working life.  And the word retirement made a lot more sense. 

Today, the average life expectancy is just under 80 years and many live much longer.  

Most people agree the word doesn’t capture the essence of what we experience now. If you “retire” in your sixties today, you may have 20, 30, or even 40 more years of productive life to fill.  Using a word whose definition means ‘withdrawing’ no longer fits what can be a very active, engaging time of life.

Now it feels routine to see articles about supercentenarians.

Like Kane Tanaka.   On January 1, 2022, she turned 119, extending her record as the world’s oldest living person for another year.   The oldest verified man ever is Jiroemon Kimura (1897–2013) of Japan, who lived to the age of 116 years and 54 days.

It is estimated that there are between 150 and 600 living people who have already reached the age of 110.

Reading about supercentenarians and living longer helped me understand that those who leave active working life might have A LOT of productive years ahead.  

I’m developing a Thriving in Retirement course to inspire people to cultivate well-being through all those potential decades.

For now, let’s look at some other words we can consider.

I want to thank Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot and the NewRetirement Newsletter for some of these suggestions.  

We’ll take them alphabetically.  When you take my survey, you will be able to give me your feedback on any that appeal to you and I would love to hear your ideas!  Read to the end to see what survey-takers so far have liked the best.


People who like this term say they appreciate celebrating a long-anticipated moment in life.  You have made it. You have arrived.

Encore Life

Proponents of this term like the implication that another whole new life awaits after the end of active working years.

Encore Career

People who like this label appreciate the freedom to now work on their own terms.


This term captures the feeling of lightness that can accompany a milestone where life can be sweeter and less stressful.


Joyfulment is apt for those who feel a sense that this will be the most fulfilling time of life.

Jubalacion or Jubilation

In Spanish-speaking countries, the word ‘jubilación’ is used.  I personally love this word because I believe that it’s an uplifting word.  Jubilación is a Latin word similar in root to the word – Jubilee – which focuses on restoration, re-creation, balance, and new beginnings.

Life 2.0 or Life 3.0

Celebrates the notion of ongoing progress and hints at further upgrades in the future. 


Comes from the Latin word maturare “to ripen, bring to maturity,” with derivatives meaning “occurring at a good moment, timely, seasonable, early.”

My Time

As in, I have devoted my life to other people and now I’m coming into a time to deeply know, nourish and enjoy myself.


I thank my friend Sandy for coming up with this one; it sounds proactive and intentional.


Implies a state of being vs. a single event.


Using the plural implies multiple phases to come.


A nice play on words that implies an internal tune-up.

R.O.P. – Rather Old People

For those who like referring to themselves as old.


Encompassing the notion that we all move through a series of transitions and phases in life.  

Third Act of Life

For those who think of life as a play.

Third Chapter of Life 

This term gets quite a bit of airplay thanks to the book titled The Third Chapter by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.  This is a time when you leave your legacy and focus on what is most important to you.

Third Stage of Life

Another term implies a stage of development and leaves room for potential additional stages.

Third Third of Life

This label has gained in popularity and is seen often in articles and posts.

So, those are a few examples that may move your molecules for describing what I hope for you will be the most fulfilling time in life. Maybe, as Shakespeare suggests in Romeo and Juliet’s “What’s in a name? line — the naming of things is irrelevant.  

But it does seem that the word retirement is an outdated word and I for one, would like to see a descriptive word for an exciting, vital time of great growth and fulfillment.

My survey is still new, but the top five responses so far are Third Stage of Life, Third Act of Life, Happyment, Arrivement, and Life 3.0.  And I have received a new suggestion; Funemployed.

Please take my survey and let me hear your ideas.

Would you like to be part of the Thriving in Retirement Program?

Enroll here.  I look forward to seeing you in the program!

Not ready to enroll?  Watch my Free Webinar.

Please reach out and let me know.

See my YouTube video explaining the course.

Already retired?  Take my survey to help me put the finishing touches on the course.

Planning to retire in the next ten years?  Please take this survey to help me include what matters to you.

If you would like to learn more about using more of your creative potential, check out my course Creativity, Imagination, and Innovation.

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Jane Ramsey
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Jane Ramsey is an Executive Contributor for Brainz Magazine

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