This is my first week after retiring and we've travelled to Denver (where I grew up) so that my husband can attend a work-related conference. I've accompanied him to help smooth things for him where I can and to visit family.
My sister invited me to a party with family and her friends, most of whom I've known since high school/college. One of her close friends, Kim, told me that they were so proud that their two children were going to expensive colleges and then asked me how my job was going. I said, "I guess fine but I'm not there anymore."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I hope you'll find something else soon," she said.
"Uh..." Clearly my sister did not mention my retirement to anyone.
"Is that a good thing that you've left? Was it a terrible job?"
"No, it was a good job, but very long hours. I've retired."
It went seriously downhill from there. She fixed me with a strange look that I had a hard time figuring out. Loathing? Envy? Disbelief? What the hell was going on here? Why is she looking at me like that?
"You're giving me a strange look, Kim. What are you thinking?"
"No one our age can retire." (Point of reference: I'm 55. She's 53.)
By now I've given the Shockingly Simple Math to Early Retirement talk so many times I have it perfectly rehearsed, so I started saying "We've saved about half our income for the last twenty years. That is how we've been able to do this. Almost anyone can do it, as long as they have an above poverty-level income."
"That is not possible."
"I assure you, the money fairy did not land on my shoulder. We made deliberate choices that led here."
"I know all about this, my husband is a financial planner." Enter the husband into the conversation.
"We will never be able to retire. We just don't make enough." Said the husband.
"We work harder than you! We can't retire," said Kim.
"You had a car and a house more than a decade before we did. We lived in areas you thought of as slums because we were saving about a third of our money even when we were making $25,000 to $35,000 a year together. There is no magic here. Just choices. And there's nothing wrong with any choice. But some lead to early retirement and some don't."
I can't really describe here the looks and hostility I felt from her and I'm puzzled as to why. I asked my husband and he says that because we couldn't afford the pretty clothes, fancy cars, big houses, and exotic vacations that my family and my sister's friends enjoyed, people slotted us into the "Lovable Losers" category and that Kim, in particular, always condescended to us and thought she was better than we were. He thinks that there is some sort of cognitive dissonance that she is dealing with.
I think that I need to find a better way of dealing with conversation at parties. Has anyone else dealt with hostility around this? Figured out the cause of it? Figured out an elegant solution?