Posted by: patenttranslator | April 28, 2019

Is It Even Possible to Retire Voluntarily When You Are a Translator?

If one defines “retirement” as the period towards the end of life when you no longer have to work because you receive every month a fixed income on which it is possible to live quite well without working, I have been retired for quite some time as I have been fortunate to reach this kind of situation about a year ago.

For the last few months I have been following heart-breaking stories in several languages on Youtube, for instance about poor seniors in Germany who find it impossible to make the ends meet with a pitifully low state pension. If you speak German, go to Youtube and type in the search field for instance “Arme Rentner in Deutschland” (poor pensioners in Germany). You will discover titles such as [my translations]: ‘Waiting in Lines for Old Bread’, ‘Old, Poor, Criminal, Old Pensioners Working Their Whole Lives for Nothing’, ‘Scandal: Rich Germany – Poor Pensioners, Old-Age Poverty – Liselotte (71) has only 3.50 Euros a Day for Eating‘.

It appears that the German politicians dropped the ball when it comes to creating a well-functioning pension system for most people in Germany where many seniors are forced to live in dire poverty, unlike for example the seniors in Austria or Switzerland. What happened to Germany? When I lived there in the early eighties, it was to me a perfect example of a well-designed socialist system, that is to say a social democracy that is based on a capitalist economy and democratic principles. And how is it possible that in other German-speaking countries, most seniors are quite affluent compared to their German counterparts?

The situation of pensioners in France may not be much better, or even worse, which is why the Yellow Vests have been in the streets of Paris and other French cities for many months now.

Because I moved from pricey Virginia to Southern Bohemia where the cost of living is quite a bit lower, and because after paying US taxes for 37 years, I have a generous US Social Security income, corresponding to four average local pensions, topped with a modest but important Czech pension. The Czech pension is important because it automatically pays my health insurance premiums and most healthcare-related expenses for pensioners in this country. And as far as I know, it would continue doing so even if I decided to move to another EU country. Had I decided to stay in Germany four decades ago, I might have serious money problems at this point.

So I don’t really need to work. And yet, I continue working, and probably will continue doing so also in the foreseeable future. I work much less now than I used to, mostly as an agency at this point rather than as a translator, but it looks like I will keep doing my thing for the foreseeable future and if I ever stop working completely, it will be probably for health reasons, when I’m too old to even put together a translation project, let alone translate myself … if I live that long.

So far I have lost only one project since I moved from Virginia to České Budějovice six months ago. It was a nice and lucrative translation project from a client in Western Europe, a patent law firm that sent me two similar projects twice already in the past couple of years. But I did not even put in my bid for the project although I knew that this meant that the client would not come back again with the same kind of thing next year. I was in terrible pain and could not really think about anything else except how to get rid of the pain as I wrote in the Kidney Stones post on this blog.

So the law firm is unfortunately gone for good. But others still continue sending me work. This week I‘ve had four smallish projects so far from two old clients in United States and I now still have one more for next week.

If you have been following the development in the United States when it comes to Democratic presidential hopefuls for the 2020 presidential election, 20 candidates have declared that they are running, including Bernie Sanders, who is well into his seventies, and creepy Joe Biden, who is also long in the tooth (but still likes to smell women’s hair). Along with Tulsi Gabbard, a fearless woman whom I admire immensely, my favorite Democratic candidates include Andrew Young, a young Chinese-American who was born to immigrant parents from Taiwan, and who has a solution for millions of people who are already or will soon be facing the prospect of losing their jobs to globalization and artificial intelligence. This would arguably include also a number of medical occupations, such as anesthesiologists or doctors reading X-ray or ultrasound images to create a diagnosis, some legal professions, or specialized translators such as myself.

Andrew Young wants to help solve the problems caused by globalization and artificial intelligence (which I call robotization) with something that he calls the Freedom Dividend – a universal basic income (UBI) of $1000/month to be paid to every adult American who is not already receiving for example a greater amount in Social Security payment as I am. He calls his concept of the new system, which is similar to the oil dividend that has been distributed for many decades to residents of Alaska and to what was proposed already by the founders of United States more than two centuries ago “Human-Centered Capitalism.”

What he is saying makes a lot of sense to me, I will vote for him if he is on the presidential ticket in 2020, but I doubt it will happen. I think it’s much more likely that creepy Joe Biden will represent the corrupt Democrats, and that the Wall Street and the super-rich will put him in the White House to essentially continue the policies of Obama and Trump.

But it should be an interesting political campaign anyway, at least during the Democratic primaries: Creepy Joe against Fearless Tulsi and Idealistic Andrew – unless the Democratic establishment pulls the carpet from under him and other young people with new ideas, which they are almost certain to do.

But let’s come back to the main theme of my silly post today, namely whether it is possible for me to retire now.

No, I don’t think so, not if I continue still receiving work from my old and also some new clients. Whether I need the money or not is not really the issue here, at least not the main one.

I will not be able to retire any time soon. The curse of a translator is not being able to retire. Not necessarily because you can’t …. but because your brain will not let you.


  1. Not being able to retire is more of a blessing than a curse. Translation keeps one`s brain active and in top shape. I realized this while meeting my former classmates from high school at the 50th graduation anniversary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • But what about or with the translators´ dementia?

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, it is mostly a blessing.


  2. Translator’s dementia (dementia translatoris) is pretty scary, but Alzheimer’s is worse.


  3. Translator’s dementia (dementia translatoris)!!! It seems that I had it (unknowingly) from the very beginning, However, unlike Alzheimer`s disease, the symptoms diminish as one get older… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In some people the symptomps may diminish, but in others they increase!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For us semi-retired ones like you and me, TD never comes up again, especiallý when we live in a country where the social security is well developed. Social security is really important. When I got the stroke by the end of 2016, I did not have to worry about the expenses of health care, because it was already covered by out health care insurance.

    Up to now, I have never had a sympton of TD at all. When a job Comes, it is a job. When there don´t come a job, so there is no job and I just live on the pension I paid when I was younger and earned some extra Money to pay all the bills.

    Younger translators do not always believe that they would get as old as we are and spend every cent they earn, instead of taking care of their obligations of paying their due amount of social security. They will see that they missed something important.

    My situation is a bit different. Beside the institiontionalized social security, my father left enough for us 11 children. So, each one of us live pretty easy and can take care one of the anothers. Family security is just like that in my country and that was why I decided to come back to Taiwan when I was younger. At that time I did have had some TD symptons. Thát was why I got trapped in Proz for some time. But I am free from prozac since 2008 and the TD symptons never come up to me since then. How happy I am being semi-retired!

    Steve, you will enjoy your semi-retirement, too. As I see how you are doing since you came back to Böhm (as Germans call your native land). Czechei is really a nice place on this planet. Although they did something wrong with you, about you and without you, at least they did not destroy too much in Böhm. However, you do need to be careful with the Chinese. They might buy you out and change the landscape till you never recognize your country again.

    The PRC is try to take us under the same roof with the slogan of “one country, two systems, and one dream”, like the Nazis did with Austria in 1938.
    I hope that my people understand the consequences when we lose ROC and become one part of PRC. The presidential election of 2020 is crucial for us. I hope we pro-ROC ones will win the election with the present President, Ms. Tsai, reelected. The USA and Japan are eager to see our victory.

    Wish us luck, Steve. Some of my people fear that we have lost the ecnomic power and blame the present government for that. Those people would like to trade their freedom for ecnomic power like the Austrofasists in 1937 – 1938. They don´t cherish what we have achieved on this small island after the CCP-Revolution in China. So, I am a bit worried about what would be the outcome of the next election. Wish me good luck, Steve.

    And I wish you good life in semi-retirement!


  6. I wish you good luck my friend, both to you in retirement and to your country as it is fighting to preserve its democratic tradition.

    It’s amazing how many Chinese and Korean people I see around me in the relatively small town of České Budějovice, and I don’t mean just tourists.

    One good thing about that, though, is that now we now have plenty of Chinese restaurants here, in addition to pizza places, Indian and Thai restaurants, etc.


  7. Steve, I took a close look of the history of the annexion of Austria, the Munich Agreement, and the Annexion of the rest of Bohemika and Moravia, to find out that the problem was originated from the Austrofacsists themselves. Czechoslovakia was not able to defend itself because Austria was already taken by Nazi Germany. President Beneš wanted to avoid sacrifice of the people, so that he accepted Mnichovská dohoda with a slight protest against the fact that the agreement was made “o nás, béz nás”. What the allies could do at the time and what Czechoslovakia could do to prevent the take-over of Sudetenland and the consequential annexion of the rest of Bohemia and Moravia? You had Germans for centuries in lower Bohemia. And it was not that easy to say no to Hitler.

    You see, we are afraid of the same thing would happen to us, if the USA would not be able to withstand the Chinese pressure, because we have Chinese among us for centuries, like what was it 1939 in Czechoslovakia.

    You asked to compare les Juifs against the Chinese and I avoided comments. But you have already seen what the Chinese have done in your home land, you know what it would be if your government don´t do anything about the situation: they just buy you out. We have had the same problem in Taiwan.

    I happen to know some Sidetendeutschen in South America and I understand that they were happy when the Nazis took over your countries. However, I can understand your countrymen as well. What could the allies do at the time? Who in England would like to fight for a country that they barely knew and far away from them? So, the history happened. And we, Taiwanese, feel the same way as your countrymen did when it happened.

    For some Austrians, the annexion with NS Germany was not what they´d likéd to, as the story of the family von Trabb told in “he Sound of Music”, but neither they could do anything about the situation. That´s why tears would fill my eye cavities everytime when I heard Captain von Trabb sang the song “Edelweiss”.

    You believed that we had a democratic tradition in Taiwan, but I have to tell you that we didn´t have had it after that the Chinese Nationalists took over Taiwan and made Taiwan to be called ROC. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT, 国民党) is actually a facsist, but anti-communist party. That was why they were supported by the USA. Our present government is democratically elected by us after we fought for half a century. But we have now the problem of the facsists of the Chinese Nationalists among us who would like to reunified with the PRC. This situation is just like what happened with Austrians in 1938, when the Austrofacists declared “Brothers donät fight brothers.” It was easy for Hitler to occupy Austria within 4 hours without losing a bullet or a soldier, so that Sudetenland was the consequential event.

    So far I know, there were protests in Prag against the buy-out by the Chinese enterprises in Czech. Maybe you have heard something about the protests. I would like to know about how your coutrymen feel about the presence of Chinese capital and people in you coutry. If you know anything about it, please let me know. Thank you, Steve.


  8. Yeah, the Czechs and Germans lived in peace in this country for about eight hundred years, until Adolf, the original Austro-Fascist, as you called him, came to power in Germany.

    Unfortunately, most of what I know about the current Czech political situation is what I learn from Czech Facebook groups. It seems that the current president, Milos Zeman, is very pro-Chinese as well as pro-Russian.

    Many Czechs still see Russia as a danger, myself included, but many also dislike Germany and quite a few really hate the heavy-handed EU dictate coming from Brussels. But it’s not Czechxit time here, not by a long shot, although the Czechs are now unwilling to accept the Euro as their currency as their own money makes it possible to preserve their own monetary policies and thus keep more of their independence.

    But on the other hand, most people still want to stay in European Union. They like the freedom to travel and migrate within the EU, they just think that the country is being taken advantage of too much by EU and by Germany, who see this country mostly as a source of cheap labor and a market for export of shoddy products and substandard foodstuffs. The same food that is sold here under the same labels as in Germany is of inferior quality and often more expensive.

    I don’t think too many people perceive China as a major economic danger to this country, at least people don’t talk about it on Facebook. But that may change.

    I see not only Chinese tourists, but also workers from restaurants and fast food joints all the time even here in Ceske Budejovice. I don’t see them as a threat to anything at this point.

    Plus we also have a sizeable Vietnamese minority here as a leftover from communist times. Those were people who came here to learn a trade and work in the factories and then decided to stay after 1989.

    Most Czechs have accepted them by now as a natural part of the population because the young people speak Czech, and they all work hard and pay taxes. When regular stores are closed or too far, you can always buy what you need in a “Vecerka” (evening shop). These stores are run, exclusively I think, by the Vietnamese and they stay open late into the night. Czechs would not bother to work such long hours!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks, Steve! So, czecks don´t see Juden in Koreans or Chinese. That´s nice and fine.

    As to your topic, translators in Taiwan can get retired any time they want, because the social security system is well builded. In fact, I got retired when I was 48. But I did pay regularily my security contribution until I am 65. For this reason I receive about 140.84 EUR pension per month plus other benefits on transportation and communication. Actually, I can ride around the city or to Taipei with half the price the young people pay.

    Besides, you know the normal retirement is other than our semi-retirement. We take jobs some times when the return worth it and for that we don´t pay taxes any longer, since we are officially retired. That´s how I do at the time being.

    Nice to be in Taiwan, indeed.


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