In August 2012, I published a post that I titled ‘Ten Tips For Retirement.’ At the time, I had only been retired from work for a few months, and decided to share some of my early observations about something that I had thought would be very different to what it actually was.
Almost four years later, and I have a little more experience about not having to go to work (unless you want to) and the pros and cons associated with the decision to do that. As my wife Julie is much younger than me, so still works, I am not reporting on the classic married-couple retirement scenario, but on a situation where just one is retired.
I didn’t really consider the fact that I would not be physically capable of doing all the things I had expected to be able to do. Past the age of sixty, the body deteriorates at a much faster rate. It is far easier to get tired, to have aching muscles, to hurt your back, or to be unable to lift things, than it was a few short years before. Even the prospect of tasks can become daunting, almost approaching a fear of the endless list of things that have to be done. Instead, I try to do one thing each day at least, seeming to constantly battle the time that appears to be slipping away from the moment I wake up. One of the reasons that time slips away is because of blogging of course.
Started to keep my mind active, and to leave some record of my life and activities in Norfolk, blogging has become a lot more, and taken over a large part of my life. Not that I am complaining. I would urge anyone to start a blog, especially if they are retired. Older people may be in a minority in the world of blogging, but they have lots to offer. It cannot be denied that it maintains interest in things outside of the routine, keeps the mind active, and continues to develop the thought process. Perhaps don’t spend as much time blogging as I do though. Otherwise, stuff will not get done, believe me.
Consider the change in financial circumstances. By stopping work at sixty, and taking my work pensions early, I reduced my income by two-thirds. This means no holidays to far-flung exotic places, as well as thinking hard about major purchases, like changing the car, or buying new large electrical goods. Impulse-buying had to become a thing of the past, as did changing outfits at will, or discarding perfectly serviceable clothes and shoes because they were no longer fashionable. My retirement credo has been to buy the best of anything that we can afford, and then keep it, hoping for a long-life from a product that is better-manufactured than the cheaper option. Keep the older car running, but also buy something new to accompany it. You need reliable transport in rural areas, and two cars are better than one, at least for the time being. As long as one of you is still working, you can afford this comparative luxury. When I am 65 next year, I will receive the State Pension, potentially making life a lot easier. However, this will also push me over the tax threshold, meaning that my work pensions will be liable for income tax. They give with one hand, take with the other.
Getting a pet, in our case Ollie the dog, is something to be carefully considered too. The plus points are obvious. Companionship, a reason to go out and exercise, and to imbue you with a sense of responsibility to something other than yourselves. Ollie became a part of our lives to the extent that we can no longer imagine what it would be like if he wasn’t around. At first, the downsides of pet ownership were less obvious, but they soon appeared. Vet bills that have to be budgeted for, by taking out expensive insurance. Making sure that you are back from anywhere, in time to take him out. Not being able to act spontaneously, without considering things like ‘Can we take the dog?’ Attending overnight functions, such as weddings or parties a fair way from home can be problematic. If you cannot get friends or neighbours to dog-sit, you are faced with the prospect (and additional expense) of using kennels. Holiday destinations have to be dog-friendly, and for the sake of convenience, in the UK as well. Think hard before getting a pet. That’s my advice.
Regular readers will also know that I have become unhealthily obsessed with the weather. When you no longer have to go to work, and the day is your own, bad weather seems like a punishment. You might feel like pottering around in the garden, perhaps driving to a place of interest, or going off to admire a nature reserve, or for a walk along the coast. Then it rains. It carries on raining, until it seems to be raining every day. Then you realise that it really is raining every day. All the nice things you wanted to go and do are no longer possible. But you still have to go out in it, because you have the dog to take out. When the sun finally appears, the day seems to go so fast that you feel cheated of the time to enjoy it. Before you decide to retire, think about weather.
My conclusion is that it is still better to retire as soon as you are able. Live with less income, and get some time back, after all those years at work. Plan ahead, better than I did. Live somewhere near some shops, so you don’t necessarily need to have two cars. Think about what you will do when the weather is bad, and don’t expect to spend all your time enjoying the garden, or the great outdoors. If you want to get a pet, really think about the implications of that decision.
And start a blog. You will be glad that you did.