Welcome to the first of several guest blogs from Alex, a client, as he kindly (and humorously) shares the mixed emotions stirred up by his forthcoming, well-earned, retirement.
Every day’s a Saturday…when you’re retired. Or so I hear. How might that work, from the end of September?
Me: “We could nip upstairs and…”
Higher Authority (HA): “Not in your wildest dreams sunshine. Some of us have to work.”
Hmm. I thought that might be the answer. Perhaps a more appealing suggestion?
Me: “I thought today we could go for a cycle ride, maybe have lunch at a pub? My treat.”
HA: “On a Tuesday? I’m still at work remember, so you will have to amuse yourself. I have a list of jobs for you in the house and plenty in the garden if you want. I have a call now. Go away.”
For a few years, at least, it seems I really will have to amuse myself. Until the real weekend. Can I free up as much of the weekend as possible, using time in the week?
Some years ago, when HA returned to work after the youngest started school, I was given a choice of two things to do that had to be done on a Saturday: shopping or cleaning. That was easy. Shopping of course, as that is the only way to ensure enough beer is bought.
Doing the shopping on a Friday morning instead frees up three hours on Saturday. And I could also do the few minutes cleaning needed on a Friday. Result!
Which still leaves four and a half days. No, I do not play golf and however unmanly this may make some feel I am, I have no desire to take it up. This is getting serious. Time to look on the web. Most of which is American, devoted to how to pick a financial adviser (done that), the various investment choices you might make (done that also) and rather less on what you will do when retired. Much of what there (very American) is on the latter and focuses on ‘big ticket’ things: travel, visiting family across the country, etc and all assumes an accompanying partner.
There’s a lot of advice about part-time working or volunteering. Other advice on what to do suggests you should try and imagine your ideal day. Well, yes. That’s never going to get approval from HA, is it? Other than that, what’s ‘ideal’ anyway? Let’s take a different approach. What do I already do but would like more time for?
Cooking, but with more time. The more advanced, intricate things can be tried, while also practising and improving the basics.
Cycling. There never seems to be time at the weekend, other than occasionally.
Italian. I get by when we are there, but I would love to be better and as close to fluent as possible without living there for a few months (now, there’s a thought…).
Longer, different dog walks and maybe a bit more exercise in general.
Work as House Slave will obviously continue and probably increase. It seems I’m not allowed to retire from that.
There is also X. What’s that? I don’t know – hence the label – but it is the expectation that I will see something new, or an idea will occur to me that I want to try. It is perhaps more importantly recognising the need to accept and anticipate change (of which more anon).
Now the two difficult aspects of pre-retirement.
One change I will have to make is to become a spender instead of a saver. After many years of messages telling us all to start saving earlier, save more, for longer and don’t touch it – ever ! - I will soon have to do the opposite.
One thought HA had was that I should treat myself to a retirement cum birthday present, just before I retire at the end of September. I’m going to get an iPhone 14 Pro Max and a bigger iPad Pro. As an added bonus, given Apple prices, if that doesn’t cure my aversion to spending money when I’m retired then nothing will.
And yet, even though (I think…) I have now accepted all this, and also know that I already have enough of a cash cushion to last a few years at least without touching my pension pot, I still find it hard to spend money at the moment. I feel driven to keep saving everything I can. Yet six months ago I never gave it a thought. I’m sure I’ll be fine, but change can be so difficult sometimes.
Yet change does not just affect the person retiring. Others are involved. In my experience, most people are averse to change, very resistant to it. The degree of innate conservatism I have seen in life is still startling, even when a change is a positive move for the better.
The hardest part in retiring – for me – was actually deciding to retire, After almost 50 years working - It is what I do, have always done and therefore I must always do it - I found it difficult. But even I cannot go on forever. Once I’d actually made the decision and resigned from work, I felt fine and much better than I had before.
Covid has been helpful in this respect. I guess that one of the things that is not so good is suddenly, one day, stopping going to the office every day and falling, somewhat abruptly, off the cliff face into retirement, For over two years now, I have worked almost exclusively from home, as has HA.
Even better, from July HR have a policy whereby I will only work half-time until the end of September. On full pay too! This is on record as the only good HR policy ever, in the history of civilisation. They tend not to publicise it as they have a reputation to live down to, but I can confirm it exists in my company.
As I alluded to above, this is not just about me, though I appreciate it does sound rather me, me, me! HA and I talked about it a lot (it is possible I spoke about it too much, too often), I arranged for her to sit in on a couple of calls with Candid, we discussed money, what I would do, and so on. Box ticked I naively thought. Big mistake.
While we’re not rich, I suppose we are comfortable and haven’t worried (much) about money for quite some time. Yet here she was, worrying about holidays, meals out – which we sometimes do – and being able to just go and buy a new one if the oven explodes without worrying about it. And was I going to turn into a depressed, lazy drunkard with no purpose in life? All of which affected her and if you are reading this Madame, then I do apologise. I should have thought of it, sooner rather than eventually, finally noticing that she was perhaps not as happy as I thought. Obviously, a man thing. Time helps, and at the risk of tempting fate, I think she is happier now.
Finally, there is only (part-of) one poem to end this missive:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Ulysses. By Alfred, Lord Tennyson.