Updated 25 January 2022
Re – Mi – Do – Do – So! (If your musical notation is a little rusty, that’s the famous theme from ‘Close Encounters’). For many people, retirement can seem an alien place to be, but it’ll feel less like being dumped on another planet if you take these tips on board. (So do so.)
Did you know there are three kinds of retirement planning? The first kind starts when you’re young and just starting your career: you start paying into a pension to build up funds throughout your working life. The second kind comes at the point of retirement itself: you decide how to use the pot you’ve saved up to provide an income for the rest of your life. So what’s the third kind?
There’s a third kind because of course there’s more to life than money. When your career comes to an end, you don’t just lose your main source of income; you may be leaving behind a big part of who you were. Not everyone defines themselves by their job, but for most of us it can’t help but become a big part of our identity. It’s one of the first questions at social gatherings: ‘What do you do?’ Many people find that the freedom of retirement doesn’t always compensate for that sense of being at a loose end.
So alongside planning how you’ll fund your retirement, you should also think about how you’re going to hit it for six. The first rule is not to think of it as the end of something, but as the beginning of something new. There is another You somewhere, who kept getting side-lined by work. Now it’s time to bring them back from outer space.
It might seem an odd idea, but a great way to start planning your retirement is to do some digging into your own life and past. Indulge in some nostalgia, but in a positive frame of mind. Look through old photos, diaries, emails and blogs, think about all the non-work related achievements of your past. Remember how much more you are than just a worker, and think about all that you could still do and achieve.
There’s no law that says you can’t keep working in retirement, whether it’s your own business, a part-time job, or charity and voluntary work. The job market for seniors is actually vast, and because you won’t be a wage slave you can afford to be more choosey than you’ve ever been. Years from now neighbour may know you as the private tutor, the leader of the local theatre group, the museum curator, the dog trainer, the hiking guide, the librarian, and value that far more than any job you might have done before.
With age comes wisdom (or at least the right to be listened to). There are opportunities for older people to mentor and advise everyone from new business owners to troubled teens. You don’t lose your years of experience when you hand back your work pass, and sharing the benefits of your knowledge with those who need it can be hugely gratifying. Remember to keep thinking of yourself as someone with a lot of offer, and others will see you that way too.
Retirement is a great time to learn new things: foreign languages, practical skills such as baking and craft, or purely academic subjects. Learning can be a lot more rewarding when you’re doing it for its own sake, not just chasing a grade. There are a huge variety of classes available at colleges and university – not just ‘evening classes’ – and age is no barrier. It’s also a great way to meet and interact with new people, as well as keeping your mind active.
‘Hobby’ is really just a disparaging term for something you enjoy doing but which doesn’t earn you a living wage. So calling your passion a hobby can make you feel less positive about it. Ditch the belittling talk and throw yourself into your creative pursuits, because it’s not about money now but about what makes you happy. Don’t take up hobbies just to kill time – find something you genuinely love.
If you’ve been inside a polling station recently, you’ll probably have noticed what most of the helpers had in common. Anything to do with politics is a time-consuming business, from counting votes to campaigning for a party – which is what makes it such an ideal world for retired and semi-retired people. You can fight now for causes that you truly care about and make a real difference, instead of just being a spectator.
Travel and exotic holidays are something of a retirement cliché – they’re the first thing most people think about when contemplating their life after work. Now, though, is the time to let your imagination run riot. Think back to those dreams you had when you were twenty and skint. Maybe you could hire a motor home in the United States and drive across the country, or visit the Australian outback, or finally meet up again with those friends who moved abroad. This could be your last chance, so go for it.
Nobody is just their job – but we have forty-five years to forget that. Retirement is your chance to rediscover who you really are. So next time you’re at a gathering and someone asks ‘What do you do?’ you won’t have to recite a job title – and you won’t say ‘I’m retired’ either.