So… 18 months ago at the age of 58, I decided to retire after working pretty much non-stop for 39 years. The last two years of my working life were very stressful so when my company offered Voluntary Redundancy, it was a no brainer to offer myself up and take my pension at the same time.
I was still working frantically right up to the moment I was meant to walk out the door to my farewell party. I finally logged off my computer for the last time and a man appeared with a bugle, playing ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’ (and ‘Big Spender’, but that’s another story!) and everyone clapped me off the trading floor. I must admit there was a tear in my eye as I walked out thinking this was the last time I would see these people on a regular basis.
I seriously thought it would take me months not to think about work and switch my brain off but to my great surprise I forgot about it almost immediately! It was such a relief not to have any more pressure. Perhaps now I will get a good night’s sleep I thought. I can get up when I like, do exactly what I want to do.
I had lots of plans to fill my time (apparently this is the key to a happy retirement). Do some voluntary work, cook and bake more, get back into the gym, learn a language, do a photography course, write a children’s book, travel more, catch up with old friends. I have managed to achieve a good few of these. In fact, I don’t know how I found the time to work, and so many other retirees have said the same.
The first year was bliss. No deadlines, lots of space in my calendar and plenty of time to relax. I did volunteer; for The Grange, a charity supporting people with learning difficulties, and one afternoon a week working in the local Age UK shop. I did buy a fancy mixer and for a while made some lovely cakes. I did join the local gym (I am able to have the cheaper off peak membership) and still enjoy the dance fitness classes. I do regularly meet up with friends. I did experience a big year of travelling: the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, a few days in Rotterdam, a week in Barcelona, a week in Ibiza for a wedding (even got down with the youngsters at Ushuaia with Tiny Tempa as the headline act), a salsa weekend at a luxury chateau in the South of France and a weekend in Bruges. I even did a thrill seeker helicopter ride and a tandem sky dive!
I didn’t find time for the photography, learning a language or writing a book. I still don’t sleep well, that brain of mine refuses to switch itself off!
Having de-stressed and feeling happier, I now need something to keep my brain active and to make me feel I am useful and have a worth. I don’t need the money but I do need stimulation and to be valued. I must point out here my husband does value me and supports me in everything I do which is great and why I love him!
So, what have been the pros of retiring early?
- Being able to get up when I want, make a cup of tea, take it back to bed to watch the news and have time for a proper breakfast.
- NO MORE COMMUTING! Those evenings when you are stuck at Waterloo or thrown off a train because of signal failures etc. when all you want to do is get home after a long day at work. Although I do go up to London regularly to socialise. This means I get to read The Standard again. On one return journey I read the train drivers were going on strike in support of a driver who had gone through a red light on THREE separate occasions, despite said driver being given an office role which he wanted! I mean really? I don’t believe it! As you can tell my inner Victor Meldrew emerged. It resulted in me writing my first ever letter to a newspaper. This followed being a real woman model on This Morning, so now all I need to do is go on the radio. Some people say I have too much time on my hands.
- I am super organised for Christmas!
- I have re-engaged with old friends I rarely had time for when I was working.
- No pressure, no constant stress.
- My time is my own to do with how I want. Although this has also meant I have bombarded my husband and friends with ‘deals’ I have seen for holidays, meals etc.!
- Having more time to spend with my family and being able to help them when they most need it.
What about the cons?
- I miss interacting with my old friends and colleagues at work. They were a big part of my life for so many years and I was respected for what I did.
- I miss the feeling of being wanted, valued and of interest. When people ask you what you do and you say ‘I’m retired’ the conversation tends to be very short. I tend to move the conversation onto what I used to do, it sounds much more interesting.
- It is taken for granted that I will be the one who waits in for all the deliveries, workmen, takes the car for a service/MOT etc. Is that all I am good for?
- I hate the long, dark, wet, cold days of winter when I don’t have anything planned. It can definitely get you down when your only company is the tv or radio.
I am happy I retired early. I count myself lucky that I was able to do that and not have to wait until I am 66 and rely on a State pension. Life is short and you need to make the most of it. No one is indispensable. However, it is true you must have things lined up to keep you busy and engaged. Otherwise it would be easy to sink into a dark place and feel lonely and unwanted. I have just applied to be a Trustee of a charity which should help get my brain back in gear and I’ll be doing something good at the same time. Maybe I’ll start that language course now too…….