It is significant that there is an important connection between work and retirement, even if it is generally not well enough recognised. To satisfy officialdom when it came to inquiring about my status, I have often found it was easier to say I am not working and that I am retired. Yet the truth is I am working and I am not retired, despite any label that may be attached to me. Being able to work and being involved in serving my community is very important to me and it is something I try to do as best I can despite declining powers.
One of the nice things about being retired is you can, to some extent at least, pick and choose what activities to get involved with, often with the time to do so, and if so inclined be best placed to make a difference. My own activities have been described on the pages of this website and in addition I have been free to write about things I care about, without fear or favour. The day I stop working and retire is the day I depart from this life, or at least that is what I think now.
I have now been officially retired at least two years, but unlike many it wasn’t as a result of stopping doing a paid job. When I started my third career as a community worker, around 2001, I had a full-time paid job and did some voluntary work. Increasingly, I found myself doing more volunteer work such that nowadays almost everything I do happens to be on a voluntary basis, i.e. I don’t get paid. While there were undoubtedly things I could have done better planning for my “retirement”, my main regret is not making the most of all the opportunities that have come my way, but otherwise I am grateful.
I have two friends, a couple, who have worked hard all their lives. They have brought up their family as best they could, been good neighbours and served in their community. While not particularly well off, they saved and invested and once having retired, several years ago, have lived full lives. They still serve their community well although having to slow down with the onset of old age. They enjoy their family and delight in spending time with their grand children. They enjoy holidays abroad. And, as the saying goes, they don’t let the grass grow under their feet. In many ways, I see my friends as role models as to how to spend their retirement, although I realise for many life is not quite so idyllic as they struggle with health and money problems and break downs in family relationships.
Thinking along these lines begs the question how best to prepare for retirement? This is less of an issue for me now given my retired status and that I have to work with whatever preparation I have made but, in the interest of wanting to impart words of wisdom to those some way off retirement, I have decided to share some thoughts. The first is that as a young person retirement was not something I gave much, if any, thought to. It seemed such a long while off! It wasn’t that I was a hedonist but rather, given my deeply religious outlook on life, I was more intent laying up treasure in heaven and saving the world. When at college, financial adviser types tried to interest me in investing my money, I was rather dismissive. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have taken their advice. Later in life, I brought houses and invested in pension funds and, having done both, I am glad that I did. The same to an extent can be said about my investing in shares and buying life insurance.
Some don’t have that chance but the John Welsey maxim, discussed in a recent post, “gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can”, still applies. I would say to any, realise that life is short, and if you are spared that long then retirement will come upon you sooner than you think. See life as a precious gift and make the most of every passing minute because passing is exactly what it is, never to come your way again. Realise you will grow old and your powers will diminish. Live life to the full and if you do make it, then enjoy and make the most of your retirement. That’s what I am trying to do!