Retirement will create a big hole in my diary. For over 40 years I have spent far more of my waking life at a desk, in meetings or travelling than I have doing anything else. Working long hours was a habit I developed when I worked in the advertising industry. Agencies back then often had a “pizza box culture”. You work so late you finish after the office cleaners have been and gone. As a result, the pizza box from your supper is still in the bin the next morning.
My retirement thinking so far…
I have reached two key conclusions on my journey so far:-
- I won’t be allowed to spend £100k on a garden shed with a sea view. No matter how much I desire a beach hut in Southwold, it isn’t happening. The bench round the corner from the Nelson Inn will have to do.
- I will have a lot of time on my hands and right now I have no clue what to do with it.
The last point is absolutely key. All the research I am reading about the risks of retirement seem to come to the same conclusion. If you’re used to being busy, stimulated and challenged by work, then retiriement can be a huge let down.
The health warning
The danger is that what replaces is work is very unhealthy. You become addicted to day time television. You eat more and you consume more alcohol. You put on weight and your blood pressure and cholesterol levels go up. And those are just the potential physical symptoms of unplanned retirement.
Starved of stimulation our brains struggle too. Depression, loneliness and boredom are just some of the risks. I spoke to someone recently about exactly those issues. After years of working in a busy office, and a social life that involved lots of after-work activities, she’s now feeling very isolated. Although genuinely intended, all those colleague promises about staying in touch have slowly dried up. She’s on the outside now and no longer part of the team.
The internet is abound with stories of professional sports people whose lives have gone off the rails after retirement. Alcohol and mental health issues included. For many of them their career ended in their 30s. Often with no idea what came next.
The identity crisis
Work ultimately gives many of us a sense of purpose and worth. We enjoy the recognition and respect we get from being good at something. Even if that is at the same time as wishing we had more time, less pressure and less stress. Giving up work can take all of that away. So who are we in retirement? Can retirement create a big hole in your self-worth as well as your diary?
“Letting go” will be one of my biggest challenges. When you part-own a business you wear two hats – shareholder and executive. When I retire I have to hang up the executive hat. Otherwise I will constantly have my successor looking over their shoulder. They need to “own the business” not feel like it is on loan. Getting myself ready for that is another big challenge. How, if I am bored, will I keep my fingers out?
“Make your hobbies your life”
That was the advice I was given about retirement many years ago.
My first thought of course was that I’d have more time for my interests. So what do I spend my time doing outside work now? In a word: rugby.
I coach two rugby teams – U12 boys and a new Women’s side. Its huge fun but I am starting to recognise that it feels more physically demanding than it used to. Same goes for refereeing. I am a Society referee but these days I am pushing it to keep up with Colts and some senior sides. Pre-season training for refereeing this year is going to tell me a lot. Work may not be the only thing I am retiring from…
Now if retiring from work and stepping back from coaching and refereeing come hand in hand that’s an even bigger void to fill. What will define me if those both go away?
The gift of time
Time is the greatest gift of retirement. What you need though is a plan to use that gift wisely. And the simple truth right now is I don’t have one. And I guess I am not alone. If I retired tomorrow I really don’t know what I’d do other than get very bored, very quickly.
Retirement won’t just affect me. It will affect my relationships too. In my next article I am going to think that through. In the meantime if you’d like to discuss any of the themes around retirement planning get in touch. I’d be very keen to hear stories – both good and bad – about how retirement has impacted your life.