4th February 2015
Planning for retirement
Some time ago I announced my ‘retirement’. It was a big mistake. People keep asking me things like “Are you enjoying your retirement?” My usual reply is “The only thing I have retired from is retirement.”
Far from having retired, I am just as busy now as I ever have been. Don’t get me wrong: I am not complaining about this. I am just recognising this as a fact of life. Retirement, I think, might have been a concept (or a procedure) that came about in history when people used to have jobs. The work till they became of retirement age (traditionally 65 for men) and then they retired from work.
I ceased to be in paid employment many years ago. I gave up being employed by other people to run my own business – and be my own boss. That is not something you can easily retire from. If you set up your own business (becoming self-employed) then that is not something you can easily walk away from. Not if you are a sole trader. If you a member of a partnership or group, then yes you could do this and let the others carry on. I have always been a sole trader. I can’t leave the business to others. It’s me and only me. That’s why the only thing I have retired from is retirement.
Does any of this have any relevance for anyone else? Well, it does if you happen to be in the same circumstances as me; or, if you have made so much money you really do not need to should the responsibilities of having the run a business any more. If that is you – well done and good luck! Me – well I carry on doing what I do for two reasons:
Firstly, I love what I do. I can’t live without it. I work now mainly in the fields of music, history and journalism. Often, I do all three of these at the same time. I find I can’t easily walk away from my greatest passions. If I give all this up – what am I left with? Not a lot.
Secondly, I don’t need the money. I am very adept at living comfortably on my pension and making ends meet. The business helps financially in so far as it breaks even; it covers most of its costs (operational overheads) but it isn’t making me wealthy. Running magazines you do for love not money. Working in the arts and history is something that I do as a service to the public; I certainly don’t do it to make money for myself.
As one gets older, it is, I think, very important to keep the old brainbox going. Having something to do every day is important to keeping the mind in robust health and this prolongs active life. Admittedly you don’t have to work with the same level of pressure as was the case when your life depended on it. I spend a lot of my time writing. I have several books on the go and I am running two magazines. That gives me a life. I think the problem that many people faced when they retired is that it left them with nothing much to do, apart from the endless round of every day activities – gardening, playing with their grand-children, taking holidays, or whatever gives them pleasure. All very expensive pastimes. I enjoy the cut and thrust of having challenges, keeping up with my own deadlines, responding to the demands of the people I work for (readers) and that keeps me in rude health.
Will I ever let go and do the retirement thing properly? I doubt it. Retirement these days is a luxury afforded only by the rich. Us poor people have to work till we drop. the great thing is that I don’t have to work. I choose to work because it gives me a sense of fulfilment and keeps me active and connected. Our society needs to update the concept of retirement for the 21st century. Or abandon it altogether (probably a more honest approach.)