Brian always said he would “never retire”. Retirement was a boring life.
Following twenty odd years in the Royal Engineers, Brian then spent another twenty plus travelling widely as a consultant engineer, often spending many nights away. He enjoyed being busy and the relationships with both customers and colleagues. His work gave him structure to his life and a lot of personal freedom, although very little time for interests outside of work. He loathed gardening and DIY, so employed a gardener, but did enjoy running half marathons. His wife Mary took on most of the household and family duties, alongside a busy life in local community.
As he approached 60, Brian’s only concession to age was to change roles for one that no longer required extensive travelling. He hoped to spend more time with his new grandchildren but found his adult family had routines and lives of their own, and had by now moved away for their own careers. Failing knees meant giving up running which he missed.
Brian intended to continue working as it gave them a comfortable lifestyle and did mean he could spoil the grandchildren whenever they saw them. When Mary became ill he cut back to part time working; the time this freed up became devoted to caring for Mary, and as he approached 68 Brian realised he would need to retire and care for her full time, which he did for the next nine months.
Sadly, Brian suddenly found himself widowed, and with very little to occupy his time except occasional visits to / from the family. He had made very few social contacts outside of work, and missed the routines imposed by work and then the caring. Retirement was a concept he had barely considered, and had just assumed that at some point he and Mary would perhaps go on holidays or spend time with the family. He began to get up later and later, barely got dressed in anything other than joggers and tee shirts, and often watched endless hours of TV he wasn’t even interested in.
Although Brian had done little in the way of thinking about his retirement, he had paid a lot of attention to financial planning, and did not need to worry about money. Which only made things worse in his eyes.
After about a year, realising that his health was suffering, Brian began working with a coach at the suggestion of his financial advisor. He identified that what he really enjoyed, and missed, was social contact and a structure to his day. Brian had always enjoyed helping others, and missed the travelling he used to do. With few interests, he decided voluntary work would be best, and after trying a few options, settled on driving vulnerable people at a day care centre three days a week. He took up pilates and chess. Five years on, Brian has built a life that is fulfilling and gives him a sense of purpose and worth. He still misses Mary a great deal yet has maintained strong relationships with his family without constantly being with them.
Brian’s story is a familiar one; many of us do not intend to give up work we enjoy and may have assumptions about what ‘retirement’ is and means. Yet at some point most of us will need to move on from a full ‘working’ life, sometimes at a pace or timing not of our own choosing, due to ill health, redundancy or other economic events. Planning for what comes next can mean that even though we might not be in control of the circumstances, we can be proactive in the situation and make the transition as smooth and positive as possible.