Retirement – A Second Take
Ever since I left school to start my apprenticeship in May 1965, I've been looking forward to my retirement. I was never very keen on the business of going to work. As a child, when I was asked what I was going to do when I left school, my answer was always "Stay at home and help my mum". The thought of actually 'going to work' didn't appeal to me at all.
However, once I'd started work, I realised I had that useful characteristic of 'stickability' as one of my later colleagues remarked. I had a most unpleasant time as an apprentice but stuck it out for the 6.5 years the company kept paying me and paying for my college fees and giving me a day off to attend.
One day, my boss came to me and asked me what I'd do if the company stopped me going to college. I immediately answered that I'd probably leave. That gave him the ammunition he needed to get rid of me so he immediately went to the engineering boss and recommended that they should stop my college studies. As soon as I was informed of this, I put in my notice and quit. How pleased I was to get out of that place of work.
Since those unhappy days, I continued to study for some years to raise the level of my qualifications and have had a most varied career and gained tremendous experience along the way. Of course, it hasn't all been plain sailing and there have been many times when I've been quite unhappy in my job – that's life. My main endeavour has always been to earn enough money to support myself and my family, regardless of job satisfaction and enjoyment. And all the way through this journey of life, I've been looking forward to my retirement so that I could enjoy the life I've always wanted.
Retirement was forced upon me when I completed a contract on 28 March 2019, a few weeks before my 70th birthday. This happened as a result of several events that all took place around about the same time. The first hit was the confusion regarding the UK leaving the EU. The second hit was the Covid pandemic and all the lockdowns associated with that event – which is still ongoing. Lastly, our tax authorities, HMRC, have made it almost impossible for many consultants and contractors to obtain contracts because of the imposition of what is known as the IR35 rule, whereby companies that want to hire contractors are deemed responsible for making sure the contractor is paying the correct taxes – an impossible task.
Many contractors worked under what became known as 'umbrella' companies. Others, either went abroad or retired as it was so difficult to get a contract. Of course, this meant that HMRC had shot themselves in the foot, once again as they so often do, but it also meant that many thousands of contractors were either put out of work, such as our truck drivers, many of whom are self-employed and took other jobs. This is why there is a shortage of 100 000 truck drivers! Needless to say, but those truck drivers who stayed employed got a massive increase in their rate / salary. I know one such driver who took the increase in his rate and reduced his working days from 5 to 4 so improving the quality of his life without losing any money.
As for me, my retirement lasted for 2 years and 8 months. After all this time, I was bored and depressed with staying at home all day, every day, and was going downhill like sinking ship.
The reason for this was because I still wasn't living the life I wanted to during my retirement. Retirement should mean that you can live exactly as you want to after 50 or more years of working – 55 years in my case. Sadly, I couldn't do this in any way shape or form. There were a number of reasons for this, which I'll describe later. During this time of retirement, I was doing various activities just for the sake of doing them – to prevent total boredom - and also working at maintaining my computer skills; just in case I needed them at a future date, which, in the event, was well worthwhile and helped me enormously.
It is important to fully understand the life that you'd like to lead and decide if it is possible to do so under the circumstances. By circumstances, I'm referring to four main factors: time, money, commitments and location.
Let's consider each of these.
Time: No problem – I'm retired so I don't have to go to work every day so I have an abundance of time.
Money: Could probably scrape by okay, dependent on exactly what options I took about the life I wanted to lead. In my particular situation, money is much tighter than most retired people because we still have a teenager living at home who isn't working, so our expenses are very much higher than would normally be the case on retiring.
As an aside, it is important for people to understand that they can retire at any time if they have sufficient funds available to keep the wolf away from the door. Apart from the rich and famous, many people don't seem to remember this and don't prepare themselves financially for an early retirement. In my youth, this wasn't even a remote possibility for a working class lad, but it is more likely to be possible in these rather more modern, and materialistic, times.
Commitments: Difficult – our teenage son still in education – still at home and unable to move out and support himself.
Location: UK. I don't like living in the UK. Until (and if) the pandemic is no longer a governing factor, travelling to other countries is just about impossible. Living abroad is also very difficult as some countries are even more 'locked-down' and restrictive to live in than the UK.
There are a few other factors, such as Grace working and reluctant to give-up her two jobs. Grace has made a very significant contribution to our finances during the time I've been retired, so I can't complain about this. It's also been very therapeutic for her as it gets her out of the house and helps to stop her pining over our loss of our little girl, Annelise. Of course, her being out all day means that I'm stuck indoors on my own which is quite a lonely existence and one I could do without as I love being with Grace and sharing our life together.
So, where am I now?
I've gone back to work!
I was within a few days of giving up hope of further work, and had decided to close down my limited company at the end of November 2021, when I received a telephone call regarding a contract I'd applied for – never expecting to be contacted about it at all. All went well with regard to the 'job interview' carried out at home through a video link. We then negotiated a deal which was just about acceptable to me regarding the rate of pay – outside of the IR35 rules. Part of the negotiations revolved around this and my company was cleared to take the contract by an independent assessor and I started work on 29 November 2021.
So, how does it feel being back to work? Great!
We are now one week on from the start of the new year after a two-week Christmas holiday break. Since I started this contract, I've only spent four days in the office located at the other end of the country from where we live as I've been able to work from home. Every morning we have a video team meeting online and various other chats and calls throughout the day. I've got a challenging job which I'm well up for taking on and know what I'm doing and have already far exceeded their expectations (my boss's words, not mine). How rewarding is that?
I now fully understand why so many men die at a young age after retiring – and I've known many who have. After working for so many years one can feel unwanted and unnecessary upon retirement – especially if you're not living the sort of life you want to live or have dreamed of living during the past 50 years. It's so easy to lose the will to live!
Grace tells me that she can see a huge difference in me since I started the new contract – a huge change for the better – like having a new lease of life. As we discussed only last night, this isn't about money at all, it's about having that connection with people with whom one works and doing a job that is enjoyable. Yes, I do mean enjoyable. To be worthwhile you have to be happy in your job. It really is no good taking on a job where you are going to be unhappy. For example, Grace could make considerably more money by taking a job at the place where one of her friends works, but she knows she wouldn't be happy there and being happy at work means a great deal, not only to her, but to most people.
So, do I really want to retire after all these years of being employed?
'Yes' and 'No' are both correct answers.
'Yes', if I can live the way I want to during my retirement which means either (or both) of two options:
a) Grace and I can go travelling abroad for extended periods, probably using our caravan as accommodation.
b) Grace and I can live permanently somewhere in the sunshine – well away from the miseries of being in the UK.
If a) and / or b) aren't achievable for me, for whatever reason, then the answer 'No' partly applies. At least, being employed and happy in a job provides job satisfaction, some social contact with other folks in the workplace and an income to top-up the savings for when the retirement I want to experience is a practical proposition. Most of all, it stops boredom and depression from setting in and gives me a new lease of life – which is highly likely to mean that my life expectancy is extended, given God's gift of good health.
Updating this in the middle of February 2022 whilst recovering from Covid or whatever this 'flu like virus is called has also has also given me more time to think about what is important in life. Having taken time off work because of us all being ill has been beneficial in some ways, although losing income isn't exactly positive. Sadly there is a lot of negativity in all our lives at present, including huge increases in energy costs, the prospect of WWIII starting at any time and the sad fact that I've been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which has been somewhat painful.
The great fact about us being unwell together has been that Grace and I have been able to spend a lot more time with each other than would normally be the case. As I said to Grace, this is important as none of us know how much time we have left on this Earth - especially at my age. How we go forwards on this is another matter as, once we're well again, we'll be back at work and with the huge increase in the cost of living any money we can earn is important as my pensions really aren't enough to live on in any degree of comfort.
Another problem with working is that it really does eat into one's quality time. Time when one can be doing more interesting activities than working. I have lots of ideas of things I'd like to do although I have to admit that I could have done more of these activities in the past had my motivation been higher, however, the climate in the UK is always a contributory factor to my lack of motivation. My motivation is never very high when Grace is working for much of the time too. Even after more than 21 years of life with Grace, I still count every minute of my time with her as being very enjoyable and very precious.
So, what of the future? I guess much the same holds true as before but only working on short-term contracts during the winter months so I could enjoy whatever reasonable weather we may encounter here in the UK as hopes of travelling long-term seem fairly remote at present. It would also be a great benefit if Grace could soon reduce her working hours so we could enjoy more time together.
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