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Retirement – The best 6 years of my life

On 28th October 2011, I said goodbye to the world of work. I had just turned 56. I couldn’t really believe I was walking away from a very well paid job, which I mostly enjoyed, but it had got very stressful (or maybe it was that I had ceased to manage the stress well!). My husband had retired a few months earlier, and I had decided to join him.

When we both decided to retire early, we agreed that we were going to make the most of our retirement when we were fit and healthy. There would be plenty of time to sit around by the fire when we got old. (I am hoping ‘old’ means aged about 90 with all our marbles!)

My husband had a retirement party at our house. There were about 120 people there. Fortunately it was a good day, because both the front and back garden were full, the garage was the beer & drinks stall, and the lovely big grassy area across the road was being used by the youngsters to play football…. The house was pretty empty – but if it had been raining, it would have been a tight squeeze!

Cracking Retirement retirement party

Today I looked at those photographs. I can see 5 older people (80+ who have since died). I can see 2 in their 60’s who have died. Sadly I can also see 3 people who were not yet 60 who have also died. Several others are now having a long struggle with cancer. That’s 10% of the people there. Now, if ever I needed confirmation that we made the right choice to retire and make the most of the years we had remaining, that was it.

So 6 years on – it’s time to take stock. I can’t believe it has gone by so fast.

Family & Friends

Unfortunately, our two boys live quite a bit away, so we don’t see as much of them and their wives as we would like. We try and make the trek to New Zealand to see our younger son every 2 years or so. It is a trek, there’s no denying it. (~40 hours of travel). The bad news for them, is that when we go, we stay for several weeks at a time… Our older son and his wife came over for a weekend trip to see us in Madrid which was lovely, and we manage to meet up for a couple of weekends through the year. In 2018, we are hoping to get us all in the same place for a day or two, which will be great. That hasn’t happened since December 2013, when we all said goodbye after my son’s wedding in Delhi!

Cracking Retirement Wedding Delhi
Hindu Wedding Ceremony

We have a lovely circle of friends who we enjoy spending time with in Edinburgh. Once you leave work, there is no denying that your circle of friends reduces a bit, and to start with, you continue to meet up with ex-colleagues. As time goes by those meet-ups reduce for 90%, but a few will continue. You realise you have a lot interests in common that are not work-related, and the friendship grows. Now, when the invitations come to retirement parties, I often decline, because I realise that after 5 minutes I have little to say to many of the people there, we have no longer anything to talk about.

The one common theme I read, is that it is important for retired people to keep connections with their friends, and I would support this. It is all too easy to say, I can’t be bothered to go to that party, lunch, I’ll just stay home!

Lifestyle

We live in the same house that we have lived in for the last 20 odd years. Arguably it is a bit big for us, but we have got used to having plenty of space. We did a lot of work on it in 2010, before we retired, so hopefully it wont need too much work for a year or two yet. The house is also of the age (1970’s), where it would probably cost us money to move to a smaller house / apartment, so we’ll postpone the decision for a year or two.

We lead a pretty quiet life when we are at home. I potter with my hobbies (see below), my husband does some work (paid), some engineering/maths research (unpaid), and generally keeps himself busy pondering heavy duty maths problems.

We eat simply, usually have a daily walk together, or he goes to the gym, and I find a reason not to go for a walk. I think I might return to the gym to start swimming again, and hit that rowing machine! (See health below!)

We meet up with friends, together and separately. My husband usually meets up with a couple of ex-colleagues once a month. He and another friend have an art gallery schedule followed by a pub lunch! I meet up with some friends at least once a month where we put the world to rights.

I still have a commitment as a governor of a charity, although I have recently reduced that commitment from 20 days a year to a more reasonable 8 days. (It was starting to interfere with our travel schedule!)

Hobbies

I have three main hobbies

  • blogging – this blog! It takes up quite a lot more time than I had imagined, but so far I am OK with that. I know some of my fellow bloggers spend huge amounts of time on their blogs, but in many cases they are hoping to (or do) make enough money from it to enable them to live a different lifestyle. Fortunately I am in a different position because we have enough pension income to keep us, without needing an extra income stream. But maybe, once I have found my niche, I may explore the opportunities to monetise the blog. After 1 year, I feel like I am just settling down into a rhythm, still a bit of a beginner…
  • metalwork – I love working with metal. Copper and silver mainly (I can’t afford gold!). I go through phases, sometimes it is the most important thing in the world, other times, I might let weeks go by without doing anything. I also attend and am co-treasurer for a lapidary club, which takes up about 5-6 hours a week. Time vanishes… You can see my work on both flickr and click the showcase tab on the blog

Cracking REtirement Jewellery May 2017

  • family history research – as I write this I realise I haven’t posted a blog about this. I will have to rectify this shortly… I am in touch with some distant family members across the world, as we try and sort out our extended family history. I come from Ireland, many of my family emigrated to the US & Canada. Unfortunately when they got to Ellis Island or Canada, their names got changed, they lost a few years, their job titles improved (think servant to housekeeper!), so tracking everyone can be difficult. It is also compounded that many of the records in Ireland were lost in a big fire in 1922, the census records pre-1901 were pulped (by the British in the 1st world war, who were short of paper – I note they didn’t pulp their own records!…) I have had such fun searching through all sorts of archives to find more information. My older son (a librarian) is a wizard at finding out information. Every now and then I start looking in a specific area, and realise he is ahead of me, and has filled a whole load of blanks…. Attached below is a picture of my grandfather. I never met him, he died 12 years before I was born. (I could fill pages with this stuff. If anyone out there has some good ideas about how to organise family history research, I would love to know about it!)
Cracking Retirement Robert Lee
My grandfather
Cracking Retirement census 1871
The first census he appears in, 1871, aged 8

My husband is into stamp collecting, but so far, he keeps saying he’ll do something about it when he retires… 6 years on, he still hasn’t picked it up again. Although when we were in Madrid, his sister gave him 3 old albums, and he bought a huge bag of stamps, so maybe he’ll pick it up this winter. Maybe hidden in there will be a couple of valuable stamps, though I doubt it!

Money

Cracking Retirement Money in the Bank

It is an important aspect. I know of several families who are ‘just making ends meet’. Now I hope never to be in that position, and if all my planning works out, we never will be. I want to be able to enjoy our retirement, travel when we want, where we want, while we are still fit and healthy.  I don’t want to be in the position where we can’t afford to turn the heating up when it is cold, or take a trip.

We take several trips a year (see below). We eat well, and don’t scrimp and save excessively. However we do live simply when we are at home (by choice).

I keep regular track of my finances, such as my half-year summary. Our net worth continues to grow, not massively but steadily. (6% over the last year). We save every month (mainly because my husband still earns part-time, which was income we didn’t expect when we did our original financial calculations) We are certainly a long way from having to break into our savings. Ideally, my aim is for our net worth to grow by the same amount as our income each year, so effectively we ‘live for free’. The longer we can do that, the safer we will be when inflation starts to bite, as I am pretty sure it will, sooner rather than later.

Mind you, if we travelled less, or rather spent less on travel, it would build up faster!

Health

Fortunately, my husband and I have been pretty much ‘doctor free’. Long may it last. We have 2 sets of good friends, of much the same ages as ourselves, and they cannot say the same. Hospital trips, long-term illnesses, cancer etc.  We have been very fortunate. We’re pretty good at walking daily, but we could both lose some weight! We did really well about 2013, and both of us came down to a near perfect weight, but unfortunately it has crept back up. So time for a bit of focus again.

Cracking Retirement - Diet Progress
Scales

The good news is that my blood pressure which had been raised to close to medication levels before I left work, has reduced significantly. It is now ‘great for your age!’. It just shows what stress can do to you.

Cracking Retirement Blood Pressure

Travel

Where to start? Basically it would appear that we spend a lot of our time travelling. I didn’t realise it was quite so much until I started documenting it. So much that I have had to split the posts up a bit!

There will be a separate one on Slow Travel, (Nice, Barcelona & Madrid) and another one on our travels since we have retired (New Zealand 4 times, St Lucia 3 times, Malaysia, India, Singapore, Italy, Ireland, UK…. )

Cracking Retirement Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

It is particularly delightful to escape Edinburgh when the nights close in, and you can’t go outside without several layers. One of the things I really enjoyed with our Madrid trip this year was that we did not wear a jumper or a jacket all the time we were there. It is just a delightful way to live. Although I would not have been able to cope if the temperature was a lot warmer, so a fine balance! A warm temperate climate is my preference!

Overall

I wrote a post quite recently about what people wanted their life to be like at 60. Not one of them said I want to sit in a chair, not able to put the heating on because I cant afford it, and in poor health because I didn’t take care of myself.

We are thoroughly enjoying the freedom that retirement brings. The freedom to do the things we want to do, rather than the things we have to do. We haven’t suffered from feeling worthless or bored as many retirees do. I think the secret is in having a good work/life balance, knowing that you will have something to retire to. So part of our preparation for retirement was making sure the finances were in place and that we had a few ideas about how we wanted to spend our time

Granted travel has formed a big part of our lives to date, and long may we have the health for that to be the case. Our 5 weeks in Madrid vanished in a blink of the eye.

I still smile every day that I wake up, (without an alarm clock), to a day spent how I choose, rather than one that is chosen for me. One morning this week, there had been two different accidents on the by-pass, the exits in both directions from our house by car were blocked for miles. My husband was on his way to the gym and turned back. Now if we had been going to work, we would have been forced to sit in that traffic. As it was, we just went out for a walk instead!

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2 Comments

  1. Congrats on the 6th anniversary of your retirement and thanks for sharing your experience so far. I would like a retirement like yours and hope to be in a position to pull the plug on full-time work at around 55/56. At the moment, having an adequate pot is probably my priority but your points about health make that a priority too – it’s important to try to maintain good fitness and health. Here’s to many more happy years!

    1. Thanks weenie. Yes, it’s been great so far, long may it continue. So far, we have been really lucky with our health too.

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