To Retire or Not to Retire? That is the Question
A couple of weeks ago I returned home after a month away. Lucky me - and please believe me when I say that I never take such breaks from my normal routine for granted - especially this year of Covid weirdness.

Whilst I was in France I had some good friends staying with me whose very bright daughter has just graduated from university with a first class degree. This was a tense time for them as their daughter had Zoom type interviews for various jobs - her and many hundreds of thousands of other graduates trying to find work in an economy devastated by a pandemic. It occurred to me that her generation most likely has eighty years of life ahead of them and can probably expect to work for at least sixty years of that time.

It also occurred to me that our generation may be the last one to take (and expect) retirement in our 60s, something that our parents took for granted but which looks increasingly untenable as pensions built up over 40 years are having to stretch to cover thirty or even forty years of life without an income from work.

Recently on Super Troopers, we had a post from one of our members along the lines of “I hate my very well paid job which is impacting on my mental health and my husband is badgering me to retire. However, I am also afraid of retirement with its lack of pressure and deadlines on which I thrive best.” This post had a really huge response with nearly all the respondents saying “go for it because after a period of transition you won’t regret it for one minute”. There followed all the many and various ways that our retired Super Troopers had found to create a fulfilled and satisfying life for themselves in their retired state. So, I thought I’d look at the pros and cons of retirement versus still working as we move into our 70s or even our 80s, as many more of us are choosing to do. As someone who decided not to retire at 65 but to start a whole new business, I will try to explain why work still holds so many attractions to me as a way to structure my time.

Deciding to Retire

The retirement age of 60 for women and 65 for men was set at a time when people mostly died by the age of 70. Actuaries calculated, on average, how long the state would have to pay a pension and worked backwards to decide on the level of provision. Those calculations worked pretty well for our parents’ generation, but that no longer holds good. However, our generation has been brought up to expect and believe that retirement will happen in our 60s, so, as long as our finances make it possible, we have the luxury of choosing to spend the last 20 - 30 years of our lives outside the formal set-up of paid employment.

The Positives of Retirement

1. Unscratched Itches. You can finally plan to do all those things you never had time to do before whether it’s a wing walk or writing a book.

2. Family Time. You can become a valuable resource for your family with free child care whilst your children are working. Beyond that, you can spend more time with your grandchildren and play an important role in the development of their young lives.

3. Community Spirit. You can become part of an army of volunteers to offer your time and energy to support your local community or area.

4. Your Creative Self. For the first time, you may be able to indulge a passion long-held - to paint or draw or sew or sing and surprise yourself in the process.

5. Time to Yourself. As you may no longer be at the beck and call of others, you can take the opportunity to ask and answer some challenging and profound questions about your life and how you want to live.

6. Time for Fun. Travel, cruises, exploration. As long as funds allow, nothing is off the table allowing you to visit far-flung places and people.

7. New Pastures. Maybe now is the time to downsize, move house, move to another place entirely. New beginnings rather than new endings.

And the Downsides?

Much of what I have written about the joys of retirement depend on a number of factors. Your health, mobility, relationships with others in your life and your financial security - all of these will determine how well you negotiate your way through life without pressure, demands or structure. If your work supplied status, relationships and a sense of purpose then retirement may feel like a vast ocean of time stretching towards an unknowable horizon. So you may decide to continue to work - a choice I made seven years ago just after my 65th birthday.

The Positives of Working Beyond Retirement Age

1. Role Models. Neither of my parents had a moment in time when they retired. They ran a family business and saved hard for a retirement that never came. Mum died at 67 still working part-time and my dad still involved himself in the business until a fall at the age of 80 made it impossible to do so. He died a year later.

2. Contact with a varied team of people. I love the fact that I work alongside both of my daughters and see them developing new skills and competences in their roles as managing director and operations director at LFF. I also love the fact that I have daily contact with the very impressive younger (and some older) people in the team who know so much more than me about their jobs.

3. Constantly being challenged. Even in seven years, the technology we use and depend on as an online business has changed and evolved dramatically. I have to keep up as much as I can, even though I can delegate a lot of it. Last week I did an interview at 9pm for the BBC World Service. I did this via Zoom and had to record the interview (which lasted an hour) on my new smartphone. Then I had to send the audio file to her. So difficult! So frustrating but eventually I managed to save it to Google Drive and share it like that. Felt absolutely triumphant!

4. Structure and Purpose. I am writing this under the pressure of time because for the next two days I am filming with Anna for a Facebook series called ‘Boost my Business.’ Every day and this includes Sunday because I am reading and publishing the comments on this blog, I have ways to occupy my time with daily objectives and an overall purpose of contributing my part to creating a successful business.

5. Having a Role and Identity. My job title and the role I perform as the face and voice of LFF give me a powerful sense of identity. Maybe it shouldn’t matter so much but I love the fact that I will be introduced as the ‘Founder of Look Fabulous Forever’ on the Facebook film and in another article I have just written for a magazine.

And the Downsides?

At the moment I am healthy and have good levels of energy to meet the various challenges of my work. I love what I do, it doesn’t feel like work, and I have a huge amount of autonomy and control over the demands made on my time. I have never done this for the money, although my current income is welcome for the choices it gives me - I suspect it would feel very different if my retirement funds were such that I relied on work to fill the shortfall. My work also means that I have much less time to spend with my grandchildren, although I do have lots of contact because they all live nearby. I have few hobbies outside gardening, reading and jigsaws (a new Covid-induced past-time!) and no plans for any exciting trips to the back of beyond. Am I happy with my life? Very much so because it fulfils so many of my needs but I am not sure how sustainable it will be in the longer term.

Many of my retired friends say that they have never been so busy! I have emphasized paid employment in this as opposed to those myriad ways that older people add massive value with their unpaid (and often under-appreciated) labour. However, for many of you, there is a choice to be made about how and even whether you take your retirement. Over time I suspect that this may become a luxury afforded to fewer and fewer of us, but in the meantime, we will all have to weigh up those very real freedoms of the retired life as opposed to the very real satisfaction of life with some form of meaningful paid work.

If some of the issues I've discussed above have resonated with you, I'll be interviewing Judy Reith, co-author of Act - 3 - The Art of Growing Older, How to Re-Imagine your Life After 50 - this Tuesday 15th September for our next Teatime with Tricia Live Zoom Call. You can sign up here.


Please do leave your comments below! Tricia x