Five years ago today, I experienced my first day of retirement after almost 40 years of corporate working. I haven’t done a stroke of paid work since retiring and I haven’t regretted that for one minute. I have been lucky that my health has been good (I know a few new retirees who have not been so fortunate) and that earning and saving during my working life has meant that I could retire in my early 60s and still live comfortably (again, not something that is possible for all).
I have also been lucky in that retirement moved me more permanently to our family home in a lovely part of Gloucestershire but that I could also keep a degree of access to my London flat for a few years. That meant that I could wean myself off London cultural life gradually. That London facility has just been sold and now I am tied much more to Gloucestershire day to day (something that probably means Long-Suffering Wife is a little more long-suffering these days). However, while cultural exploits are now less frequent, the countryside here is highly alluring, the rural walks are delightful and the pandemic lockdown had already trained me to make the most of the local.
Five years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect from retirement (that was one of the reasons why I started this blog when I retired) and there certainly have been some surprises along the way. The Covid pandemic has been a big one and that has curtailed a lot of the travel that I anticipated doing. Middle Son’s accident a few years ago was also completely impossible to anticipate and has taken a while to recover from. Now a needless world war is causing more widespread disruption in which to plan.
Our sons’ locations have also been unpredictable and yet this has determined a lot of our travel. When Youngest Son was in Australia we went there (twice); currently he is in Belfast and we have visited there twice too. Middle Son remains in London so we have seen him there but we wait on tenterhooks as to where he will move to next and more permanently.
Meanwhile, Eldest Son is settled in Edinburgh with his partner and they have produced the loveliest retirement surprise – our First Grandchild – and so Edinburgh has become another regular destination.
As I did a year after leaving employment, I have gone back to the initial impressions I had of retirement which I set out after the first six months (here and here). To recap, the main personal lessons, in summary, were:
- Work didn’t and doesn’t define me and I don’t miss it
- There is plenty to do in retirement
- There is still need for structure
- Holidays (trips away from home) are more relaxing now
- I miss London, but not as much as I expected
- Summer Is A Good Time To Retire
- Remember That Retirement Affects One’s Partner Too
- Spend Time Getting To Know One’s (New) Neighbourhood
- Don’t Rush Into Any New Big Time Commitments
- Health, As Always, Is Critical.
Once again, I don’t see much to change or add to that. I have certainly found plenty to do in retirement and have enjoyed getting involved more in the local community, but a key attraction is that little has to be done in a hurry. Even though I have taken on a few commitments around the village, particularly regarding local climate action, and even though some of these have become quite substantial, the pace is much more relaxed. As in work, there seems to be much to do but, in retirement, most can wait until tomorrow.
I have been able to create new routines and structures for my day primarily around walking, shopping and cooking. They help provide some balance between doing and doing very little that create a feeling of busyness but with a flexibility on timescales that is just challenging enough for me.
That flexibility is perhaps the most attractive thing. We can travel or not. I can offer to help with something or not (I remain careful not to promise things I can’t deliver). I can go out gardening today or leave it till later because Wimbledon tennis is on or it looks like rain. I can take a long walk because the weather is nice or I can sit and play a computer game for an hour or two. I can cook simply or take the time to explore into new cooking territory. I can go to a Forest Green Rovers away game halfway across the country or sit nervously alongside the radio commentary.
The choices are more attractive than when I was working, the execution of those choices is more relaxed, and it’s been a very good five years!