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Saturday, 27 May 2017
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Retirement Today

Some people agonise over it, others can wait for the opportunity. Whichever way it happens retirement is a big life changing break. It takes a bit of getting used to. No longer pulling in an income. No longer having your day and week predetermined by others or by events. No need for the alarm clock. Itís great to be free but it can leave a void.

When I retired I was self-employed so just walking out of the office and closing the door was not an option. I had commitments to clients and my projects all lasted a year or more. I had to retire slowly. I had to adopt the frequently recommended tapering process. Steadily slowing down to a stop rather than hitting a wall.

Iíve been an advocate of tapering into retirement ever since. That process suited me very well. I got used to earning less. I got used to working four days a week then 3 days and so on. We had a new granddaughter living nearby and would look after her for a day a week whilst her mother worked. We became part of the great unpaid grey army. My wife had taken the more abrupt approach to retirement but soon found she needed an outlet for her abilities other than housework and looking after grandchildren. She soon found work doing research for the National Trust. Thereís always someone wanting unpaid work done. Itís just a matter of finding the work that fits.

I took on a free project for our youngest son and his partner which had me almost working full time again but that eventually ended. After two years of Ďtaperingí my time was my own. No one expecting me to meet them, no one expecting me to produce solutions for them. The phone didnít ring. I had retired.

That phase of retirement lasted a while as I repaired things around the house, redesigned the garden and increased the time I spent sailing. I was keeping myself busy, but when an old client asked me to do some designs for him I realised that I had enjoyed my work and I was missing the challenge. I organised the project so that I was not under pressure and enjoyed it. I have had a series of similar small projects going almost ever since but last month I turned one down. At almost 80 I think Iím ready to stop. Tapering worked very well for me and I am sure it will work well for others so long as the opportunity is there. 

A little over 3 years ago I started writing ĎRetirement Todayí. When Marcus asked me to write for him I thought I could manage about 10, or at most 20 articles. I celebrated when I completed 150. Now, as I approach 200, I am beginning to think that it is time to slow that down too. There is only so much you can write about growing old and about pensions without becoming boring. New things donít crop up so often to provide a new subject every week, so I propose to taper my writing activities too, perhaps just two each month in future.

I have written far more than I ever considered possible and most importantly I have enjoyed it. The most enjoyable part has been the feedback. So much interesting comment, opinions and ideas. So many retirees doing interesting things with their time. Thereís enormous talent in the Marcus Today membership. Itís been a very interesting journey and has encouraged me to look in much greater depth at a lot of issues. It made me look at myself too.

Itís interesting to look back at the issues which produced most feedback. As you might expect pensions were always a hot topic, particularly as the government started to look to the superannuation investment pie to fix the budget. There were some very critical comments from completely self-funded retirees about anyone depending on the government for pension support. Looking into that I was surprised to discover that only 20% of retirees are completely self-funded which means that approximately 80% of the retired population get some form of government support. I found amazing statistics that tax concessions on super contributions cost the budget more than paying age pensions. Few people would expect that.

The second most popular topic was downsizing. We hadnít, and still havenít, downsized so I was hoping to hear from people who had. I was disappointed. There were a lot of emails but they were all from people saying they had looked at downsizing but for various reasons had decided not to. The smartest one was a member who was extending their house for their growing family recognising that they would be gone in a few years and they would be left with a big house. The extension was being planned so that it could be let as a separate house at some time in the future. Good idea.

When I began writing ĎRetirement Todayí Marcus said ďwrite whatever you like if itís a problem we wonít publishĒ. He never refused to publish anything I wrote and on only one occasion did he edit my writing. That was a subject which excited him and he wanted to add to it. Iím grateful to Marcus for the opportunity and I hope that I have made a positive contribution to Marcus Today. 

I had no idea how long I could continue writing Retirement Today when I first started and I have no idea now how long I will be able to continue at a slower rate but then thatís the problem with growing old and with life in general.

How long will my brain keep going, what will the future bring?

Still an optimist.

Harold

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If you would like to email Harold please click here

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