Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting my journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A White Christmas

The four of us went away for Christmas making an opportunity for some family bonding whilst avoiding the excesses of the Yuletide festivities at home. We escaped to the French Alps with its guarantee of snow at Christmas and skiing.

There was a time when Mister E and I used to dream about spending winters in retirement in a chalet in a mega ski resort. Trouble is they were fantasies of two much younger people. We had a superb trip but the reality is that we can’t ski like we used to; we now feel the pain despite covering less distance. We don’t sleep well at altitude and have developed an aversion to going out in bad weather. We now trail along behind our younger family members whereas once we led the pack or, when they were very young, even skied with them between our knees. Our muscles were stiff in the morning and I still can’t bend without aching.

Reality has crept in. Amongst the oldest people on the piste, skiing can no longer be the high priority for retirement that we once thought it would be. Smaller resorts, gentler slopes and a few hours on sunnier days will inevitably be more our scene in the future. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Wind-Up

The week before Christmas is always stressful as we juggle lunch hours with Christmas shopping; queue in the Post Office to send cards and parcels; worry about the food shopping and preparations as well as a myriad of other tasks, all whilst going about our ordinary business. It is of course made worse by the demands of work with deadlines to meet and those demanding them being all the more unreasonable in the knowledge that the world of business and commerce will virtually close for almost two weeks.

 Mister E has not escaped this year's torture and as a result suggested that we might like to consider planning a luxurious getaway for Christmas next year, in order to celebrate our retirement.

Ever the pragmatist I pointed out first of all that it was probably the busiest time of the whole year to travel and that maybe somewhere out of season before or after may suit us better. Besides I added, I thought it might be rather good to do Christmas properly for the first time in our married lives; spend time getting all the preparations just right and entertaining friends and family with a bit of panache for once.

"This has to be a Christmas wind-up," he replied.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Health Matters

I am a reasonably fit and healthy person. However, as I move through my fifties, I am not immune to a touch of stiffness in the joints and my body is certainly not as flexible or as fast as it once was. Clearly health in retirement is going to be important and we are conscious that there is probably only a limited window of opportunity (hopefully a great big gaping French window) in which to pursue some of the more physically demanding adventures and activities that we would like to include within our retirement.

Physical fitness aside, the spotlight on dementia today with the G8 summit also highlighted the risk of losing one’s mental capacity. Dementia is potentially the next big pan epidemic but if the Health Secretary can deliver on his ambition to find a cure by 2025, then I might just be safe.

In the meantime there are apparently 100 things I and everyone else can do to try and diminish the risk of succumbing; all helpfully recorded by Radio 2 . Essentially they boil down to:

Eating a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy weight
Exercising regularly
Not drinking too much alcohol but enjoying a little red wine regularly
Not smoking
Keeping your blood pressure low
Keeping sociable and not isolating yourself
Keeping the brain active

Friday, 29 November 2013

Sailing to Foreign Ports

Last week’s holiday was a time to talk about what we both might want to actually spend our days in retirement doing. Now I have all kinds of aspirations involving horticulture and interior design as well as researching the family tree and taking up again various abandoned arts and crafts. For a long time however I have known that Mister E has harboured ambitions to cross large oceans in rather small sailing vessels. It was inevitable, therefore, that we spent some of our time on Gran Canaria peering at the boats in various marinas.

I was relieved when Mister E confessed that he probably now has a greater sense of fear than in his younger days and perhaps the appeal of a transatlantic crossing is dimming. But Mister E is a dreamer and after a lingering visit to Puerto Mogan, he proceeded to tell me how comfortable the voyage would be with the Trade Winds with us (I loved the inclusivity of his description).

Call me a coward, but I had to say that, as someone with “Day Sailor” emblazoned across her forehead, I don’t feel bold enough for such an undertaking and, despite joining Mr E on numerous Cross-Channel sailing races in our pre-children days, when I sail I like to be able to view the coastal scenery. I know Christopher Columbus set out from Gran Canaria in 1492, but here in 2013 I don’t actually have any desire on my own part to prove to my own eyes that the world is not flat.

 I suggested we should start small and safe to begin with and perhaps even hire a barge on Britain’s inland waterways, if a rowing boat becomes boring.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Rest and Relaxation

Mister E and I survived our first full-length holiday alone together since our eldest was born more than 22 years ago. We stayed in Meloneras on Gran Canaria. We did, of course, miss the children and realised just how reliant on them we can be; when lettering is small or speech is very quiet we have clearly got into the habit of asking them to decipher for us. Fun times when we were both struggling to read the air conditioning settings in our hotel room and we both put reading glasses on especially!
We didn’t feel unduly old; most of our fellow holidaymakers seemed to pass their day perambulating on the promenade, taking in the sea air and then sipping iced coffee whilst watching others stroll. On our part, we were quite proud of our ability to throw off the crowds on parade as we walked that extra mile or two.
Mister E insisted on setting his alarm clock for fear of missing breakfast which finished at 11am, meaning that on two occasions we were even first down. We thought we’d be joined by retirees on the basis that we’ve heard that as you get older you rise early, but soon discovered our morning companions to be the parents of babies and toddlers. Oh yes, I recall those days of motherhood well.
All in all it was a pleasant break. A sunny interlude in warmer climes before winter takes a grip. That said we both agreed it was a holiday and that whilst we want to travel in retirement we don’t necessarily have the same urge to holiday. We have identified the difference.  Our holiday was an escape from reality; a week for relaxation and rest in a comfortable hotel. In retirement, however, we would like to travel and discover, maybe even putting up with a little bit of hardship to do so. We are thinking we may not “need” a holiday in the same sense as last week. Will we be so rested and relaxed, we won’t want one? However having returned to the onset of winter and frosty mornings, we are now conceding that once a year or so, we may have an understandable urge to treat ourselves to some hot rays of winter sunshine

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Well the meeting with the adviser went well yesterday in so far as he didn't decry us for our stupidity or impossible dreams. Instead we've just been given piles of homework and options: groan...groan!
Never mind, and whilst we didn't actually consult the Doctor, we are now off on a practice run. A week in the sun together; no children, just Mister E, me and a pile of books. I would say no worries, but we are leaving our home in the care of the next generation and just keeping our fingers crossed. A good practice for them too.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Golden Decade for Retirement Planning

According to the magazine that arrived in the post for me today (Money Matters by Armstrong Watson accountants) your 40's is the golden decade for retirement planning. That's when you should be putting as much as possible into your pensions to give them a chance to grow before you retire.
Well it didn't work for me.
In the first half of that decade I got caught by the collapse of Equitable Life. Then I got very disillusioned with the returns on the fund transferred and invested in other schemes and probably didn't contribute as much as was prudent. Finally, right at the end of that ten year period, recession struck and decreased again the value of my pension fund. I'm afraid it was at that point that I began to look at the mattress on my bed and appreciate why in days gone by people would hoard their funds under one!
Fortunately Mister E is one of the dwindling number of people with access to a final salary pension scheme (albeit deferred many years ago) and I'm hoping, with a bit of help from the financial adviser tomorrow, that we've still managed to get the sums right.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Boring Stuff or What Nobody Tells You About Preparing for Retirement

That meeting with the IFA is coming up and I've been preparing spread-sheets: income sources against expenditure and a list of assets and pension funds.
I've been told when you retire your expenditure on some things should decrease. However, I am struggling to identify anything apart from clothing and petrol at the moment. What's more I suspect any savings there, may be offset by increased heating bills and travel costs. Also there's the youngest to help until she finishes her education.
Help - if the figures don't balance, do I worry about living in penury when I'm 70, 80 or 90? Maybe I should visit a fortune teller rather than an IFA.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Retired and Immune to Harm from Coffee

Thumbing through Mister E's monthly  magazine from his engineering institute, I noticed an article reporting the outcome of research at the Universities of South Carolina and Queensland in relation to the consumption of coffee. Apparently it's none too good for you if you're under 55 and drink more than 28 cups a week.
It seems, however, that once you are 55 there's no longer a significant increase in mortality rates, regardless of how much coffee you drink.
So now I know why the numerous coffee shops in the high street of our local town are frequented by retirees and clearly I'm going to be able to join them with impunity.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Inching Closer to Retirement

Well we inched closer to retirement this weekend by arranging a date for that meeting with the financial adviser and also had our broadband updated.

Rural broadband is notoriously slow and recently we've been lucky to manage to receive download speeds of 10mb per second. Fibre optic cabling has, however, finally arrived in the village and we subscribed for an upgrade last week. We were connected on Saturday and are now hitting the dizzy heights of a connection speed of 75mb instead. As Mister E said, "At least we'll be able to use our computers in retirement."

Friday, 8 November 2013

Reading Around Retirement

I've taken planning to the next level and bought some books. Of course, there's always a risk of simply placing a book on a bookshelf with the intention of reading it later, but never doing so. Well these are small enough that I've left them out in the sitting room and have even had a reasonable read through the smaller of the three which also has the largest print.

"How to Survive Retirement" by Clive Whichelow and Mike Hoskins, is written somewhat tongue in cheek and would be a brilliant stocking filler for those retiring at Christmas. It highlights various issues but the one I've taken heed of already relates to being over-friendly with regular callers to your home, either personally or by telephone, as a result of a need for human company. In-depth communications with the postman, window-cleaner and lady selling loft insulation or a new boiler are banned.

I think I'll be able to manage that. Our postman is retiring after 26 years, we don't have a window cleaner and having learned on my day off every week that my only daytime calls are from tele-sales, I've already mastered a no-nonsense patter: "We subscribe to the telephone preference service and if you ring again I shall report you."

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Plenty of Company in Retirement

Well today I noticed this story on the BBC website. I guess it's a good news/bad news story. Good in that there's going to  be lots of company in retirement; bad in that we might need significant financial provision, if we're going to live that long.
Prompted by a call from the bank this evening, I think it's time to make an appointment to see an independent financial expert and talk a strategy over with him.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Retirement is No Longer a Vague Notion

Angel of the North, significant as a focus for evolving hopes and fears.

I guess the day I signed up to my first pension plan, retirement must have been in my mind. Spurred on by the happy retirement enjoyed by own parents after my father retired at 52, as I too approached my fifties I began to mull more and more with the idea of giving up the office ties.
Like so many professional women who graduated from university in the 70's, I believed that I could be Superwoman; have a career, children and a wonderful home life. To some extent everything has fallen into place in that way, but at a cost: the time for leisure has been limited; I missed out on many aspects of my children  growing-up; at home we live amongst disorganised chaos and a house badly in need of some tlc; there have been (and still are) times when I am quite simply utterly exhausted.
So  three years or so ago, the plan began to hatch. I had to find a way to reduce my working hours and ease myself into retirement mode, with a view to opening horizons that to date I have not had the time to experience. Believe me, I'm not necessarily talking expensive holidays or travel here. Sometimes I would just love the opportunity to rediscover a creative side buried inside me somewhere, assuming that it hasn't all been sucked out by the pedantic nature of all the paper I process on a daily basis.
As a result I retired from the business where I had worked and been an owner-manager for some 30 years and found myself what I hoped would be a less stressful position, working part-time with a view to easing myself out of work and into retirement.
Maybe it's an age thing, but I still get tired and lack time to do all those things (I know not what) that I've denied myself the opportunity for. Perhaps the part-time at 4 days a week isn't sufficiently part-time enough (it's certainly a big improvement on the commitments of running your own business in partnership with others); perhaps I'm just becoming bored with the nature of the work I've now been undertaking for more than three decades. There's also a window of opportunity looming, because our youngest child completes her secondary education next year, hopefully will be proceeding to university and ought no longer to be reliant on us to the same extent. Whatever  the cause, and driven on by my husband who is officially old enough to have qualified for a bus pass, the decision has been made - we retire in 2014!
Trouble is that we don't have a plan; we don't know what retirement really entails; we haven't even found the time to properly consider its implications and what we want to do with it. We have our dreams (and our doubts), of course, but the time for serious planning has begun.