55-year-old former fashion buyer Debbie Nash says…
“Becoming a single parent forced me to leave my career early. By the time my daughter was at prep school, she had started missing out on things like playdates, parties and extracurricular activities because of my long hours. Even so, I hated the idea of retiring, and leaving my career early felt like a huge step backwards. But it had to happen – my daughter needed me.
“It wasn't easy at all and waving goodbye to my senior position as a managing buyer was scary – especially as I no longer had a spouse to shoulder the responsibility. I felt a real sense of anxiety in the months afterwards because I'd lost a part of my identity. Equally, I knew I had made the right decision. Freelance work helped both in terms of financial independence, pride and mental stimulation. I was also able to start looking after my parents, do charity work and become a bigger part of my local community. There was suddenly time for exercise, too – so I started running every single day to improve my mental health. We also got a dog, which has been a total joy.
“Eventually, any negative thoughts I had disappeared as I saw my daughter grow into the woman she is. I’m so pleased I got to witness it and support her through the tricky teenage years and early adulthood. Ultimately, do what feels right for you and at the right time. Looking back, I know I made the right decision and, while it was difficult in many ways, I was in a privileged enough position to be able to do that. My main advice would be, while other people may judge you for what you do or don't do, the only thing that counts is making the right choice for yourself.”
78-year-old former antiques expert & dealer Wendy Horne says…
“Self-employed, I worked as an antiques dealer in the US for many years before retiring and moving back to the UK. Being self-employed came with its challenges – you’re in charge of your own hours, so there’s no such thing as a 9 to 5, and it is hard work keeping a business moving.
“When I moved back across the pond, it felt like a big change. I was leaving lots of friends and loved ones behind and completely changing my lifestyle. But it was the right time for me. At first, I didn’t come to a hard stop with my work – while my antiques shop stayed in the States, I kept busy in retirement by offering interior decorating services to my friends. Phasing out full-time work was the best way for me to ease into retirement, as it would have felt like too big a jump to stop everything at once and, ultimately, I really enjoy what I do.
“For anyone thinking about retiring, only you know when the time is right. If there are elements of your work that you still enjoy, then retirement can be the best time to reclaim that and keep it going without the stresses of full-time responsibility. I’ve also had a brilliant experience retiring to a retirement village, as I’ve been able to make friends and feel part of a community. It’s certainly eased any feelings of loneliness that might have developed if I were in an isolated home.”
70-year-old author & magazine editor Jay Cassie says…
"Like most people, it’s easy to think of retirement as nirvana – you think it’s going to be fantastic. I worked in the exhibition business as exhibition coordinator for Earls Court and Olympia for 22 years, so I worked weekends, evenings and long hours. It was fantastic, but I was quite exhausted. Emotionally, I was dying to retire but after three or four weeks it hit me that I could be sitting here staring at these four walls unless I took charge.
“It’s really important for older people to make the most of their circumstances. You face a lot of emotional crises, but the important thing is facing up to them and finding a way out. When you plan for retirement, you plan financially, you plan where you’re going to live, whether you want to upsize, downsize, move to a different country, move to the seaside. But the one thing you don’t plan for is what you’re going to do with all this free time.
"I decided I wanted to write a book, start an online magazine for the over 50s and teach catch-up sessions in my local primary school. Those were the three things I concentrated on and it really worked. It was fantastic to spend time with small children – I don’t have children so it’s very easy to lose contact with the young as you get older. Fed up with the media’s portrayal of being older, I wanted my magazine Giddy Limits to be more aspirational. I also wrote a book called ‘Oh My Giddy Aunt!’ based on my own eccentric aunt – it was all very fulfilling.
“My best advice is plan what you’re going to do with your time. When you’ve been working long, hard hours, you tend not to have had any time for hobbies, so start thinking about what you might like to pursue. Find new friends, because your social circle gets smaller when you leave work – you can join a club, do an evening class, or simply invite a neighbour in for coffee. Also, just get out there and do things. There are so many free things to do in London. When you become a retiree, you can sometimes feel like you’re losing your identity, but you still have a contribution to make. Finally, try to get the hang of technology, it’s not the easiest, but it allows you to do so many things.”
73-year-old former charity executive June Beedham says…
“I retired when I was 68 after quite a colourful career – I’d been in charity management and fundraising for around 25 years, and before that I worked in the motor industry. When I retired, I disconnected my office phone, email and work mobile. I wanted to draw a line in the sand, put my busy working life behind me and no longer feel the need to be constantly available. I decided to take a tour of Australia and New Zealand for a few months, to explore somewhere new and mark the beginning of retirement.
“For me, retirement has been wonderful, and I only wish I had made the decision sooner. My time is now my own, and I have so much more fun. I can put my phone down for hours – something I would never have been able to do when I was working. I live a completely different lifestyle now in a retirement village in Kent and my days are filled with things like playing croquet, going to the gym for a PT session twice a week and regularly meeting up with friends – passions I’ve reclaimed in retirement. I also volunteer my time with the Audley Foundation charity – it involves sharing my expertise from a career in the sector but isn’t strenuous or time-consuming…I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.
“I truly believe retirement is something to be enjoyed. For any women thinking about retiring, have a big think about what you want to do with your time. It’s such a good opportunity to plan a trip abroad for more than a month so you can see and experience new things and discover what it is you love. If you’ve sorted the financial side of retirement, then decide what you want your lifestyle to be and take the leap.”
Thinking of retiring? Here, psychotherapist Amy Morin shares her 8 tips…
Expect to experience several emotions
“There’s an emotional process that most people go through when adjusting to retirement. At first, there’s a feeling of freedom. It’s like you’re on a vacation that’s going to last forever. That sense of novelty wears off, however, and you will settle into a slower lifestyle. There might be a stage that involves a lot of, ‘Oh, no! What did I do?’ thoughts, followed by anxiety and boredom. You might even feel guilty for not enjoying retirement as much as you think you should.
“Suppressing your emotions or denying your feelings can lead to unhealthy coping strategies—like relying on alcohol or food. Allow yourself to experience a wide range of emotions, whatever those emotions may be. Look for healthy ways to deal with those feelings. You might find walking, reading, writing, talking to others, or yoga helps you deal with your emotions.”
Structure Your Days
“Pre-retirement, you had your routine down pat: the alarm goes off, shower, breakfast, pack a lunch, head out the door. There was probably a similar structure to the end of your day that began when you walked back over the threshold of your home. If you thrive with a schedule, you might establish a retirement routine that helps you plan your days. Experiment with various activities and time slots to see how it makes you feel.
“Pencil in time for lingering over the newspaper and enjoying a cup of coffee, but add in regular time for exercise, social activities, volunteer opportunities and family meals. While your days don’t need to be rigid, having a set wake-up time and routine can help you feel more normalcy now that you aren’t going to work.”
Set Small Goals
“Your pre-retirement life was measured in meeting milestones, such as making deadlines, finishing projects or getting a promotion. You can still focus on goals after you retire, though they might be a little different than they were before. Working on goals can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishing new things can give you a sense of achievement.
“Think about what milestones you might want to meet in the first month, six months, or one year that you’ve been retired and write them down. Do you want to lose five pounds, travel, finish five books that you’ve been putting off? The sky’s the limit.”
Grow Your Friendships
“There’s a significant risk of becoming isolated during retirement. After 30 years of meeting friends through work, it might not be as easy to keep up with them now. This can play into the restructuring of your daily routine – ask one friend to meet you for lunch every Monday, another friend to go walking through the neighbourhood with you on Wednesdays and a third pal to grab a coffee on Friday afternoons.
“If you and your spouse are friends with other couples, aim to invite them over for dinner or board games at least once a month. If you don’t feel like you have enough people to keep you socially active, take advantage of the extra time in your life to make new friends. Check out any programmes offered at your local community centre or find a group of like-minded individuals who share an affection for your favourite hobby, whether it’s golf, crafts or cooking.”
Consider an “Encore” Job
“Who says retirement from one job has to mean leaving the workforce entirely? Several people try out a less stressful secondary career after leaving their long-time industry, perhaps one that’s part-time. Research finds that retirees who got a ‘bridge’ job (another term for this type of work) are often in better health, both mentally and physically, and report higher levels of life satisfaction. So look around your community (or search the Internet for work from home opportunities) for jobs that you might enjoy doing during retirement.”
Create a New Budget
“Even the best savers might have to make some spending adjustments after retirement. In an ideal world, you have saved enough to last 20 to 30 years but, if you’re like most retirees, there’s a good chance you might fall a bit short of that goal. Figure out what you need in your new post-career life and what you don’t. Establish a budget that will help you see how much money you have for entertainment or fun. You might learn you need a part-time job so you can go on a holiday. Or you might discover you have enough money left over to take your grandchildren to lunch once a week.”
Schedule Volunteer Shifts
“Not willing to go back to the office grind? That’s understandable. You might find you’d rather reap the same benefits by volunteering on a regular basis. The perks might be related to the expanded social ties that volunteering provides or the sense of purpose a person can feel by committing to charitable causes. It’s not only going to boost your psychological well-being, but it could improve your cardiovascular health and lower the risk of hypertension, too. Whether you choose to help at your local library or volunteer at a hospice, look for ways to get involved in your community.
Give Yourself Time To Figure It Out
“You might think that you want to spend your retirement painting, cooking and reading, but then find out that all that time spent at home doesn’t fulfil the lifestyle you dreamed about. After 30 years in the workplace, you finally have time to experiment with what you really want.
“There are many ways you can spend your time. And fortunately, there’s no need to figure it all out right away. It will likely take a fair amount of experimenting to help you find just the right balance of how you want to spend your time. You can always increase social activities later or develop new hobbies if you want to stay busier. The joy of retirement is that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to experiment. It’s up to you to design the type of day – and kind of life – that you want to live.”