Going into retirement is very easy. One day you are at work and the next day you can stay in bed for as long as you want, get up when you want and do whatever you want.
The difficult part is retiring successfully. Most people will spend more time researching and thinking about their annual holiday, which may last for one or two weeks, than they do for retirement which could last for 20, 30 or 40 years. They sometimes think, and I have heard it said more than once, that their retirement years will just work out without any thought on how it is going to be financed, where they will live, what they will do day by day, or indeed what will happen when they actually die.
The aim of this session is not to provide you with answers on how to retire successfully, because that would indicate that there was only one way forward for everyone, and there isn’t, but to pose several questions that you need to think about. Retirement is very individual so what suits one person may not necessarily suit someone else. It is necessary for us to retire into a lifestyle that suits us as individuals. Let me illustrate this by looking at some of my experiences of visiting countless pensioners over the years. I have spent 40 years running occupational pension schemes where part of my job was to visit pensioners in their own homes. I always made an appointment so that I was expected but that didn’t mean I was welcome. One such appointment I made saw me visiting a very senior manager when he was working who was in his chair in front of the television when I arrived. He didn’t take his eyes off the set and didn’t respond to anything I was asking him. I spoke to his wife for almost three hours. It appears that he was so devastated at the loss of his position that he sat watching the television from when it came on in the morning, and this will tell you how long ago this was, until the little dot came on the screen when it closed down for the night. For some of the younger ones among us this evening, you will need to ask some of your older colleagues what this is all about because it wasn’t always 24 hour television. I want to talk about the loss of your position later on as it is important to deal with this. Closer to home, my mother in law was a senior secretary who had to work due to my father in law being crippled during the war and therefore unable to work himself. The day she retired, 33 years ago, she decided to put her feet up and she is still there today, although she is now unable to walk anyway.
Another man I visited had to take time off from his newly found work which was a hobby that took off in retirement. He was an amateur cabinet maker who was so good that he was able to make a business making bespoke pieces of furniture and selling them at premium prices because everything was hand-made. What I am saying is that one person had something to look forward to in retirement while the other one didn’t have anything and was merely stagnating. This is why it is important if you are married to discuss your retirement with your spouse. The reason for this should be blatantly obvious but it is surprising how many men do not actually discuss such matters with their wives on the basis that it is their retirement. However, it is not just you who is retiring but also your wife. I speak with some authority here because I have run pre-retirement seminars where we would also invite spouses along and we have ended up with some pretty heated discussions when it came to discussing what they planned to do in retirement. It was not unusual to hear the words, “Oh are you, that’s what you think!” I never expected a pre-retirement seminar to end up in a marriage counselling session.
If I was to ask you what retirement meant to you then I would get numerous responses:
- Some would say that you can finally do what you want, when you want to do it.
- Others may say that you have time for your grandchildren.
- And others would say that you have time to do what you previously didn’t have the opportunity to do.
My own retirement hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. I moved to Scotland from Essex where I had lived all my life to be with my daughter, her husband and my first grandchild. My wife had died a few years previously and I had got fed up with not having anyone to share the ups and downs of life with. I was spending a great deal of time with my grandson and took him to nursery school every day which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was able to study for another doctorate which kept me very busy. I was already working with the Leprosy Mission on their pensions committee and this appointment came through an old friend who was their Finance Director and who also went to the same church that Mike Plant originally went to when I first met him. Along came Mike to visit Scotland and he came over for the day and asked me to become a Trustee for the EFCC Trust Corporation which I stupidly accepted. My son got a job with Christians Against Poverty (CAP), a Christian debt counselling agency who are seeking to eradicate debt through their money courses and taking on of people’s debts. They only work through local churches and when the opportunity arose, I volunteered to help run a stand at New Word Alive earlier this year. We got nearly 400 people signed up to give money on a monthly basis and this pushed me to become an Ambassador for them. After some training I now cover Scotland and my job is to promote the values of CAP amongst churches. As a consequence, I have contacted over 600 churches and have received a number of excellent leads for the opening of Debt Counselling Centres which are currently being worked on. The moral of this tale is to beware of family and friends as they will get you involved in all sorts of things because you will now have the time for them. But this wasn’t what I was planning. My plans were to get a job doing what I did best of all, and that was in pensions. I moved during the worst recession we have had since the 1920s and there was no work available. So the inevitable question is, am I happy? The answer is a resounding yes! Fortunately I love being kept busy so I have a need to work and am keeping my eyes and ears open for further opportunities.
I have told you about my retirement which is still in its early stages but how do others view retirement. First of all let us look at the dictionary definition because this is what tends to colour our view. It describes it in several different ways: Firstly, it says it is leaving your place of work. Fairly standard. Secondly, a seclusion from the world. Not so good. Thirdly, privacy. Fourthly, the act of going away or retreating. Oh dear, this is not looking good. Fifthly, going to bed. Sixthly and finally, being put out to pasture. This expression originally referred to animals, such as workhorses, which due to old age or poor health, had outlived their usefulness to their owners and were turned out to pasture for the remainder of their days. Today, the phrase is more commonly applied to older persons who, for the same reasons, have supposedly outlived their usefulness to society and are no longer allowed to play an active role in the affairs of the working world. The implication is that they are not accorded the dignity of human beings but are treated as animals whose only worth is in their work.
The second view is that of greetings card manufacturers who appear to go out of their way to promulgate the view that those retiring are little or no use in society. How about some of these:
- Monday – brush teeth
- Tuesday – comb hair (if you have any)
- Wednesday – Trim nasal hairs
- Thursday – shower
- Friday – put on clean clothes
- Saturday – shave
- Sunday – consider changing underwear.
Now such a card may appear to be hilarious to those not ready for retirement but it just continues the myth of retirees being slobs. I have met enough people in retirement who wouldn’t dream of doing anything other than being well dressed at all times, even if they aren’t leaving their homes.
What about this one: Warning – retired and plagued by senior moments. Now you don’t need to be retired to have so-called senior moments – times when we just forget what we are supposed to be doing. I have had that problem for at least 30 years as I suspect have many others. Have you ever got up out of your chair, walked away and found yourself thinking, what am I going for? That is a so-called senior moment.
I’m retired and I love my naps! We tend to nap when we don’t have enough in our lives to keep us busy. Now it is true that this will occur more often in retirement but remember that Ronald Reagan often napped during meetings when he was President of the United States.
I’m old and I’ve earned the right to be grumpy. No one has earned the right to be grumpy let alone retired people. The implication is that it is somehow a rite of passage. I have been called grumpy, thankfully by those who loved me, or at least I assumed they loved me. Grumpiness is a state of disagreement with an attitude. We have all disagreed with someone else’s point of view but normally do it in a rather nice way. Yorkshire folk are held to be rather pointed with the way they respond to something they dislike by calling a spade a spade, but they are never called grumpy. So it is not what you say that matters but the way you say it. I am normally very easy to get on with because I refuse to get involved in some of the minutiae of life. In church terms I believe the only things that really matter are the central core of the gospel and these are the only things worth fighting for. Everything else is down to individual likes and dislikes. Now that is not grumpiness. That is me just standing firm on things that matter to me as a Christian. All in all then, grumpiness has nothing to do with old age but more to do with our attitude and the way that is shown through the way we speak to others. It is unfortunate that there are television programmes called Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women portraying the wrong image.
I could go on and on with retirement cards that seek to show retired people in the wrong image but the very worst one I have ever seen has no words but just a photograph of a box of vegetables. The implication being that when you come to retire, you are just ready to vegetate. Now I am sure that if I asked the makers of this card, they would say that it just shows one of the many things that retired people could do – grow vegetables, but I think it is deplorable.
These are just some of the negative images that abound in our card shops and when you come to retire you may well end up with one because someone considers it a light-hearted message but I consider that they do nothing to promote the value of those going into retirement. Remember you will be retiring, not expiring. Unlike past generations, you will have the opportunity of a valuable and potentially long retirement. When the State Retirement Pension was introduced in 1909, the retirement age was set at 65 and was for men only and paid out 5 shillings a week – 25p in today’s money. The Government of the day were quite canny because they weren’t actually giving money away. It was all sleight of hand because average life expectancy in 1909 was a little over 45 years of age. They didn’t expect too many people to pick up the pension. Today however, the state retirement age is going to be raised to a maximum of 68 at present with normal life expectancy for a man at around 85 years of age which is increasing at around 2 years every decade. On top of this, the number who are reaching 100 years of age is increasing all the time.
I don’t wish to be controversial but there is within the Christian community a sector which is unfortunately growing even within the UK that teaches what I can only describe as a pernicious falsehood regarding the prosperity gospel, or the health and welfare gospel. The basis for this teaching is that if we exercise the right kind of faith, we will all experience perfect health and increasing wealth. Many Christians have been affected by this teaching to the extent that they fail to make any savings for their retirement years through such things as pensions and rely instead on the so-called fact that God will provide for us. I have had personal dealings with such teaching. When my wife was dying, she was told that if she would only believe, God would heal her. This is like throwing someone who is drowning a piece of straw and telling them to cling on to it. In one of my former churches, I had a member who criticised me at a member’s meeting for introducing a pension scheme for the Pastor on the grounds that it showed a lack of faith that God would provide. The irony of the situation, which was lost on the individual concerned, was that he worked for British Telecom and had a final salary pension scheme. So he didn’t need to worry about where his money was coming from, it was guaranteed. The only people who appear to get fabulously wealthy are those who preach these falsehoods as being Scriptural. Despite many years of looking, I have yet to find any Scripture references which teach such a gospel.
It is interesting to note that there is only one reference to retirement in Scripture. It is found in Numbers 8:23-26:23…
The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: (the closest we come to modern day Ministers) Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”
Now I don’t want to read too much into this short passage but it does seem to me to imply that there are some jobs that are to be done in the prime of life (here it was between 25 and 50 years of age) but it certainly doesn’t say that we are to give up everything. The job of a Levite was hard because after all, they were responsible for carrying the tabernacle round the desert. As we are told in Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for every purpose under heaven”. There are undoubtedly those among you today who will argue that you are called as a Pastor for life while others will argue the exact opposite that when your faculties begin to wane, it is time to hand on the baton to the next person. The problem arises when we fail to recognise that we have slowed down, our thinking isn’t as clear as it once was or that we are lacking in energy. I remember counselling some retired missionaries many years ago who desperately wanted to be out on the mission field again. They struggled to see that they could be of use to God even in their retirement by encouraging younger members of the congregation to emulate what they had achieved and by praying because they now had the time for it without being interrupted. When we retire, we merely give up the work we were once doing but there is still plenty of other work that needs to be done.
The biggest hurdle that we all have to encounter is loss of position in society. As a Minister of the gospel you have had to deal with all the issues that life throws up from your congregation – the pastoral side of your work – as well as the endless hours of study and prayer every day in order to stand up in the pulpit to preach and prepare Bible studies, children’s talks, Church meetings, Leader’s meetings, baptisms, weddings, funerals, as well as numerous other tasks that are the lot of Ministers. You are on call 24 hours a day. To give that all up is very difficult indeed. It is like going through a grieving process which I know only too well. Sometimes it can be a fairly short period while for some it can be long and protracted. There is no set formula. Listen to this famous quote:
“Seven months ago I could give a single command and 541,000 people would immediately obey it. Today I can’t get a plumber to come to my house”.
H. Norman Schwarzkopf III (b. 1934)
American general who commanded the U.S. forces in the Gulf War of 1991. It gives some idea of just how difficult it is to give up a position in society. For many years, I was a singer and appeared in numerous musicals for an operatic society. The very last time I sang in public was a leaving service for my then Pastor, Rev Peter Baker before he moved to Highfields Church in Cardiff where he still remains to this day. I had a problem with nodules on my vocal chords and had to decide to stop singing simply because I could no longer guarantee hitting the right note in the right sequence. I struggled for some months with having to sit in the audience hearing other people singing my parts but eventually I came to terms with it. It is not easy and I wouldn’t pretend otherwise. We have all had to counsel people with difficulties in their lives and they all go through the same sort of curve of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Not everyone goes through all stages. Listen to what one person said when they came to accept old age for what it is: although I am aging with potential physical and mental challenges waiting around every corner, I am still alive. I can experience a good quality of life living within my limitations. So I will no longer be the fastest on the tennis court or able to bench press twice my body weight – I accept that. What I can do is live my life as it is to the fullest possible extent. I have learned wisdom with age and will gladly share my worldly knowledge with those seeking my advice. I appreciate the beauty of a song, can revel in the wonder of a sunset, marvel at the excitement a baby shows experiencing life’s moments for the first time, genuinely share the pain felt in the loss of a loved one, and appreciate my spouse for each and every detail, quirk, and habit that have been such a vital part of my life. I accept me for who I am. Old age – bring it on! Getting old is not for sissies. But we are not the first nor will we be the last to negotiate the journey. Knowing that we are in a particular stage in a progression may give us hope as surviving each elevates us to the next, eventually ending with our acceptance of life as it is.”
Dr Norm Henry was a Minister of the Church of the Nazarene and is now retired. He said, “Be ready to grieve. Since ministry can be the most fulfilling life calling, ending your active career may result in grief. Grieve your losses, and grieve your gains or what was to your profit. You will miss some of the wonderful things about pastoring. Face those losses directly, admit them and let them go. God has other ministry for you. Focusing on what we can no longer do causes us to miss the opportunities for ministry that are around us. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He further added, “Live in the present. “This is the day the Lord has made” not just yesterday. “Let us rejoice and be glad in” today. We are to “forget” what is behind. Okay, we remember and God uses memory to encourage us, but we are not to live in yesterday. God’s grace is always present tense. Enjoy life as it comes, even retirement. Living in the present means living in the presence of Jesus Christ. He is the best friend we have. Christ actually enjoys spending time with us. In fact, we are invited to enjoy Him forever.”
A retired Methodist Minister said that “clergy are so focussed on the hereafter but we should know more about planning for life after work.” It is quite right that the gospel is central to your ministry in the Church and knowing where we are going when we die provides us with our hope in Jesus Christ and gives us a correct perspective on life itself. However, while we wait for our hope to come to fruition, we are expected to use our initiative and means to look after ourselves during our working lifetime and into retirement. Another Methodist Minister commented that he didn’t go into the Ministry to become a wealthy person, and I think that would be true of everyone here. He expected to be cared for by the Churches he was pastoring and the congregations he served only to find that when it came to retirement, he was no longer cared for. This is obviously a very personal viewpoint and not one I would say you would hold yourselves.
However, retirement for a Minister is very different from almost any other occupation. Not only will you be retiring but you will also be leaving a congregation who have relied on you for their spiritual guidance and perhaps many other subjects as well. As a Congregational Minister you do not have a set retirement age, indeed it is now illegal to set one and I would suggest it is for you and your own congregation to decide when it right for you to retire. The worst thing is for you to suddenly announce one Sunday that you will be retiring in a month, or three months’ time, or whatever the period of notice is and this is the first time that anyone has any inkling of your thoughts. It is right and proper for you to discuss this with your Elders and/or Deacons first and then to announce it to the Church membership. By taking these people into your confidence, you will be able to retire knowing that you have done your best for them and prepared them for the next phase in the Church’s life. In fact, the longer the notice period you can give them the better. It will allow you to prepare them through sermons and to give the Church a period of reflection on the kind of person they next want as their Minister. There is no way that you can be replaced simply because we all have our own strengths and weaknesses and each Church will be in a different stage of growth. It is not like an ordinary job when someone gives in their notice, a company advertises for your replacement, interviews take place and the next person is selected, all in a relatively short period of time.
I have been through many interregnums during my lifetime, interviewed I don’t know how many would be Ministers and all of this takes time. Some interregnums last for many years before the right person is found.
Once you have mutually decided upon your retirement date, you can prepare for your farewell service which is a suitable occasion to thank the congregation for their service to the Lord and their dedication in promoting the gospel of Christ crucified. Let me give you some questions you can ponder on in order to prepare for this service:
- What has the congregation meant to me? Are they kind of people you would be proud to recommend to an incoming Minister?
- What sort of loyalty have they shown to me personally? Do they grumble behind my back or do they honestly seek to uplift me week by week?
- How did they respond to my ministry? Did they just listen respectfully to my sermons or were they enthused to their own ministry within the Church and beyond?
- What sort of kindness did they show to me and my family? Did they support me with their resources whether spiritual or materially? Did they turn up to pray with me during the Church prayer meeting or did they just leave praying to those in leadership? Did they have us around as a family for dinner or just leave it to us to invite them as that is what Minister’s do? Were they miserly in my stipend or did they do their best for me considering the circumstances of the Church?
- How did they help me to grow and develop as a Christian? This is an extremely important question because the growth of a Church is not a one-way street dependent upon what you are able to give, but a two-way process. Your ministry to the Church is important but so too is their ministry to you and your family. Your attendance here today shows that your congregations care about you and your growth as you are able to spend quality time with your peers, are able to learn (something we never stop doing), and are able to pray together for each other and the work you seek to do in your own communities.
Let me suggest that a farewell service is not the occasion to speak about your regrets or to iterate any grudges you may have against those who may not have been so loyal to you. It is a time to leave with your head held high knowing that you have done your best. Every sermon I have ever preached comes with a sense of perceived failure because I could have spent longer in preparation could have prayed more fervently and could have spoken more eloquently. What I do know is that God will take my words and speak individually to those who listened. My failure is God’s triumph. It was I believe Spurgeon who was converted having listened to what he termed the worst sermon he had ever heard and yet God spoke to him through the words that were uttered with all sincerity by the preacher. What a benefit to the Christian faith Spurgeon turned out to be. He became a Minister at the age of only 17 and yet the number of times I have heard from congregations that they are only looking for men with some years of experience behind them to become their Pastor. He was estimated to have preached to at least 10 million people during his lifetime, a time, remember, when travel was not easy and it was therefore people who came to hear him at his own Church. He was rightly known as the Prince of Preachers. Let our retirement prayer be that God will continue to work in the lives of those who heard our words uttered from the pulpit.
Let me now turn to where you will live after retirement. Many, if not most of you will live in tied accommodation as a result of your ministry. The manse is your current home but when you retire you will need to find somewhere else to live. You may have spent many years in the manse; you know its every crack; its every loose floorboard but soon that will have to change. Finding a new home is one thing but where will it be? Your first thoughts may be to find a new home near to where you currently live but is that right? The Methodist Church, I know, have a policy that anyone retiring must move away from the area where you ministered. I know this only because I was a member of the Pre-Retirement Association now renamed the Life Academy, that was tasked with coming up with a retirement planning seminar for Methodist Ministers. Their reasoning is very sound and that is to ensure that a retiring minister cannot become the focal point for dissent within a Church by remaining within the same congregation. It doesn’t help you as the former Minister and it certainly does not help the new Minister.
In the EFCC, we have a scheme that is able to help any Minister coming up to retirement by buying a home for them. Through the Trust Corporation, we are able to seek to help but cannot promise that we can purchase a suitable property. The earlier you can ask us to help, the more likely we are to be able to help. We can purchase it outright and charge you a reasonable rent or if you have some capital available, you can purchase a part of the property with the remainder being owned by the Trust Corporation as an asset and an investment with our portion charged to you at a pro-rata rent. Upon your death your spouse would be able to continue living in the house and when she dies, then any proportion of the property would be returned to your Estate. Remember, if you have any capital that you are not using to purchase a property, it may stop you from getting help with your rent from the Department of Work and Pensions. When considering where you may wish to live, please remember that we may not be able to purchase a property in an expensive area because of the availability of assets which need to be shared amongst all of you, and your ability to pay the rent, reasonable though it would be. If you wish to live in Mayfair then you may need to look elsewhere for finance.
Let me now turn to what you will fill your time with in retirement. For most ordinary workers, they will need to fill an extra 2,000 hours or so every year. For a Minister, that could easily be 3,000 hours to fill. That is an awful lot but you may be surprised how easy it is to fill if you put your mind to it.
You can certainly use your gifts. The obvious one is preaching, or at least I hope it is obvious otherwise what have you been doing occupying a pulpit for all these years. There are many Churches throughout the land who either cannot afford to have a Minister or who are experiencing an interregnum and would be very grateful for your input. One Minister I know who retired less than a year ago has just completed his seventh preaching tour visiting Africa, North America and South America. He has been able to combine preaching through his many contacts built up over the years with his other love of travel.
How about using your skills as an orator to take school assemblies, if they still exist in your locality or teaching at a local Bible college or Further Education School. Or what about writing that book you always meant to do. It has always been said that we all have at least one book in us although having never written one I really wouldn’t know. I have written enough theses though!
One area that is frequently developed in retirement is that of hobbies. You may have an existing hobby or may want to start a new one. During one pre-retirement seminar I was advised by one participant that he was a joiner by training who went into a different line of business and was now back making bespoke furniture for a phenomenal amount of money. He was looking forward to retirement doing something he really enjoyed and earning great amounts of money into the bargain.
Travel, of course, is always a consideration in retirement whether it be at home or abroad. The one advantage to retirement is the ability to be able to go at a moment’s notice at vastly reduced rates. I have undertaken a great deal of travel around Europe to the extent that my oldest grandson started to talk about Glasgow Airport as being granddad’s airport as he would come with his mother and father to meet me upon my return.
Helping to look after your grandchildren is to me a marvellous by-product of being retired. I am fortunate enough to live with my daughter because she had promised my late wife that she would look after me and so I have the joy of getting him out of bed every morning, taking him down stairs for a cuddle on my armchair while we watch some of his favourite television shows – Fireman Sam, Peppa Pig etc. You do have to turn off after a while because they are all repeats but I do find myself humming the theme tunes to each show. That is a bad sign! I get him dressed, make his lunch, take him to school and then at 3.15pm go to pick him up from school. It has made our relationship very special which is just as well as my daughter suffers from fibromyalgia which ensures that she needs plenty of bed rest and therefore struggles with these duties. With another grandson born about seven months ago, I also have the joy of his smiling face throughout the day. Of course, it does mean that it is necessary to change nappies and to feed him and sometimes we go together to pick up my first grandson from school. With another grandson living in Yorkshire, I spend a great deal of time with these wonderful gifts of God. Your contact with your own grandchildren will probably be less than mine but nevertheless time spent with them is really good both for you and them and you will have the option of giving them back to their parents at the end of the day.
Working in retirement either on a paid or voluntary basis is another possibility. Full-time paid jobs are not necessarily easy to come by in the current economic times but you are able to work part-time if you are willing to take on any role. It will give you the opportunity to earn some extra cash and also keeps you occupied rather than stagnating in your armchair. In my own locality I know of retired people who undertake lollipop duties, deliver leaflets and newspapers, and one Christian man, who was a senior manager, even works in a local supermarket collecting the trollies.
On a voluntary basis, there are numerous opportunities to work in any of the 200,000 or so registered charities in the UK on a time schedule that suits you on a short-term or longer term basis. During my time at Barnardo’s, I came to realise that the paid staff could only function because of the hours that the 30,000 or so volunteers were putting in. There are also organisations such as REACH and the Retired Senior Volunteers Programme (known as RSVP) that seek out opportunities for retired executives to put something back into their local communities. If you are more adventurous, then how about going abroad to volunteer. An organisation called gapsforgrumpies works on projects for a five week stint in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Peru and Fiji with the opportunity to stay on for a 2/3 week holiday afterwards. Another organisation called Openend Projects offers opportunities in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal. If you really want some fun, then you can even become a United States National Parks Ranger. There are countless opportunities available if you are willing to look.
Finally, of course, there is always the opportunity to study as I did. It may not necessarily be in theology, which was my own chosen subject, but any subject you care to think about. It kept me feeling alive and with a purpose for every day as I studied.
The biggest subject in most people’s eyes that I will be looking at today is that of retirement income. Whenever surveys are undertaken to look at the concerns that those in working age have when they come to retire, the first one is that of finance. The general thinking is that if they are struggling to make ends meet when they have paid employment, how are they going to pay the bills in retirement? The second concern is what happens when your spouse dies. As a general rule of thumb, a wife will always outlive her husband and this was most certainly my thought process, especially as I come from a short-lived male line. It therefore came as a great shock to me when my wife died at the age of 52 and I was left pondering what I was going to do with my life. It had never entered my thinking that I could possibly ever outlive my wife. Her mother is still alive at the age of 93 and her grandmother died when she was 88 years of age. Nationally, women tend to outlive men by about four years. The third concern is that of health. It is all well and good retiring, even with enough money to live on but if you have bad health then you will struggle to enjoy your new found freedom. Strangely, inflation is the fourth concern and is disassociated in people’s minds from retirement income.
When the same survey is conducted amongst those who are in retirement, we actually see a change. Money worries are no longer the number one concern simply because we all learn to live on what we have. Instead that now drops down to number three on the list with the primary concern now being health. This is borne out by a quick look at our doctor’s waiting room where the majority of people tend to be the older generation.
But finance is very important to all of us and it is important to understand where it is coming from. The main source of this in retirement comes from the Government through three different pensions that are available. The first one of these is the State Basic Pension, which I mentioned earlier was introduced just over 100 years ago as a basic right for those who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions. The current State Basic Pension is worth £107.45 a week and will be increased annually on 1 April by the rise in the Consumer Prices Index from the previous September with a minimum of 2.5 per cent a year. That is not a great deal with a little over £5,000 a year being paid to you. For those who worked during the years 1968-1975, you will also get a Graduated Pension. Now don’t get excited because the maximum value will only be worth around £50 a year. However, from 1978 onwards, we could also earn what was then called SERPS (the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme) and was subsequently renamed S2P (the State Second Pension). Any time that a Government renames a benefit you can be sure that it will be worth less than the original as it was on this occasion). Combined, these three pensions will be paid to you on a monthly basis by the Government when you come to retire at age 65 (the State Retirement Age) but for some of you that will happen later at ages 66, 67 or 68, depending upon how old you are at the moment.
You are able to get an estimate of your total potential State Retirement Pension by going on to the DWP website (secure.thepensionservice.gov.uk/statepensionforecast/) and ordering one. It will take a week or so but at least it will give you a good estimate of what you can expect to receive.
The second part of retirement income will come from occupational or personal pensions. Anyone who has worked outside the ministry may well have been a member of an occupational pension scheme and you could be entitled to a pension. If you do not have the address of the administrators of the scheme, or they have merged or been taken over by another company and you do not know who to talk to, you are able to obtain the address from The Tracing Service (www2.dwp.gov.uk/tps-directgov/en/contact-tps/pension-tracing-form.asp). Occupational Pension Schemes came in two distinct forms – a defined benefit scheme which as the name implies gives you a guaranteed pension and a defined contribution scheme which is akin to a personal pension where it is the contributions paid in by both your employer and yourself, together with the investments that you have chosen which determine the amount of pension you get. If you have a defined contribution scheme or a personal pension, it is important to know that the fund that is built up must be used to purchase an annuity (an old insurance term for a pension). You are able to take some of the money as tax-free cash with the remainder being used for the annuity. It is also important that you purchase an annuity wisely and certainly do not take the figures offered to you by your pension provider. There are a large number of annuity providers and you are able to hawk your money around the market to get the best deal that is available. It is not as difficult as it sounds because there are several firms who will do it for you at no cost to you. Go to one of the following websites and see the difference in quotations:
One other area that is important is that you can obtain a quote taking note of any health issues you may have and obtain what is known as an Impaired Life Annuity. Because your life expectancy is thought to be reduced, the annuity available will be larger. You need to take account of whether part of the annuity is to be left to your surviving spouse should you pre-decease her together with any annual increases you may want.
While talking about the pension issues let me take the opportunity of encouraging you to take up the offer of contributions from the EFCC.
The third area of retirement income would be from any savings and investments you may have. Obviously that is dependent upon personal circumstances and cannot be taken for granted.
I have attempted to deal with some of the major issues that may affect you in retirement and therefore require some thought from you. As I said earlier, there is no one way to retire successfully and it is for you and your spouse to determine when you wish to retire, where you wish to live, how you are going to live (i.e. jobs, hobbies etc.).
Let me finish with The Ten Commandments for Retirement written by David Winter in a book called The Highway Code for Retirement:
- BE POSITIVE. Remember, this is a junction not the terminus. Life will be a bit different, but you are still you and the people who really matter to you still matter. Don’t get drawn into self-pity or pointless regret for the past. Think of all you can do now.
- RELAX. Take your foot off the gas. There’s no need now to live life in the fast lane. There’s time to do things, to think, to make plans. Don’t rush it! Space and time are gifts of God – use them.
- DO SOMETHING NEW. A new hobby or pastime. A new friend or friends. A new interest. A new haircut or dress-style. A new look for the garden. You are not past it! Remember that Winston Churchill became Prime Minister at age 66. Ronald Reagan became President of the USA at age 69. Michaelangelo was appointed architect for St Peter’s Rome at age 74. Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa aged 75. Claude Monet began painting his ‘Water Lily’ series at age 76 and finished at age 85. Picasso was still painting at age 91. The precedent has been set. Do you want to join in?
- OPEN YOUR EYES. See things you haven’t noticed while you were working – sunrise and sunset; country villages; trees and leaves; old churches; the stars at night; the city roofs by moonlight.
- KEEP YOUR BRAIN WORKING. Visit the library. Learn to use the internet. Join the University of the Third Age. Enrol in a reading group. Walk and talk with a companion. Do a course at the local College of Further Education. Try a different daily paper!
- GET INVOLVED. You’ve still got a lot to offer, so offer it! Volunteer to help in the local charity shop. Agree to be a school governor, club secretary, treasurer, press officer or chair. Get active in local politics. Explore opportunities for mission, travel, working with (or spending time with) younger people.
- VALUE THOSE YOU LOVE. They will mean more to you now than ever before, so cherish them. Strengthen your existing relationships and nurture new ones. Make time for people – they matter more than things.
- WATCH YOUR HEALTH. Without getting obsessed. Keep an eye on things such as regular exercise, diet, rest and relaxation. Take up a sport, walk more, join a gym. Have your eyes tested, get the GP to check your cholesterol from time to time. Turn up for the autumn flu jab.
- USE THE GIFT OF TIME. All through our working life our time has been largely shaped by our employment. Now, it is ours – or rather, it is God’s personal gift to us. Responsibly and reverently, consider how that precious gift should be used.
- LEARN TO LIVE WITH YOURSELF. Try to practise a bit of solitude. It is surprising how satisfying a day spent apparently doing nothing can be if we treat it as an opportunity to think, reflect, pray, meditate and be comfortably at home with who we are. If you have any questions, I would be pleased to try and answer them and can be contacted via the EFCC Office.