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Retiring in the UK
When people retire in the UK they are often encouraged to remain active. A common habit is to become embroiled in ceaseless activity. This can take many forms.
"I'm busier now than when I worked"
Many retired people say this. Who is it pitched at? Younger people? Other retirees? It sounds somewhat implausible doesn't it? Consider what is being said. Retiring is to cease work.
By contrast, a younger person must work to financially support a mortgage/rent, pay for children's education/upbringing, a car etc. They have no choice but to work.
The retiree usually does have a choice. And they have chosen to fill they days with activities. Pretending to be at the mercy of fate is simply a transparent ploy intended to convey significance.
Continuing to work
The most unimaginative solution to retirement is not to retire. Many retirees admit that they do not need the money.
They have various reasons for continuing to work but few are honest enough to admit the truth. Some people cannot face the prospect of letting-go, of stopping.
They feel irrelevant, unimportant.
According to Rolfe Dobelli (in his bestselling book The Art of Thinking Clearly) volunteering is actually far worse than continuing to work.
Volunteering sounds great but it is intrinsically non-Capitalist and we live in a Capitalist economy. Work involves getting paid. Voluntary work is essentially a contradiction in terms.
People might argue that volunteers do a great job. Of course they do. That is not the issue. The issue is pay.
Working for free
By volunteering you negate the need for a company/charity to allocate funds for the job/position. In a Capitalist economy somebody who works should at least receive the minimum wage.
To work for free is to deny someone the opportunity to do that same work for pay...
If you really need the money...
Some people retire and find that their pension is insufficient to cover the cost of living. So they work. This is understandable and reasonable.
The next generation
When a retired person continues to work or does voluntary 'work' they are stealing from the next generation.
Their fight is over: they have a house, a pension, a family, healthcare. What about the next generation?
Have some foresight here. How are young people expected to attain all the things the older generation has gained when retirees refuse to step aside?
The situation is self-perpetuating.
Step aside graciously
The young person is still struggling to attain the material means of life and the retiree has taken their job. Why? Because they are bored? Selfish?
It takes dignity, humility and integrity to step aside, to acknowledge the situation.
Who are you?
The great questions in life are always so very simple. Who are you when you are not working? When you are not active? When you are not busy doing something?
Many people have no idea. They are defined by their capacity to work. They hide behind some excuse such as the 'Protestant Work Ethic'. (Oh really?)
The world will go on without you
We all reach a stage in life where it is time to let go and step aside. Let others have their chance, their turn. The world will not stop.
Even if your contribution is enormous, do not be enslaved by the image of yourself. Let go and walk away.
Some people identify so strongly with their jobs and responsibilities that they have no idea who they are without their familiar activities.
Have the courage to go find out. Staying in your comfort zone may be a fast-track route to dementia.
Retirement is the ideal time to do all those things you never got around to doing when working:
Fall in love
Discover another culture
Join a club
Read classic literature
Stop feeling stressed out
Join a choir
Thank somebody sincerely
Tai chi for health
Achieve and maintain your ideal weight
Learn to play a musical instrument
Stop bragging/boasting/seeking acknowledgment
Clear out your old belongings
Do something kind and meaningful just because you felt like it
Walk more leisurely
Learn a new language
Have meaningful visits to countries rather than a checklist of destinations
Read spiritual books
Get a University degree
Cultivate a spiritual life
Start really listening to people when they speak to you
Get a dog
Make a quilt
Perform a kind deed without expecting anything in return
Shed the past
Try new experiences
Learn to slow down
Pursue your passion
Make a difference in someone’s life
Perform constructive rest every day
Gain emotional balance
Get used to long, relaxing baths
Discover loose leaf green tea
Apologise to somebody you have wronged
Say what you mean
Switch off the TV
Try new recipes
Join a book club
Have sex regularly
Make new friends
Help someone in need
Clean up your computer
Give to charity
Put together a scrapbook
Let go of anger and frustration
Make your meals from scratch
Go on a road trip
Stop following fashions, trends and societal whimsies
Think for yourself
Drink a lot more water
Be kind to strangers
Discover lost places
Breathe more deeply
Sleep 7-8 hours a night
Let people that matter in your life know that you love and value them
Clean the house
Do something uncharacteristic/unexpected
Don't be greedy
Chew for longer
Give up alcohol
Make and paint a model
Be more loving
See all those movies you fancied but never had the time to watch
Take a genuine interest in people you know
Go outside more often
Read ancient philosophies
Plant and grow a tree
Bake your own bread
Give away everything you don't actually use
Be at ease with yourself
Grow your own vegetables
Ignore the phone
Find out what really interests you
Watch the stars (astronomy)
Get a pen pal
Value quality of life
Decorate a cake
Let go of regret
Have a picnic
Look after the environment
Learn something new every day
Live in a different country
Conquer your fears
list is potentially endless and different for each of us.
Say YES to new experiences. Be willing to feel lost, awkward and confused. It is good to be uncertain.
Fearing the unknown
The novelty of new experiences is initially exciting. But this passes and the individual is left with the intimidating realisation that they don't really know anything.
This fine. Just don't quit. Persevere.
One avenue that many retirees pursue is exercise. This can be great if done is moderation. You may feel like you are 40 but your body is not invulnerable to injury. Just be careful.
A marathon may sound great in conversation but lying on the tarmac having a heart attack is nobody's idea of fun...
Religion is belief in someone
Spirituality is having your own experience.
A spiritual alternative
Traditionally, in Asia when people retired they sought a spiritual life. They looked at how they lived, their mind, their emotions, their bodies, their relationships.
This endeavour was deeply engaging and required considerable commitment.
The journey to the self
Cultures with a rich spiritual tradition recognised that life is more than material wealth, self-importance, status, prestige.
Working, politics, family travails, gossip, the news, current affairs, sport, gadgets... all serve to distract you from the truth.
Upon retirement, people relished the opportunity to start getting to know themselves.
Lost in wonder
Retirement is meant to be about withdrawing from external commitments and coming to terms with life and death. There is no need to seek endless entertainment.
Once you stop working, switch off the news and meditate, life becomes way more fascinating. We are surrounded by wonder.
Indian people often became wandering sanyasi. Other religions advocated pilgrimages, retreats, meditation, contemplation. People sought to end their lives wiser and more insightful.
They wanted to awaken their consciousness...
18 April 2005
Last updated 02 January 2021