Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. It used to be fairly straightforward; you left education, worked for forty years, retired at 60 or 65 and claimed ‘Old Age Pension.’ Jobs for life are long gone, as is the set age for retirement. An employee now chooses when to retire. Most businesses don’t set a compulsory retirement age for their employees. If an employee chooses to work longer they can’t be discriminated against. Retirement age is not the same as State Pension age which can be between 61 and 68, depending when someone was born and if they are male or female. Anyone can carry on working past State Pension age. I think it is fair to say that most retire as soon as it is a financially viable though there are a percentage of people who want to carry on working into late old age and are very reluctant to give up their jobs which have become so important to them that they dread retirement. The average age of a member of the house of Lords for instance is 69 and the number of people taking early retirement in the UK is decreasing.

Having always believed there was more to life than work, I am all for early retirement or at least working the bare minimum to be able to live comfortably. The Independent profiled a man called Ed Hawkins who decided to retire at 33 as he could live from the rental income earned from his flats. Because he was giving up a high-earning job, friends and relatives thought him foolhardy. But why on earth would you think it a crazy thing to do. He makes a thought provoking comment: “Cast your eyes over your workplace. You might see 100 or so people. Statistically five of your busying or bone-idle brethren will be dead before they reach retirement age.” It is also worth remembering that in some jobs, average life expectancy after retirement is just 18 months. This is said to be true of teachers, prison officers, surgeons and others. Thousands of us spend dull working days dreaming of the halcyon time of retirement but when that time comes it can prove to be difficult. I gave up full time work shortly before having my first daughter; having worked since I was a student it was alien to have whole days stretching out before me with no real plan (this was before I had my baby. There was and still is a sense of having accomplished nothing; I think that this is because the loathsome work ethic and the structured day that it brings is so deeply ingrained in us that we feel either guilty or worthless if we don’t achieve something constructive in a day. Clearly retirement is feared by those who define themselves by their job to the exclusion of all else, thus retirement leads in many cases to a sense of worthlessness and invisibility. However those who that retire after forty years’ work can feel a sense of entitlement to sitting around reading or doing crosswords all day, but I think it still brings a feeling of unease or possibly boredom once the time comes. Of course this doesn’t apply to the great majority of working women who still have the responsibilty of running the home and all it entails, keeping them extremely busy and probably accounting for the fact that so many women outlive their husbands. The moral being whenever your retirement takes place one must continue to use one’s brain, enjoy life and stay active.

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