Covid chaos! Real proof it’s causing more of us to sleepwalk into retirement

by | Aug 2, 2021

Is COVID creating a retirement crisis?

In last week’s blog I looked at the reality of retirement and why it’s so different from the dream us baby boomers have been promised.

Retirement today isn’t about long, lazy lunches, rounds of golf and an endless stream of all expenses paid holidays. It’s about survival. Now I know that may sound dramatic but take it from someone who knows.

I was forced into early retirement aged 52, after a routine procedure uncovered a tumour the size of an eggplant on my pelvis. Thankfully, despite the initial diagnosis, it was benign, but the operation to remove it left me ‘retired’ for six long months.

I did my best to fill my days with writing and sorting family affairs.  Time went by, but I was unmotivated and unfulfilled.  Despite friends, family, hobbies and an active social life, I felt drained and depleted – mentally, physically and emotionally.

I knew I couldn’t go on like this… certainly not for another thirty years or more, which is why I was in absolute dismay when I read research this week from the retirement and pensions company LV who found that 154,000 people in the UK, aged 54-60 have decided to take early retirement because of the pandemic.

Sally is one of them. She spoke to The Times newspaper about her decision to move into a hut at the bottom of her garden in South West England, so she can rent out her newly refurbished home. It’s all part of her plan to increase her pension fund – so she can retire from her job as an accountancy consultant at the age of 63.

While I applaud Sally for taking care of her finances (although it would be remiss of her not to, given the job she’s in) I wonder whether, money aside, she’s considered what she’s going to do with the rest of her life.  And how, she’s going to fill it with purpose and passion.  I also wonder whether she’s enjoying life right now (we’re having a very wet and dreary summer in England) or just putting it on hold until she can give up work?

The research from LV shows that the pandemic has thrown pre-retirees into two completely different camps.  One has decided that life is too short to stay doing the job they’re doing, and they want out – right now.  The other, having had a taste of life stuck in the same place – alone and isolated – don’t want any of it.  Instead, they’re choosing to keep working until the world gets back to some sort of normality and they can fill their latter years with friends and family, indulgent travel and new adventures.

covid retirement crisis

Has COVID changed the way you view your retirement?

I’d love to say that one of these groups had got it right and chosen the perfect path for retirement, but sadly, I think, like most people, they’re all sleep walking into it.

They haven’t considered that life expectancy has risen so much in the US and UK that most of us will now outlive our savings. They’re also blissfully unaware that endless holidays, expensive meals and doing whatever they damn well like will not be enough. And I doubt they’ve given much thought to the impact inactivity will have on their health.

So, to all pre-retirees and those recently retired, I say this.  I understand why the pandemic has shocked you into a sudden change of direction. I get it, I really do.  It’s a natural, knee-jerk reaction, but it’s not the right one.  You could very well end up – aged 70 or 80 – listless, penniless and relying on your kids for support.  Not quite a dream retirement, is it?

Here’s my advice…

Don’t stay in a job you hate. Life is too short. But don’t retire either. Take a break. Write a bucket list and actually do it – while you can. Then find some ‘work’ that you really, really love. If you do that, you’ll never have to work another day. You’ll jump out of bed in the morning with purpose and with pride. You probably won’t earn much – not at first – but soon, you’ll be so passionate about what you do that people will give you business.

George Bernard Shaw quoteYou’ll be sorted financially, and you’ll almost certainly be healthier too.  Why? Well, there’ll be much more on that in my blogs over the coming weeks, but for now, I’ll leave you with this from the great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw…

“Men don’t quit because they get old, they get old because they quit”

George Jerjian
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