Saturday, April 8, 2017


Part One

An Introduction

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Section 1

Age is a fundamental law of life.

You have aged, just as you are aging and as will continue to age. Perhaps not a pleasing fact, but one we have to look dead in the eye; we will suffer a degree of pain, and isolation. Our bodies will become sluggish, our skills less sharp, and - in case there’s any doubt - our lives will come to an end.

Take just a second, Imagine that as you die you reflect upon, or confront, the story of your life. It would be, one would hope, a story that we would be happy for our children and grandchildren to tell well into the future. This book is about creating that story.   

And imagine, if you can, what it would be like to think your final thoughts. It would not be, one would hope, a vicious piece of gossip, a concern about finances or a worry about social status. If able to really put ourselves into the seriousness demanded of that moment, there would probably be one or two thoughts worth having, and hopefully no regrets - no unexpressed guilt, gratitude or love.

This is also a book about wiping that slate clean, so that ‘the final thought’ can be unpolluted by nonsense, noise and ego…leaving the world without regrets.

Although that was a rather morbid introduction, this is a book about living.

Living, as opposed to winding down, closing up, stepping back, or switching off.
Living, as in fighting back: against expectations, against fear, against misery and gloom.
Living, as in doing that thing you always meant to do.

Retirement is not what it once was. Every day medical researchers from all around the world push themselves to raise the ceiling of our life expectancies, our levels of comfort, and our capacity to act.  People are living longer, and are active longer.[1, 2, 3]

These days ‘Retirement’ almost seems to be the wrong word, given that it can account for quarter of your life. At the age of 65, it is predicted that we have another 20 years in us! [2,]It’s even possible, if you retire early and live a long life that retirement can take up half of your years on this planet! 

So, lifespan has increased, but has life-style adapted?

No. In most cases, not yet.

What’s more is modern freedom;  The freedom to work as we please, where we please, and if we please - the freedom to learn for free, in the convenience of our own homes, that for which only decades ago you would have needed a pricy teacher. Work and information are there to pick up and to put down as we please, today there are online teaching programs, architects can design houses online and so forth. In a sense, you are the current result of the path human civilisation has taken. Centuries of work and progress have resulted in whatever health and freedom you now have. We have now, unique to history, the opportunity to become what we dream of becoming. Even the strictest of pessimists has to agree with that:

Nobody has lived in a world as modern as the one you live in today.

And here’s the hypothesis this book aims to explore:

Nobody before us has had the same luxury of freedom as we have today.

The question is: How are you going to make the most of it?

The Question:

Have I done my best to make use of the freedom and opportunity that retirement brings?

What This Guide Covers

I’ve heard it said (I’m afraid I can’t remember where) that many motivational books and speeches do have a significant short-term effect on their audiences, but that people essentially need ‘topping up’ with optimism after this wears off.

Our goal is quite different - We don’t aim to motivate you through emotive, but ultimately content-less language, but rather to present a series of facts and findings that hopefully allow you to come to the same conclusions that we have - That retirement can be the beginning of something hugely satisfying.    

Alongside our general points we have created some ‘case-studies.’ These can’t exactly be called fictional or nonfictional, as they are a collage of real people and problems, ‘tuned-up’  in order to bring out their emotional context – normally, anecdotal evidence carries no persuasive heft, and those who prefer cold statistics just roll their eyes; we make no claim to objectivity in these sections.

Such anecdotes, in giving a human face to the issues, will hopefully help you empathise with them. But it’s important, as you read this book that you pause and imagine the emotions such events and actions would cause in your own life. 

In structuring this guide, we faced a question of balance: how could we write a guide that doesn’t shy away from certain dark realities, that doesn’t patronize our readers by sugar-coating them, but also ultimately leaves them with a grounded optimism?

With that in mind, this guide or at least sections of it should be visualized as a journey into a dark forest, which although daunting, does indeed have an exit.

So, if you are to accompany us any further, please make sure to push through to the other side…!

The Question:
In reading this guide, am I prepared to do my best to consider both the upsides and downsides of retirement, so I make the very best of the upsides and minimise the risks of the downsides?

If You Only Read One Page of this Guide…

Have a plan.
And make it brave.
Confront hard truths.
Your debt will not disappear just because the bills do. Undiagnosed problems are uncontrollable problems.
Expect Hiccups.
The timing and manner in which you retire may not go as planned - don’t let it get to you.
Delay nothing.
Get started. It’s never too late. (Until it is.)
Maintain balance and stability.
These are crucial to maintaining key functions in your day-to-day life and in giving you full autonomy.
Express what you want and need.

Do not assume others can read your mind. As we age, we have to become more forthright and direct in communicating our difficulties.
Have a simple story.
One that can easily convey your limitations to others, without causing heartache and concern each and every time.
Ask yourself daily questions.
Stay on track. (We have a list of these in many sections of this book.)
Make the most of helpers
Accountants, doctors, personal trainers, coaches. These are people there to help you be the best you can be.  
Automate as much as you can.
Take things off of your mind. Fall asleep each night without the weight of having to do something the next morning.
Find purpose.
In whatever way it’s meaningful to you, personally, find the thing that gets you out of bed.
Stay engaged, active and connected.
Keep the skills you have spent a life honing. Share. Interact. Give back. 

The Question:

If you only read one page of this guide, will you do your best to implement one item that would help you and those closest to you benefit from your retirement?

The Push and Pull

‘I have never liked working. To me a job is an invasion of privacy.’
Danny McGoorty

Approaching retirement is a tumultuous time in our lives. It’s perfectly natural to feel a mixture of emotions at this stage - and not all positive!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest push into retirement is job dissatisfaction [4], but more than this, it is a lack of engagement. [5]
This isn’t necessarily accompanied with an explosive finish; a screaming match with the higher-ups and a dramatic scene where you ‘hand over your badge.’ Many experienced people bow out of the workforce after years of a gradual ‘squeeze,’ not from one dastardly individual, but rather changes in the entire industry, shifting in the background like the tectonic plates beneath our feet.
Companies need an inflow and outflow of members. As these changes occur, senior members begin to feel uneasy - especially in technology-centred fields - they feel they are the viewed as expendable. 

There’s the double-edged sword of seniority - the most senior members, being the most experienced, are more prone to feeling undervalued, but also more capable of sensing when other members of the team are guilty of poor reasoning.

Along with any growing resentment a dangerous thought gradually creeps in:
‘Hey... I don’t have to put up with this anymore…’
For an increasing number of people, retirement is involuntary; maybe no one person has had a difficult conversation with them….

The biggest pull into retirement is marriage satisfaction. There’s an old joke of a wife, on hearing her husband has chosen to retire, saying, ‘I said I’d stand by you for better or for worse - not hanging about in your pyjamas.’  

And also health - retirees have more time to invest in their own health
and wellbeing. [6]

The Question:
As I move into requirement, will I do my best to learn from and forgive whatever pushed me into retirement and celebrate and build on what pulled me into retirement?

(Mis)conceptions of Aging

Is retirement the ‘winter’ of your life?
That might seem like negative wording, but in some ways it is apt; retirement does take up roughly a quarter of your life span. (And, personally, winter puts me in mind of snowballs and Christmas with my family, so I’m happy with the concept.)
But this is a book about bravery: about facing our problems with optimism. Ultimately, you are an individual and will have to judge your problems and will have to set your own goals and limitations. You will set the standards, because now you have the freedom to invest your own time.

The freedom to invest in:
     Your purpose
     Your health
     Your friends
     Your hobbies
     Your family

In the next section we will see some individuals who had the audacity to break some of those rules - The Exceptions.

They show us that if retirement truly is the winter of your life, let’s not forget about Christmas and snowball fights!

The Question:

Will you do your best to find a purpose, big or small, that will motivate and fulfil you throughout retirement?

A Questionnaire

Give yourself a score from 1-10 on each of the following areas, 1 meaning that you’re rock-bottom hopeless, and 10 meaning you’re a master of the area, someone we should all go to for help of the subject:

Your sense of purpose in life

Your sense of identity

Your sense of autonomy

Your health (overall)
And specifically on
     Your cardiovascular capacity
     Your weight
     Your mobility; ease of movement.

Your level of stress

Your quality of sleep

Your satisfaction with your everyday environment

Your feeling of accomplishment.

Your satisfaction in your hobbies

Your confidence in your financial situation
And specifically on
     Your spending
     Your saving
     Your ability (or willingness) to pick up more work if needed

Your confidence your social skills

Your sense of connection to those important to you (children/grandchildren/partner/friends)

Your confidence that you yourself, or those around you, would react quickly and responsibly in an emergency.



Nowadays exceptions to the trends are not hard to find.

The most immediate to hand is that despite both being past the age of retirement, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fought it out over the position of President of the United States - the most powerful, responsible position on the planet.

And there are no shortage of rock stars who, despite having abused their bodies for decades, still live their lives to the fullest whilst pushing eighty. (Recently, Mick Jagger has had his eighth child, despite being 72 - not that this is really advisable.) 

But let’s have a look at some of the greats - and of course, maybe you’re not quite in the triple digits yourself, but what inspiring precedents they set!

Yuichiro Miura
Holds the record for being the oldest man to climb Everest, at 80.
Jeanna Clement
The oldest verified human being (despite being a smoker from the age of 21 until 117!).
Dorothy Davenhill Hirsch
Travelled to the North Pole, despite being 89.
Doris Self
Competed in video game competitions until she was 80.
George Weiss
 At 84, invented the game Dabble.
Hikekichi Miyazaki
On the day after he turned 105, ran 100m in just over 42 seconds.
Doris Haddock
Between the ages of 88-90, walked across the United States.
E. Bruce Heilmann
87, travelled 10,000 miles by Harley-Davidson.
Frank Shearer,
100, loves water-skiing.
Irving Berlin
Was 95 years old when his single ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ got into the top ten.
Johanna Quas
The world’s oldest gymnast at 86, having picked it back up when she was 57.
Don Pellman,
100, has set five track and field records.
Madeleine Scott
Started teaching at 40 but continued until 100. When asked about retirement she simply said: ‘Oh, that’s a bad word….’

The point of all of these examples is that, although there are general rules to aging, there are people who refuse its terms, whether due to passion or just some automatic compulsion of theirs.

So, before you resign to an armchair and pipe, consider the fact:
You could still show us what is possible.

The Question:

Am I going to do my best to find some role models that will guide me in my retirement? (They may, of course, be very individual and different to the role models others choose.)


This is the continuation of a weekly serialization of this new ebook on active retirement, by Wamala and Cooper, which book is available through for $0.99: 

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