"Every day in retirement is a day of choice. You are your own boss and write your own job description," or so says Dave Sinclair at the start of the one-day pre-retirement Later Life course I've come to observe.
For some delegates, retirement is a chance to spend time doing all the things you love and haven't had time to do. But for others, retirement isn't quite so appealing. One wasn't sure where she'd get that buzz she'd always got from her job working as a careers adviser, while another was – in the nicest possible way – concerned about her husband getting under her feet.
"Lots of our clients are worried about their retirement," says Sinclair. "They don't know what they'll do. Their concerns are often about finance but also about filling their time."
Delegates on the Later Life courses are encouraged to think about all aspects of their retirement – how they will fill their time, how they will stay fit both mentally and physically, if they have a partner how that relationship will change and also how they will manage their money.
Since the abolition of the default retirement age in 2011, which means employers can no longer force you to retire the day you turn 65, those coming to the end of their working lives now need to think more about their own retirement. Should they take advantage of their new-found freedom and stop working as soon as their pension entitlement kicks in, or work a few more years to boost their retirement coffers?
Increasingly, retirement is becoming a phased process. One delegate – a nurse – was planning to reduce the number of days she worked each week in stages, allowing her to change her lifestyle gradually.
It's an option Dave Sinclair has taken. Considering himself ‘semi-retired' he now works part-time for Later Life Learning, the company he runs with his business partner. Aged 67, he works two to three days a week and plans to stick with that for another three or four years. "I really enjoy it, I get out and meet some great people – it gives me such a buzz. I can't imagine doing nothing."
Working past retirement age
Office for National Statistics figures show the number of people working past 65 has steadily been increasing.
Chris Brooks, policy adviser for employment and skills at the charity Age UK, says for some people it's a financial necessity. "According to the Pensions Policy Institute, half of people need to work six years past their state retirement age to maintain their standard of living," but for others, they simply cannot imagine life without it. "A very large number of people like the social interaction they get from work, which they can't get outside of employment."
Away from work, Sinclair fills the rest of his week spending time with his six grandchildren, playing the clarinet – an instrument he only picked up when his wife bought it for his 60th birthday – and running. "I do a lot of running and recently ran a marathon in the Alps."
If you're struggling to work out how you will fill your time, Sinclair has a number of tips. "One of my fellow trainers breaks down his week – two days earning, two days learning and three days for fun."
Another tip is to draw up a three-by-three grid. In the first row, put three ‘basic' or essential activities – this might include home, family, friends or work if that's something you decide to do. The second column should be made up of three activities you'd like to do more of, be that reading, golf or amateur dramatics. In the third column, try to think of three new things you'd love to do such as voluntary work, learning a language or flying remote-controlled aircraft.
Plan how to spend your time
While work will give your finances a boost – the cost of travel, days out and new hobbies can easily rack up, so Sinclair encourages retirees to think about activities that fill up your time without draining your wallet. Voluntary work can be a great way of doing this – contact local charities or look at volunteering websites for ideas.
If you want to spend time learning but don't want to spend a fortune on courses, look for more informal alternatives, such as the learning co-operative, the University of the Third Age, which has branches across the UK.
For fresh air and exercise, join a walking group and explore your local area.
If you are married or have a partner, you'll have to think about how your relationship will change too. Moving from a life where you only spend time together at evenings and weekends to one where you are potentially together all day every day can be tough for even the strongest of couples.
This means you both need to think about what you want from retirement as individuals and as a couple. Make time for activities you both enjoy but ensure you have activities, interests and hobbies you can pursue on your own, too. Many couples increasingly take separate holidays allowing them to indulge in specialist interests like walking, or a love of culture, without the worry that their partner is bored or just coming along for the ride.
Of course, every decision you make about your lifestyle, your health and fitness, not to mention your activities and social life, will be impacted by money. "Finance is an integral part of your retirement," says Sinclair but he tells his delegates when it comes to it, "more people are pleasantly surprised than horribly shocked".
The relaxation of pensions rules means that financial planning in retirement is arguably more complex than it was. However, once you have done the hard stuff – working out how you will generate your retirement income and establishing just how much you have to live on, it does pay to think about your day-to-day retirement. Make the most of this precious time. It is, after all, what you have spent so many years saving for.
What are your retirement priorities?
For many people, adjusting to retirement can be tough. So before you stop working, it's worth thinking about what your priorities are and what you would like to achieve. Go through our checklist to get you started and if you have a partner get them to do it too!
My retirement list
- See friends
- Spend more time with children and grandchildren
- Spend more time with partner
- Take up a new hobby
- Learn a new skill
- Paid work
- Voluntary work
- Visit museums and art galleries
- Get more exercise
- Take up a new sport
- Read more
- Go to the theatre or cinema
- See more live music
- Learn a musical instrument