Death, Health, Money, Sex

One of the encouraging things about blogging – when you’re not telling yourself that everything you write is actually a waste of time – is the positive feedback and interesting views you get from the Comments. When I stopped blogging, that’s what I missed. These days I spend more time reading comments on other websites too, including on the BBC News website (when they allow them) or on the online versions of the newspapers. That’s where the interesting opinions are.

My blog tends to divide opinion between those who love and embrace retirement wholeheartedly (or think they will) and don’t miss work at all and those, like me, who find themselves pining for some elements of the working life. As I read through some of the feedback recently, I found myself asking the question “Would I go back to work if an attractive proposition came along?” and I honestly felt that I might. 

Okay, so what? It’s no big deal and it’s not a sin to miss working, I don’t suppose. But, on the other hand, going back to work, for me, this time round would seem much more like a really wasted opportunity. When I decided to “commit myself to retirement” last March, the biggest question I was trying to force myself to answer was “If not now, when?” I was well aware of the cliche that nobody ever lay on their deathbed ruefully exclaiming “I wish I’d spent more time at the office”, but cliches are cliches because they have a fundamental truth to them. I was also aware that the title of my blog could be rearranged to reflect my mental priorities as I moved through the decades. In my twenties and thirties the focus and title would have been “Sex, Money, Health, Death”. In the forties, it felt more like “Money, Sex, Health, Death”. In my fifties, it began to shape up as “Health, Sex, Death, Money”, and my sixties seems to be heading more toward “Health, Death, Sex, Money”. Eventually, if I reach my nineties it might well be Death, Health, Money, Sex. Such is the ageing process. 

It didn’t help – or maybe it did – that last March I’d been spending time at the local hospital being checked out for something that I’d reported as chest pains, or at the least, what to me felt like severe heartburn. To be fair to the NHS, they put me through some rigorous testing and fortunately couldn’t find anything seriously wrong. But, as you lie under the MRI scanner, it cannot help but strike you that your days of taking health for granted are under threat. Could you imagine dropping dead at your desk in the office after being bollocked by some jumped up “senior manager” because your Powerpoint presentation was in the wrong font? Is that what life’s about? Aged 57, and taking advice from doctors and nurses who seem to look younger than your own kid, well, it makes you think. Or it made me think it was at least time to stop and smell the flowers, especially given I was in the fortunate position to be able to do so.

One of the luxuries of being retired is having the opportunity to stay healthy in a way that doesn’t feel like a grind. When I went back to a desk the last time I couldn’t believe the physical toll it took on me. I went from averaging 10,000 steps a day (without trying) to averaging 3,000. After sitting in front of a screen for eight hours, my body ached, I’d no notion of reading anything and the thought of heading to the gym was about as welcome as a dose of Covid. Working (or at least white collar, middle management working) is bad for your health. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m not actively seeking employment right now. I tend to think of fitness now in the way I once used to think about investing, namely “This will do me good further down the line”. Most days, I see it a bit like shaving – I don’t like doing it, particularly, but I feel so much fresher after it and it sets me up for the next few hours with a positive mindset. 

For any readers who are struggling to take up some sort of fitness activity, I’d quote one of my favourite Chinese proverbs – “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Excluding the financial side of retirement, and maybe even including it, being fit in my old age is currently my absolute priority. No doubt I’ll be blogging in future about habits, routines and structure, in terms of what works for me and what doesn’t, but the habit of exercise is one I find difficult to argue with.

11 thoughts on “Death, Health, Money, Sex

  1. Nice article, I was recommended this blog via Monevator. I ‘retired’ when I was 52, set up my dream of being a Mountaineering Guide and lasted 4 years before my knees gave up. I am still retired but I decide to do some work so that I could enjoy some luxuries and spend money treating my wife and two sons. Luckily I’m a qualified teacher so I reinvented myself as a supply teacher and landed a nice school where I teach PE. I can’t see why I’d give that up, I work a max 1.5 days a week and mostly it’s just 4 hours helping young teenagers enjoy exercise. Talking of that, now I’m sixty health and exercise take priority over most other things. I spend most of the week doing some sort of exercise, either hiking, rock climbing with friends, cycling or going to the gym. That’s my week totally filled! Nice blog, keep up the good work.

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    • Thanks for the positive feedback 🙂 My wife and I joined a climbing centre too, learning how to belay etc.. It’s another activity that it’s better to be fit for (she’s fitter than I am!) I envy you the part time job. That’s probably the solution I should be looking for, if I was to look for any.

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  2. Absolutely no doubt about it, your health is your wealth. Unfortunately most material things deal in hard cash. There’s a balance to be struck, as there always has been.
    I’m 57, been retired for two years now and after the kicking Covid, and Putin have given the old balance sheet I’m currently pondering a return to part time work, maybe ten to fifteen hours a week. Only to help with essentials mind. I’ve this crazy idea about being able to eat and heat my home.
    As for non essential stuff, I’ve found since retiring I’ve little interest in travelling to exotic places, much preferring to holiday in the UK. To put it bluntly I cannot be arsed with being held to ransom by airlines, long delays spent in airport queues, with temperatures and tempers rising. Much better to discover the gems that the highlands have to offer at my own pace.
    I do enjoy a spot of motorcycling, and have resigned myself to never being able to throw my leg over the more exotic machines on offer anymore, no, it’s budget bikes for me from now on. Strip it down to the basics, I’m still on two wheels and enjoying myself.
    I think that’s what retirement is all about. Getting rid of the unnecessary baggage and finding what you are happy with. It’s a work in progress for myself and suspect it always will be but that’s fine, no set end goal, no deadlines, no stress.
    Do I miss work? No. But I do miss the interaction I had with my workmates. We do still keep in touch though with the odd meet up.
    So I wish you well on your retirement, keep the blogs coming, I do enjoy them.

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    • Cheer Linton, I like the idea of retirement being about getting rid of baggage and finding what makes you happy. Trying completely new things is an approach I want to take. I know a few “bikers”, and I’ve thought about learning to ride, but I currently think life’s short enough as it is. It’s not that I think I’d be a danger on a motorbike, more that I’d be in danger on a motorbike!

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      • You’d do fine on a bike. You don’t bounce as well as you used to in your twenties. Focuses the mind a bit more. Seriously, do the direct access course, spend a couple of days on an advanced riders course, pick up a bike for £1000-1500 and you are away.
        Mind you if petrol continues to climb we will all be using the shoe leather express.
        You’ll always be able to cut according to your cloth to some extent, I don’t see doing a few months work every now and again as a hardship if it lets me continue enjoying life the way I am at the moment. Healthy and stress free. Only way to be. A fair amount of stress in peoples lives seems to come from scenarios they’ve cooked up that will never materialise.
        My patience with idiots has long since evaporated. Think of your patience as a shoe lace. At the beginning it’s long and strong, then it breaks. You re-tie it. You keep doing this until there’s no lace left to tie. That’s the time to go barefoot. No more worry.

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      • I like your style 🙂 I haven’t totally killed the idea of a bike, largely due to a childhood dream of doing America coast to coast on a Harley. I still fantasise about that and have a couple of mates who say they’re going to do it.

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  3. Nice piece. This put in mind of William Shatner who, when asked what the secret to a long life was, said “don’t die”.

    It was also fascinating that you divided up your life there into several decades, with priorities. Just the other morning I was figuring out the “themes” of certain decades of my life. My 20s were basically about starting work, and working. My 30s marriage, kids and divorce. My 40s fun and freedom (kinda). My 50s financial and relationship consolidation. Not sure what my 60s are going to be about, but I think “not dying” will be high on the list…

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      • Yep. Muse about it all the time. Have come to the conclusion that there’s nothing I can do about it. Somebody once said to me, don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out of it alive. Sage words.
        I just try to enjoy each day as it comes, make a memory, hopefully a good one.
        Stupid things I used to worry about when I retired were things like getting a figure in my head of how much I should leave the kids. That seriously was my first thought. Answer after thinking about it was they will simply get what’s left.
        Hopefully a few years and a few memories left to make ahead of me.

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  4. Great to see you back and on form, Jim!

    “I don’t like doing it, particularly, but I feel so much fresher after it ”

    This comment rang true – as someone who continued exercising through school, uni and adulthood, I think I can say that whilst I used to love it, I now don’t especially like it – I do it because it’s good for me and I guess it’s keeping me looking/feeling younger.

    I enjoy weight training but cardio is not enjoyable at all, yet I feel a buzz afterwards and I guess that’s all I look forward to, the buzz/relief when it’s all over!

    In between my gym sessions however, I do hardly any steps as I’m just sat down so that would have to improve once I’m no longer working.

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    • Hi Weenie, I’d have to admit the gym has been a big help in retirement in giving structure to my week, but also in breaking up the day with a change in scenery! I’m also lucky my gym has a nice pool, sauna and jacuzzi, plus a half decent cafe. Even when I can’t face the gym the other facilities sometimes tempt me there. I’ve also started taking more classes, which means you actually converse with other people, something that doesn’t always happen when you make a solo visit.

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