Holiday-ay, it Will Be Alright….

Wish You Were FIRE

Wish You Were FIRE

I’m on a short break holiday abroad writing this, the first holiday I have taken in my “early retirement”. I used to wonder if I’d feel differently on holiday now that I’m not working, and the answer is “maybe”. Of course, not having any work to go back to, well, it’s hard to see a downside on that aspect. But I haven’t escaped any work either and I have missed that frisson of excitement on leaving the “Out of Office” message on Outlook.

On the other hand, no return to five hundred emails either, of which I would read the two from the boss and the two from clients. The rest sat with the other nine thousand “unread” in my inbox. (I jest not on the number, although that was about five years’ worth. Corporate life combined with shoddy email management.)

When on holiday from work, I always used to suffer “imaginary holiday envy” because of the sheer lack of exciting things my family did compared to the ideal families in the adverts. No paragliding for us. No long camel rides into an Arabian sunset. No awe-inspiring canoe trips up the Amazon. No sitting with my wife at a beachside Caribbean restaurant table as she stared devotedly into my eyes in sheer wonder that she’d married such a hunk, while waves crashed on a nearby shore. When I thought about it, all we did on holiday was the same as what we did with our leisure time at home, except we did more of it. A bit of shopping, a bit of walking into town for a coffee, a bit of reading books, reading the papers, eating out and so on. Maybe I’d play some golf. Relaxing from work, that’s what we did, and we enjoyed it.

Now I’m not working, I tell you, I do shitloads of walking into town, reading, going for coffees, shopping (groceries only though), playing golf, eating out and, I hate to admit, it is all in danger of becoming Really Effing Boring. All that sweet relaxing stuff is now my New Normal.

Once retired, if you tell people that you have reached that stage of life, they often make a remark such as “Permanent holiday, eh?” They could be right, but I’m not so sure. If I go back to work then I am certain that I will feel this stage of my life was a long, enjoyable holiday. A break from work. The first three months of my enforced retirement absolutely felt like that and I was on Cloud Nine. If I’m honest though, I also felt during that time that I would – probably – return to the workplace. I told people I was retired, but didn’t truly believe it (and still don’t). I now feel that if I really never return to paid employment, then this won’t feel like a holiday at all. It will just feel like my latest version of living, not that much different from your working life, providing that on the whole that you quite enjoy working and what it has to offer. And, on the whole, I did enjoy working. Okay, I now don’t have the boss paying my wages, but he’s been replaced by my investment funds paying my wages, and it’s them that now dictate my future retirement career.

So, as I sit here burning cash that maybe I will regret spending in twenty year’s time, I reflect that holidays are still a great break, still almost necessary and will still remain a part of my life going forward. But maybe next year I will try some paragliding.

Spending Your Pennies

I noticed this advert on Twitter this morning and it struck me that there are several leitmotif images about retirement that many companies reach for when trying to attract prospective pensioners with their cash.

Did You Pack the Preparation H?

Two Portaloos Ahoy!

Firstly, there’s the inevitable scene on the beach. After all, that’s where all pensioners want to go. In real life, you tend to see them huddled in their cars at the coast, sitting staring silently out at the horizon instead of running laughing along the sands. They have a flask of tea and a tupperware box with a cheese sandwich in it, instead of just exiting the champagne and seafood bar, as the pictured couple might just have done.

Blue, almost cloudless skies (there have to be some clouds, this is old age and retirement we’re talking about) frame the scene, but it’s difficult to tell if this is Corfu or Cornwall. It’s certainly not Cromarty, where the rain would be lashing in horizontally from the sea. The Blackpool Tower is also noticeable by its absence, so draw your own conclusions and paste your own geographic dreams onto the beach

The second thing that makes me question if this is a typically British retirement couple is that they look quite cheerful. Nay, joyful. You wonder what news they’ve just received? Is it that David Cameron has blown up the Channel Tunnel? Is it that their forty year old son has finally moved out their home? Or perhaps they’ve discovered they won’t have to contribute to their grandchildren’s school fees? Whatever, it’s clearly news that would cheer up a middle class couple who have a private (Charles Stanley) pension to live on. A state pensioner can forget the beach, unless they’re trolling it with a metal detector hoping they might find a pound coin.

In many of these ads, women take predominance, underling the position that old men are basically pretty useless. The pressure seems to be placed more on the woman to make the most of retirement – it’s the globetrotting grannies and the skydiving seventy year old great aunts that we tend to read about in the papers. The woman will take the lead, the man is in the background. Old blokes as pensioner role models? Not in the adverts, unless they’re pottering around the garden or selling constipation relief. I feel that men only have themselves to blame for this and that we need to take a more positive and energetic approach to our retirement instead of seeing Victor Meldrew as an aspirational figure.

Where is the mobility scooter in this picture, you may ask? I did. Last time I was at the coast, I made a mental note to look into which companies built these things so I could invest in their shares. They were everywhere. I’m not sure I can recall seeing an advert for a mobility scooter though. Bad health is a difficult sell and, if you have your pension with Charles Stanley, that’s clearly not going to be YOUR future.

What else is missing? The Portaloo, of course. For an elderly couple to be having this much fun on a beach, there has to be a vacant toilet somewhere just off camera. To paraphrase for a pensioner, if you can see a loo it means you’re about to pee, if you can’t, you’re peeing.

All in all, the above advert is, for me, an absolute incentive to retire as early as possible. The time to be running joyfully along the sands with a big smile on your face is now, while you still can.