“30 Years?! What Am I Supposed To Do With That?”

I was watching Trainspotting 2 the other day (if you were a fan of  Danny Boyle’s first film from 1996 you’ll enjoy the sequel) and in it, Ewan McGregor’s character, Renton, is describing how he collapsed at work and had heart surgery. On explaining that he was told he would have another 30 years of life his response is:

“but they didn’t say what to do with those 30 years. Two or three, fine, I’ll take that. I can cope with that... But 30? What am I supposed to do with that?”

Whilst his life as a recovering heroin addict is very different to that of yours, if you are approaching retirement you might be asking the very same question in a different context.

A retirement spanning 30 years is quite possible if you are retiring now in your 60s, possibly even longer with medical advances and a greater appreciation of health and fitness.  This calculator from the Office for National Statistics provides life expectancy probability statistics based upon your age and gender. Notably:

  • A 55-year-old male has a 25% chance of reaching 93, a 10% chance of reaching 98 and a 6.3% chance of reaching 100.
  • For a woman of the same age, there is a 25% chance of reaching 95 and a 10% chance of reaching 100.
  • Increase the current age by 10 years and there is still a 25% chance of a man living to 93 and a 4.7% chance he lives to 100.
  • For a woman aged 65, the chance of reaching 100 is 7.4%.

So living to 100 is possible but not probable. However, a 25% chance of living to your early to mid-90s is not insignificant. And, as Renton discovered in Trainspotting 2,  for many this can be terrifying.

Which is why taking time to think about and plan for what a successful retirement looks like is so important.

Time can be a blessing or a curse: either you live a fulfilling retirement doing all the things that working life prevented and the days, weeks and years fly by. Or, you find you have more waking hours that you know what to do with. It’s easy to fill time when you are working but when you stop and you look at the calendar there can be a lot of white spaces to fill. It’s the sort of situation that you may have longed for when working but “when you have a jar full of cookies, where’s the fun in cookies?”

And a life without purpose, where you meander from one day to the next, can be a dangerous situation to be in because it is said that a life of ease is a short step from a life of disease.

It reminds me of a GP I heard about that was forced to retire when his business partner stopped working. He went from having an interest in golf and wine to having no interest in golf and an unhealthy interest in wine.

I have no empirical or academic evidence to support this but I have a theory that retirement is another form of adolescence because we go through a physical and mental adaptation as we did when we entered adulthood and this change needs preparing for.

As I talk about in this video, in my experience, those who have successfully retired enjoy a healthy balance of living life with purpose, a loving relationship, a social network, a healthy lifestyle and the peace of mind that comes with financial security.

The good news is that there is no shortage of things to do when you are retired. Here is a list that I compiled previously of 101 Things to Do in Retirement to Avoid Boredom, If you are in or approaching retirement and struggling for things to occupy your days there must be things on that list that appeal.

My belief is that those who dedicated their adult lives to their work and gave little focus to leisure time are the ones more likely to struggle with the prospect of a long retirement because they don’t have the hobbies and interests to pick up or the motivation to try anything new. Of course, this is a generalisation but with over 10 years’ worth of conversations with people approaching or in retirement I believe there is a relationship between work focus and retirement struggles.

So, if your retirement is looming large on the horizon and you are in a similar mindset to Renton my advice is to dedicate some time to finding the answers because otherwise, your future won’t be as good as your past (and that’s not a good place to be at).

If, however, the thought of retirement fills you with excitement and can’t come soon enough but you don’t think you can afford it, contact me and we can work out what is possible. You never know, it might be possible sooner than you think.


Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

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