Hi my name is Dave, I am 57 years old and was lucky enough to take a redundancy package from work at the end of March 2019. Ideally this may be the road to early retirement , the next year or so will tell. I would like to take you through some of my story and hopefully some of it might either prove useful or provide an interesting read.
Words, pain and photography courtesy of David Foxwell.
For most people passing the age of 50 starts to focus the eye on retirement and the questions of when can I finish, do I want to finish work, can I afford retirement and to me probably the most important part what will I do with my time. Very briefly the answer is unique to the individual, what is right for one person is not necessarily the same for someone else. Some people absolutely love their work and I know people who are very financially secure who have no wish to finish working and there is nothing wrong with this. On a financial footing, quality, trusted advice is required and I would not advise on this other to say plan your retirement in sections, you will need more money in your early years than in your later years when you will be less active. The area I hope my story may help with is the final part, people spend a lot of time looking at preparing themselves financially for retirement but forget about preparing physically and mentally which I feel is also vital.
At the age of 54 I started to realise that physically and mentally I wasn't where I needed to be. I was carrying about 2 stone of excess weight, playing golf I was losing breath on the slightest incline and at work I was feeling extremely tired all the time. It wasn't a light switch moment but gradually I did start to analyse where I was and what changes if any I could make. The first area I started to look at was the excessive tiredness at work, I had spent many very enjoyable years in a job I loved but as in many cases things change and in a way totally out of our hands. A change of workplace location meaning longer commute and working hours reducing my hours of sleep were contributing factors but I realised that the biggest problem was the state of my mental health. Men in particular do not like admitting to problems but the reality is the number of men affected by mental health issues is extremely high and seeking help is never a sign of weakness. My advice on this issue would simply be to never be afraid to talk, friends, family, good employers, doctors will help you and will be far more understanding than you have thought.
Never has a picture said so much.
A key link with mental health is physical wellbeing, mental health experts will tell you that keeping yourself healthy physically has an extremely positive effect on mental health I have certainly found this to be very true. I mentioned that moving through the stages of realisation wasn't a light switch moment for me the time was probably over 12 months taking me to 55 years old and to my next stage which probably created the catalyst for most of current position. I had sought financial advice and was fortunate enough to find a way where I could cut my finances to an extent that enabled a reduction in my working week this action increased my leisure time allowing extra games of Golf and as the number of early starts were reduced I started to feel significantly better. At around this time I also decided to see if I could do the Coventry half marathon to raise money for charity. I had not ran since the age of 23 so I sought help from a very good friend of mine. He suggested the couch to 5km as a start and encouraged me by joining on my runs after the first few weeks. 5km runs soon became 6,7, 8 and I remember a massive milestone being running for an hour without stopping, I was starting to feel good. The amazing thing however was the change to my mental wellbeing, running for me became a great place to simply think things through and usually the answers were far simpler than I had made them in my mind. My runs increased in time and distance and I finally built myself up ready for the challenge of the half marathon. At the end of March 2019 I proudly put on my medal for completing the course, looking back at that point to where I had come from I was so pleased.
At around 5 months prior to the half marathon, we were all called to a mass meeting at work. The company's financial position meant it had to make redundancies. Due to my years service I was able to volunteer to leave and after being accepted I finished work within a week or so of completing the half marathon I also left work.
I don't know if that will be the end of my working career, I certainly don't see full time employment ever being required but I am now in a good place. Physically I feel stronger than I did 15 years ago, my body is good for my age and this has proved invaluable to my mental health. I am still loving going for a run and hopefully in November will tackle the Coventry half for a second time, golf will also be a big part of my plans and although ironically because of my running I don't play as often as I originally thought I would, my enjoyment of the game has probably heightened.
So in conclusion, plan your retirement but don't just focus on the financial, you can put the work in now to ensure that physically and mentally you are prepared to make that time, the quality time you deserve and have worked those long hours to get to . It may not be half marathons, it might be 10km runs or bikes rides or rock climbing you can do it just be prepared to put the work in to get yourself in shape.