Sunday, 30 October 2016

Retirement - The first 100 Days!

100  Days ?- Sounds a bit presidential?

Well, let's start by saying I have not counted whether I have been retired for exactly 100 days. It's basically been 3 months and a bit so near enough. It did occur to me that presidents and prime ministers often reflect or are evaluated after 100 days so why not me?  So here we have it:

John's Retirement- the first 100 days- Triumph or Disaster?

On balance I would say that for me retirement has been a triumph. This time last year I was handing in my notice at work and feeling very apprehensive.  Would I be financially secure? Would I feel a massive gap in my life having taught and worked in schools for 37 years? Would I become isolated and gradually whither away and become an insignificant has-been? Would retirement be hours of day time TV and pointless routines?  These were big existential questions.  I had to address these questions.

Of course, as many people on other blogs have noted, the key to retirement is preparation. Pre-plan so that retirement is exactly what you want it to be.  The people I have heard about who did not enjoy retirement are those that fell into it rather than planned for it.


I have discussed this pre-retirement preparation in earlier posts but basically preparation for me consisted of the following:

  • Sorting out finances and making a last big push on savings
  • Organising some part-time teaching on my terms (one to one and at times that suited me)
  • Training with a local charity so that from September I could undertake regular volunteer work
  • Joining U3A (university of the 3rd Age) and signing up for classes such as Spanish lessons
  • Putting in place a fitness and diet plan
  • Looking into starting a blog 
  • Buying a new Ukulele (don't laugh - it's an important creative outlet for me)
There were other things that I had planned as possible future projects but I will skip those for now. I knew I would miss work but I also knew I had this amazing opportunity ahead of me. I could still do some work, but on my terms, and also pursue other activities that seemed almost impossible to undertake whilst doing a full-time job.

So come on stop waffling, how's it been?  

One word. Fantastic. It really has been and I think the following are the main reasons it's worked our so well for me far:
  1. The preparation outlined above. Vital.
  2. Engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities such as my volunteering- new sense of purpose straight away
  3. Taking up new studies - muy bien
  4. Writing this blog- not only has this helped me get back into writing after a long gap but I have learnt so much by reading about the experiences of others in similar situations and been inspired by their stories
  5. Having the support of my partner
  6. Embracing the opportunities that having time away from work has given me
Pros and Cons

Reflecting on retirement after three months and just a day before my 61st birthday has made me weigh up the pros and cons. This is what my list looks like:


  • Less stress
  • More energy and not falling asleep in front of the TV by 7pm
  • More time to engage in activities that interest me
  • Feeling fitter and able to exercise more 
  • Being able to choose when I do things- not being the slave to the clock
  • Enjoying Mondays for the first time outside of holidays
  • Eating less
  • Being able to go on more walks and explore the countryside
  • More time to connect with people outside of work


  • Sometimes missing the "buzz" of work
  • Not seeing such a wide variety of people
  • Not doing some much drama work (drama was my main subject when teaching but I will be doing some drama work with young people starting in December)
  • Having less money each month 

As you can see the pros for me far outweigh the cons.  The verdict is a very clear 

from me. In fact the only thing I really do not like about retirement is the actual word:retirement.

I just do not like the term or the word retirement.  It suggests leaving things behind, disengaging somehow whereas nothing could be further from the truth. For me it has been about engaging not retiring. Engaging with new experiences and challenges, meeting a different set of people and using acquired skills and knowledge in new, exciting ways.  I can feel myself getting carried away now. Stay calm John, sit down and have a cup of camomile tea.  I know what I need. I need a fresh word or phrase to describe this new phase of being: 

My rubbish alternatives to the word "retirement" :
  • Post salaried freedom
  • Autumn Renaissance
  • Pre demise flourish  
  • setting sun imagery-no thanks!
  • The phase of golden opportunities 

I shall just have to hope that someone out there can come up with a better and more positive term to this stage of life we currently call "retirement". 
I would love to hear your suggestions. 

In the meantime Happy Halloween

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Grim Highwayman

You dont want to be visited by this Dick at night
Was it a dream or a visitation.  The Grim Reaper standing at the foot of my bed, all cloak and swagger, a skeletal figure looking like a cross between Norman Tebbitt and Dick Turpin. 

The Grim Reaper as a highwayman?  My fault, I had gone to bed sorting out finances on my ipad.  Two months living on a pension instead of a fat teacher's  salary (I know.  You can read that in one of two ways but only one is correct) was getting me agitated, "I simply don't have enough money to buy good gin every week," was one anxious realisation, "I have the time to go on a world cruise every couple of months but not the money.. how am I going to cope? "

That's how I went off to sleep, so it not surprising that the Grim Highwayman  (for that was how my amalgamated vision appeared) came into nightmarish view.He was holding out his bony hand which held a bunch of  £20 notes. He spoke, "Money or your Life?" 

Shocked and frightened I composed myself. I found inner strength.  I was not going to be bullied by an ephemeral figure of doom, "I refuse to accept your choice, Mr Reaper and I am certainly not for sale..." I was on a roll.  "I want money and my life, I want it all."

With that the vision evaporated and I realised that this was the question that had played in my head for the last few years before retirement, do you work and build up money or do you go for living the life you want? 

Of course it would be wonderful if we could have both. David Attenborough, Eric Clapton and The Queen are the lucky ones.  The love what they do and they get paid for it, for the rest of us it's a trade off. I need money to do things I want, but to get the money I have to give up the time that I would rather be spending doing the things I love.  Although I did love much of my work as a teacher, there were also moments when it did feel like I was losing part of my life that I would prefer to use doing other things.

So I worked until I was nearly 61 worrying about whether I had enough money.  Time v Money. The old conundrum.  My conclusion: I attached far too much importance to money.  

Time is finite and wonderful.  Doing things we are are passionate about is what life should be about.  So what if there's a bit less money? We tend to buy lots of stuff we do not really need anyway but you can never, and sorry for the cliche, buy back time.

Tonight I'm not going to go to bed worrying about money.  I'm going to read a good book, wake up and write the next big Christmas hit song on my ukulele, cook great food, play walking football and make a rude gesture to that uninvited guest if he appears again at my bedside. 

I'll take the "less money and more life" option please.

I dont like to use quotes usually but this one really does say it all

Right, I'd better get to Aldi and buy my cheap but perfectly acceptable gin  and cancel that cruise booking.

Sleep well

Saturday, 22 October 2016

I've Lost Weight- How Did That Happen?

 From Obese to Overweight!

For years I have been in denial.  It's true. In the past  I would say to myself, "You are  slightly overweight John", the Body Mass Index graph however would scream, "You are not overweight, you're obese."  I would say, "John, rugby players have a similar BMI to you  and they are athletes".  Anyone else would say, "You are not an athlete, you do not play rugby, you are simply FAT."  And they would have been correct.

Would have been I hear you ask? That's right, for now I am John's Blog Slimmer of the Month. True, I am still in the overweight band of the BMI graph but no longer obese and that to me is progress. Frivolity aside I have managed to lose around 8 pounds in  little over 4 weeks and no one is more surprised than myself.

Since running the London marathon in 2010 I had steadily added on the pounds and nothing I did seemed to be able to shift the excess weight.  Weekends of wine, cheese, curry, more cheese and beer didn't help but even when I cut back, went low fat and cut out the usual culprits, the weight stubbornly stayed put.  Now for the first time in 6 years weight loss is occurring. 

So what's the secret?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading Michael Moseley's thoughts on diet.  He is the man who came up with the 5-2 diet.  I tried that but would eat so much on the "eat what you want " days that it negated the benefits of the fast days. It was not for me.  

However I read with interest his book "The 8 week blood sugar diet."  Again, this was not for me as I knew I could not sustain a long period of denying myself the foods I love.  What I did take on board was his assertion that much of the dietary advice we have been given in the past is just plain wrong. The key message of going low fat which has been almost a dietary orthodoxy for years has been shown by recent studies to be ineffective .  When people go low-fat they get hungry and eat more carbohydrates and often sugary ones. The weight goes back on. Food producers will often take fat out of a product and replace it with sugar. For me low fat had to go.

I recommend that you read Moseley's book if you want the full science but essentially he points out that sugary carbs play havoc with our insulin levels and that in turn has led to weight gain for many and a rise globally in type 2 diabetes.

I took on board some of this thinking which also stresses eating whole foods, cutting out processed food and eating plenty of fruit but more importantly vegetables and devised an eating plan that would work for me. 
I decided that during the week I would have a carb free breakfast, skip lunch and have a pretty standard evening meal.  Skipping lunch works for me as during the day I can put up with feeling a bit peckish knowing that a good meal was on the horizon at around 6pm. I also eat a good protein based breakfast such as eggs with cheese or ham or yoghurt with fruit. These carb free but protein rich breakfasts  make me feel surprisingly full. I now only use full fat yoghurt, milk and cheese because another misconception is that fat makes you fat. It doesn't. It makes you feel fuller for longer and with less sugar around insulin levels are kept under control.

For my evening meal I may have some carbs in the form of a small portion of  pasta or rice but the emphasis is still on protein such as fish or chicken and plenty of vegetables or salad.  At the weekend I allow the regime to slacken off a bit and enjoy maybe toast for breakfast enjoy a light lunch and even have a beer in the evening. So no great privations, just a few simple changes. The good thing is that it has worked.

But there's more

This change to my eating regime is only part of the story.  The other two important elements that have made this possible for me have been:
1  Being retired
2  Engaging in more physical activities and exercise

Being retired has been important in that I can control what I eat and drink far more easily than I could do whilst working. Work can be full-on and stressful and sugary carbs suddenly become sirens of desire beckoning us to consume them.  Which I did on a regular basis. I also have more time to shop for the right foods and prepare healthy meals.

The other change which could only really have happened as a result of retirement has been the increase in exercise. Since retiring I have taken up table tennis , I play walking football and regularly exercise at home.  I have even started jogging again.  Whilst working I would often feel too tired to do these things or could not fit them in.  In other words retirement has created a set of circumstances where it has suddenly become relatively easy to lose weight and get fit.  It has simply been far easier to implement and stick to a diet regime outside of work.

I suppose I have spent a long time in this post stating a basic set of truths which is that if you want to lose weight you have to eat less and exercise more.  That is only half the story. It has  been the reality of retirement that's enabled me to research and focus on a diet regime that works for me and also given me the time to pursue physical activities that have given impetus to the diet and complemented it.

Prior to retirement I worried  that retirement might lead to some kind of physical decline.  I never imagined it would make me feel better than I have done in years.

I would love to hear about other people's experiences around this topic. Has retirement been the beginning of an unexpected physical renaissance for you or did it go the other way? 

Luckily for me it's now Saturday night and I allow myself some leeway at the weekend. So I am off to make a curry, minus the rice of course, enjoy a cold beer and wallow in the pride of being overweight rather than obese -but first-20 minutes on that exercise bike.

Bon Appetit! 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Retirement and Financial Planning

Managing a Pension Pot in a Low Interest Rates Environment.

OK let's state some caveats right from the beginning.  I am not and would not pretend to be a financial expert.  I can also admit to having made some awful financial decisions in the past (Northern Rock shares anyone?). Having said that, I have avidly read the views of well regarded financial journalists and have attended seminars on retirement financial planning as well as taking advice from one or two financial advisors. Not an expert then but someone who has had to think about protecting a modest chunk of capital and hoping to make it last into a long, happy, healthy retirement. (don't you love the optimism?)

The key thing for many people relying on savings is that now with interest rates at record lows anyone with capital which they hope will see them through a long and happy retirement will have to think carefully about managing their money and ensure that this money is working hard for them.  Twelve years ago it all seemed much easier.  I had sold a house prior to moving in with my partner and very quickly found a bank where I could "park" that money and sit back and see the interest come in at around £600 per month.  The interest on the account was just over 5%, inflation was below that and just by finding an account in the Guardian's best buy table I had my money in a secure account that would ensure real term growth without risk or effort on my part. Ah the good old days!

Now, if I had that money, I would be hard pressed to find a home for it that would pay 1% and even then the size of the sum I could deposit would likely be limited.  With inflation set to rise and most savings accounts paying far less than 1% parking money in a bank is really just like saying a long goodbye to your capital.

My Situation

My situation as a retired deputy head  is that I receive an index linked pension based on my final salary.  Teachers currently  also receive a lump sum equivalent to 3 times whatever the annual pension is worth so if a retired teacher had an annual pension of £20,000 he or she would also receive  a tax free lump sum of £60,000.

I have also tried to save over the last ten years knowing that my pension would cover basic day do day expenses whilst whatever capital I accrued through lump sum and savings would be my capital which would need to provide big ticket items such as holidays, car replacement and house maintenance. I also wanted my capital to grow in order to try and beat the eroding effects of inflation and enable me to access some capital to help my grown up children at points in the future where they might need some additional support such as weddings or house purchases.  Above all I knew that once I retired I would effectively stop saving and start spending.  My financial plan was about making sure that the pot of money I was spending from lasted as long as I do!

Go on then what have you done?

OK, OK -I'll tell you.  In fact I shall cut out the waffle and make a list- John's Top Tips for a financially secure retirement.

1 Marry a rich widow. (OK that was my joke entry)

 1  Have a big chunk of money invested in stocks and shares. 

I aim to have between 50-60% of my capital invested in the stock market. There is no doubt that for your capital to grow there really has to be some exposure to the stock market.  Money in a savings account will just mean the value being eroded by inflation. But it is safe in a savings account which is why it is always advisable to have a proportion of your money as cash. 

To buy and sell shares and funds I use the iWeb platform. It's cheap and easy to use.  I have my shares in an ISA wrapper but also some outside the ISA wrapper as a high level before having to pay capital gains tax means that with a modest amount of money invested paying tax on profits shouldn't be a problem. 

I select companies that I believe in and who I think have great products and services and who I believe function ethically.  I also invest in a range of investment trusts including the ever dependable Foreign and Colonial. If I were starting out as an investor I would definitely go for investment trusts. They spread the risk and by and large produce good growth.  City of London and Monks would be my tips in addition to Foreign and Colonial. For me it's about having a spread of investments with some solid dependable heavyweights and then investing in what I think are good companies.  One example is Cineworld. Personally I think Cineworld provide a better experience of going to the cinema than do the Odeon, so I bought some shares and they have gone up nearly 50% in the couple of years that I have held them.  That was luck, but I bought the shares because I liked what the company provide.  Oh, and I tend to stick with companies rather than trying to "call" the market and ALWAYS reinvest the dividends.  This money is tied up for the long term and I know that I will probably not have to touch this for years. A portfolio like this has produced returns of around 9% for the last two years; real growth that my savings accounts cannot hope to match.

2  Use your ISA allowance 

I still think ISAs are worth having despite the recent introduction of reducing the tax on interest earned. The point about an ISA is any money or shares within it will always be exempt from tax.  This means if and when interest rates go higher and the interest earned increases you will keep all the money whereas outside an ISA once you interest earnings exceed £1000 (or just £500 if you are in upper tax bracket) you will have to pay tax on the interest earned.  The thing with cash ISAs is that banks give rates one year and then reduce the following so you have to be prepared to move your money from ISA to ISA and personally I look at fixed rates of one or two years.  Like stocks and shares my ISA cash is for the longer term.

3 Invest in a pension/AVC (additional voluntary contributions)

Although I have a work based pension,  I was advised to open up an additional pension.  In fact I did this even though I only had a little over a year of employment before retirement.  The maths are simple.  Invest in a pension as a higher rate tax payer and you get 40% tax relief.  In effect it meant I received £500 less in my pay packet but £800 went into my pension. This meant I built up a pot worth £11,200 which effectively only cost me £7,000 .  When I want to access this I will be a lower rate tax payer and I will receive 25% of the pot tax free.  So I would get a tax free sum of £2800 plus a sum of £6720 (the remaining amount of £8400 taxed at 20%) giving me a return of £9520 on an outlay of £7000.  Not bad.  I just wish I had started it earlier.  In addition the money is invested in funds and can be counted towards the 50-60% I have invested in stocks and shares.

4   Have multiple accounts to make the most of the savings rates out there.
Some money has to be accessible and accessible with low risk.  That means cash in savings accounts.  Rates are dire at the moment so you have to take advantage of every account that gives a good rate.  For me a no-brainer is the Santander 123 account.  It was paying 3% on balances between £3,000-£20,000 but this is due to go down to 1.5% next month.  However, that will still be better than any other current account for those sums of money.  You pay a monthly fee but this is recouped from the standing orders that bring cashback. You need to put in £500 a month and that's what I mean about needing to manage your money and make it work for you.  In this environment you have to be prepared to manage your money, move it around and monitor the rates.  Also check on super saver rates.  Most banks offer savings accounts where you drip feed modest amounts (£250-300  a month) over the course of a year and at the end they pay you interest at rates of up to 6%.  First Direct operate such a scheme and it currently pays 5% which means a return of around £97 on a  drip feed annual investment of £3600.  Leave that money in a normal savings account and you would be lucky to clear £30. 

Other than these two suggestions keep your eyes on best buy tables and be prepared to move your money to where the best rates are.  A bank I like that offer good rates is the fairly new Shawbrook Bank.  It is a bank fully covered by the government's compensation scheme and offers some competitive rates.

5 Consider Peer- to -peer lending

This is a relatively new kid on the block.  Basically you put your money in an account and a company immediately lends your money on your behalf to a set of borrowers who then pay back your money. The result is you get a return much higher than any savings account.  I use ZOPA and the return is around 3.6% p.a.  Your money is basically lent out to a bunch of people you will never see or get to know.  That sounds scary but ZOPA have been doing this for over ten years now and they have a fund to recompense any defaults from borrowers.  The actual level of defaults is very low and after dipping my toes in and seeing how it works I feel very confident with this type of investment.  It's also good in that borrowers get good rates and it cuts out the banks.  When I started with ZOPA they were excellent at explaining things to me and followed up to make sure I understood the process.

6  Invest in your passion

Anyone who has one of these lying around I'll be happy to take it off your hands
If you have a bit of leeway in your finances I think it's good to invest in something you really enjoy.  That way you are receiving pleasure from your money and it may just end up making you money as well.  In my case I like guitars. I do not own any classic guitars but if I had the cash I would be tempted. For others their passion and interests could be classic cars, wine or art. The thing that grabs your interest could equally be an idea for a business or an emerging pop group. For these you can invest by crowd funding or other methods via the internet. This is almost romantic investing, using your heart as much as your brain. And if your investment does not go up in value you still have something you can enjoy or enjoyed being part of.  Helping others get started can be risky but it can also be extremely fulfilling.

7 Give it Away

Finally, if you have more than you need, consider giving some of your money to charities and good causes.  Your capital will decrease but your sense of well being should increase considerably! And don't forget to Gift -Aid any donations.

OK that's it from me.  This was the post I was slightly dreading as it is all a bit matter of fact.  But money is important, not in itself but as a means for letting us do the things we want.  I would love to hear what other people think about my suggestions and the other ways people have of protecting and growing their money. 

Like many of you reading this, I have worked hard, I saved. I have looked after my money and now it's time to spend (cautiously). That's a great feeling. How much for that Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster?

Let me know your thoughts
Take care

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

I lied! It's walking Football

I know I said  in my next post (i.e this one) that I would write about the details of my own financial planning for retirement, but sitting here on a chilly October morning I have decided that I don't want to do that.  It's an important subject for sure but the beauty of retirement is surely being able to "go with the flow" and this morning finance is not flowing for me.  So sorry for the "misleading end" to my last post (a politician's way of saying "lie") but all will be rectified in my next post (promise!).

So what is the subject that has pushed mighty finance to the sidelines?  Observations on Trump v Clinton ?(any Americans out there I feel for you -320 million people and that's your choice), more existential angst about retirement?  No, the subject  I have to tell you about is... drum roll....WALKING FOOTBALL.

I can almost sense the gasps of excitement out there.  What, you ask, is this "walking football" that is deemed to be more exciting and important than financial planning for retirement?  Well, it's like football but you walk rather than run. Erm, I think that's it.

That is essentially it.  Designed for men and women over 50 who like football but don't want to be concussed, slide tackled or taking anti inflammatories for muscle and knee complaints, walking football is a brilliant idea. I went along sceptically as part of my get fit regime and have to say it was great.  Most of the guys there were in mid 50's and it was a real physical work out. Most surprising was how tactical it was and how much it still took out of you physically.  Of course the easiest way to get an advantage over others in walking football is to run.  Very much frowned upon and not allowed but very much in evidence especially when close to goal.  Encouragingly the group I played with had as its worst offender a 68 year old who who had a mischievous smile like a ten year old every time he got away with a little illegal run. Bad boy!

I just thought that whoever came up with the idea of walking football deserves real credit.  A really simple concept that gives a lot of older people a chance to still enjoy a game they used to play but which they believed was now no longer open to them.  I never was  that good at football and I was particularly bad at heading so I was ecstatic when I realised that heading and any overhead height kicking of the ball is disallowed.  In its infancy still, walking football is already growing fast with plenty of teams and competitions springing up all the time. 

I guess this will be my first recommendation.  If you like sport and you enjoyed football when you were younger, go find a walking football group near you.  Great fun and camaraderie- you will not be disappointed.  I would to love hear from anyone reading  this who already takes part.  Have you enjoyed it as much as I have.

OK enough fun and games- finance in next post-I promise. Bah humbug!
Till next time

Friday, 7 October 2016

Money, Money, Money

How did I get here?

Around five years ago when I was 55 I started to realise that retirement was something on the horizon, imminent not distant. I knew that in my profession of teaching I could carry on pretty much as long as I wanted to. If I wanted my full pension then I would need to work until the age of 64. However I also knew that from the age of 60 I could, if I wanted to, retire without loss of benefits as 60 was considered the normal retirement age. The other option I had was leaving at 55 but to do so would have meant having pension payments actuarially reduced. Decisions, decisions.

When to go?

The key point was that at 55 retirement was suddenly an option. But at 55 I was still enjoying my work. I was a deputy headteacher of a special school, teaching drama and music and pretty much at the hub of what was going on at the school. As I approached 60 however I realised that my full-on working day was leaving me increasingly exhausted and unable to enjoy my interests outside of work. I decided that for me leaving at 60 would be the best option. I would still be young enough to enjoy my retirement and take on new challenges and I knew that I could also find some part-time work and take on some volunteer activities. Having decided that I wanted to retire at 60, the next big question was could I afford to retire at 60?

How much do I need?

I’m sure that many people contemplating retirement come up against this question of working out how much money they will need for a comfortable and fulfilling retirement. I knew that I was one of the lucky ones in that as a teacher I would be receiving an index linked final salary pension which in my case amounted to 45% of my final year’s salary plus a lump sum. I know in today’s terms this represents a good pension but for me it still meant a big cut in my income. What I decided to do was to see if I could live off what would be my pension income for two years prior to my retirement and see what kind of lifestyle that would give me. So, two years ago any income above what I expected to receive as my pension went into either savings or investments. What I found was that my notional pension was indeed enough to get me through my core spending. I had paid off my mortgage so my monthly “allowance” only had to cover food, energy, transport, household expenses, going out and other day-to-day expenses. Holidays and other big events such as Christmas were the times that I allowed myself to dip into savings. The result was that two years living successfully and well on what would be my pension helped me make my decision. I could retire!

Goodbye saving, hello spending

What that two years also made me realise was that once retired I would not be doing any more saving as my pension would now just cover the monthly expenses. Saving would come to an end. My financial strategy prior to retirement was to pay off the mortgage, see my boys through university, save and invest. My financial strategy post retirement is to nurture those savings, monitor the spending of them and make sure I leave enough for the future.

Making your money work

My next post will look at where can you put your money in these times of low interest rates and stock market volatility. I will detail what I have done in the hope that it may provide others with some ideas but equally I would welcome suggestions from others as I am no financial expert, just an amateur trying make make my money work and listening to hopefully good advice.

Please get in touch

I would be interested to know how other people approached their retirement and whether anyone else tried to live off what was going to be their retirement income and if so how that went.

Any comments will be more than welcome and I promise to write some more light hearted posts soon. Money’s important but boy can it be a boring subject.

Toodle pip.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

If Mick Jagger can do it......

It's one of my "fast" days today and I am desperate for some food.  Two dollops of yoghurt and a few blueberries just does not do it for me. I am HUNGRY!  But.. I tell myself that this intense hunger is actually a very good thing, it is my body telling me that it is consuming the fat around my belly.  In fact this is great, my hunger proves that my body is eating itself.  Maybe, however my hunger is actually affecting the way my brain works?

To assuage these feelings of hunger I have decided that I need to occupy myself.  One of the areas that I decided to focus on when I retired, was music.  I have played guitar on and off since the age of 11 but in that time  I've never really progressed beyond a few chords and some pathetic soloing attempts on the electric guitar.I always said to myself that if I had the time to improve my guitar playing and singing  I could become the next "Seasick Steve." (If you are not sure who Seasick Steve is, then check him out.  Great bluesy music and fantastic story of someone "making it" later on in life).  Now that's what I call a role model.  And every time I think I'm too old to become a rock star,  I look at Mick Jagger.  He's about to become a father, he's over 70, he struts around the stage, people still pay a fortune to see him play live and he's fairly cool.  So, after writing this I shall dust down the guitar, get out the amp and start practising.  I even think I might have the title from my first big hit, "you stole my girl but leave my biscuits alone."

Joking aside,it is great to be able to have the time to pursue creative interests. Over the last five years, whilst working,  I found that meeting up with friends to rehearse music became more of a chore than a pleasure mainly because we all felt so tired after a full day's work. Now, I can meet up during the day and suddenly the enthusiasm has come rushing back as the exhaustion  recedes.  I enjoyed my work but the days were often very long and always full on.  I would often come home grab something to eat, put  on the telly and invariably fall asleep.  That is not a great way to live your life and looking back I think it was simply working too long a day.   I shall be doing some part-time work in the future  but already I help out with a local charity. In fact I was doing that this morning between seven and 10.30.  Coming home from just doing a few hours and spending those hours doing something meaningful and doing it is a choice rather than a necessity, I now feel refreshed and fulfilled rather than exhausted and frustrated.

The Great Privilege of retirement is having the freedom to choose what you do with your time.  I'm also aware that not everyone of my age is able to have that privilege either because they do not have a pension which gives them that freedom or the health  to pursue the activities that interest them.  I do feel particularly sorry for those women who are currently around 62 years of age who were only told a short while ago  that they would have to wait until 66 to receive their state pension.  This group of women have been treated appallingly and many have not been able to make alternative provision for their retirement and so are forced to carry on working.  The pension age will go up again in a few years and this trend looks set to continue which means that saving for retirement, planning for retirement and investing for retirement  are even more imperative than before for younger generations.I know that is a tall order for many young people saddled with university debts, high rents and frozen incomes.  On top of that,  final salary schemes are disappearing fast which means that unless younger people do take measures to secure a decent pension for themselves, my generation may be one of the last to enjoy the privilege of retiring at 60 with a decent income. 

In my next blog entry I shall talk through what I have learnt which is probably not a lot, about how to make your money work at a time of historically low interest rates and poor returns on savings.  I certainly don't have all the answers but it may be useful for some people to see what alternatives there are to just putting your money in a cash ISA or building society account.  I'm also hoping that people who read my entry can give me and others some alternative suggestions as to how to preserve and build up a pension pot to maximise the chances of a decent retirement.

Until next time.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Slowly getting to grips with weighty issues

Hello there (that's if anyone's out there?), and welcome to this entry where the focus for the next few weeks is how to get into the physical shape necessary for a hopefully long and happy retirement.  Last entry was about the potential dangers of drinking too much alcohol when retired.

Linked to this is the broader issue of losing weight and hopefully thereby avoiding some of the health disadvantages of being overweight.  At 5ft 9ins and 15st 2lbs I am in the "obese" range.  Six years ago I ran the London marathon and was 13st 6lbs so  have put on nearly two stones in two years.  As we age I know the metabolism slows down which means I probably need to eat less than what I was eating a couple of years ago.  I also do not run now as I feel that at my weight I would be putting too much strain on my knees which of course means less exercise and further weight gain.  

Retirement gives me a chance to address these issues in a way that would have been difficult whilst working full-time.  The reasons for this are as follows:
  1. After a stressful day at work I would come home and EAT!
  2. At work there was an almost constant supply of sweets,biscuits, cakes and and other calorific snacks.  They were tempting, gave you a sugar blast and constantly just "there"
  3. When I did eat lunch it was always "on the go" which I know is not a healthy way to eat
Away from work I can plan how I am going to tackle the weight issue, buy the right foods and avoid the sugary temptations of the work environment.The first thing was deciding  what approach I should take to losing weight.  A lot of what I have read makes me question the old othordoxy of low-fat calorie counting.  Instead I can see the logic of eating healthy, non- processed foods with an emphasis on fresh fruit and veg, more protein as opposed to carbs, cutting down on alcohol and building in some fasting. 

Last week I tried the Moseley 5-2 diet to see how I would cope with consuming just 600 calories for two days out of seven.  Surprisingly I did cope but I did not lose weight.  The reason for that is simple- I made up for the food I had skipped by eating more than usual on the 5 normal eating days. Not what was intended I know but it did at least show me that the 5-2 diet was a possibility and for a foodie like me restricting my intake for a day rather than days on end was definitely more manageable.  This week I shall do the two fasting days but eat sensibly on the 5 other days and see what happens.

I will also build in some meditation and look at building in some new routines around food such as eating more slowly and not finishing other people's leftovers!

I will record the process in this blog and see if I can lose around 8lbs by the end of the month.

Till next time.