Last week I had a meeting with my independent financial adviser to discuss my pension.
As usual on these occasions, we reviewed the performance of my pension over the past year (not great), then went on to discuss how and when I might start drawing on the pension, tax efficiently.
We crunched through the figures and shot the breeze about world events. Having fixed on a date when payment of pension would begin, said IFA turns to me and says, “So, you’ll be a pensioner”.
I am 58 in December. Not in the first flush of youth, I’ll grant you, but still…
“I don’t regard it as a pension,” I retorted, sharply. “It’s just another policy”.
“Investments”, volunteered the IFA, looking suitably chastened.
“Exactly”, I replied, firmly.
Driving home, I pondered IFA’s words and particularly the bit about me being on the cusp of pensionhood, aka old age.
At what point in life, I asked myself, does a person become a pensioner? Is it, as suggested by my IFA, when they draw on a policy called a pension? Is it when they draw their state pension, which for women of my age is 67 (10 years to go on that one, if you please) or is it some other time?
I googled a definition of “pension”:-
“a regular payment made by the state to people of or above the official retirement age …..
So, Mr IFA man, I am definitely not about to become a pensioner, as I will not achieve retirement age until I’m 67, assuming the government has not raised the age to 110 by then, due to absence of funds in the state pension pot. Ok, so my money man may have been speaking facetiously or in jest. If so, I have a sense of humour failure in this area.
Then again, does it really matter what it’s called if there is money coming in from somewhere to keep the wolf from the door and pay the eye-wateringly expensive care home fees I might incur in the future?
Well, I find that it does matter to me, as I don’t like to bump up against names and labels which don’t feel comfortable or appropriate for me.
Allied to this “pensioner” issue, I find that I also have a problem with being described as “retired”. For example, on most applications I make, of whatever sort, the category into which it seems I have to be deposited now is that of “retired” person.
Digging around the geriatric section of Google, I found a couple more definitions, this time for “retired”.
“having left one’s job and ceased to work”
N/A. I work a small number of hours in adult health and social care, as and when it suits me, so have not ceased to work. By law, however, I can’t call myself a “part-time” worker because I don’t work the requisite number of hours.
“withdrawn from one’s position or occupation – having concluded one’s working or professional career”
I guess this comes closer to it, as I practised as a lawyer for 30 years before giving up my job about 4 years ago. I have not gone back to the law and doubt that I ever will. However, I remain interested in learning new skills and training in different fields. In a couple of weeks, I will undergo training to do some voluntary work for a mental health charity. I may take that training further into professional qualification. I definitely do not regard myself as having concluded my working life and I intend to continue working, on my terms, for as long as someone will have me.
Then again, what about women, who had a career, but gave up that career to bring up children – a very big job indeed. Should those women, who were most likely in their 20s and 30s, be regarded as “retired” because they gave up a career to take on the full time job of childcare when they were young? I don’t think so.
There are also the many who, after giving up their paid work, go on to take up voluntary work, doing many hours of valuable and, often, difficult work, for no pay. Are they retired persons? I don’t think so.
From the blogs I read and the contemporaries I speak to, I sense that those borne in the 50s and 60s view life differently to their parents and grandparents. When it comes to the working life, many intend to continue working for as long as it suits them. Two formidable ladies I used to work with, both now around 70ish I would guess (they never divulged their actual age, and why should they?) are still working as lawyers, in my old firm, and want to continue doing so. I read and know of many others who have left their long term careers to start working in new occupations or in business for themselves. Then again, I know of many women who have returned to “BC – before children” roles, many years after leaving, or to different roles and occupations.
The days of the carriage clock leaving present at 65 for men and 60 for women have gone, not least because we must all retire later due to insufficient money in the social and health care pots. No more subscriptions to the local lawn bowls club (which, when you come to think of it, was a bit of a cheapskate present when life expectancy was about 70ish). People change jobs much more frequently these days and the “job for life”, which ends suddenly at “retirement” is becoming a thing of the past, I think. This trend seems set to continue for the generations coming behind.
So I think we need some new labels. Any ideas? I think a pension is a long term investment plan (ok, not that catchy and more words to write, but I’m open to persuasion). Retirement could be replaced by? How about life development? (ok, ok it doesn’t grab you, but I’m hoping to open reflection and thoughtfulness around this).
Maybe there shouldn’t be any labels at all because labels create perceptions. which may bear no connection to reality. Some of the labels that attach to advancement in years point to endings and a gloomy future. Does it have to be that way?
Almost certainly, I have less years to live than I have lived. My joints are protesting and I am developing some of the ailments which afflicted my parents. I know from the experience of seeing my parents age and from my work in adult social care that growing old is not for wimps, as someone else said. It brings with it challenges, on a daily basis, which were not there in youth. Does that mean I should I give up? Accept pensioner status and watch daytime TV, whilst waiting for the grim reaper to knock on my door? How would that help? It would make me feel worse. I don’t think it is any coincidence that many older people suffer from depression because they feel their life is over (when it definitely isn’t) and they have no place or purpose in society.
For my part, I don’t want to be dismissed as part of a group in society which is “past it” and has nothing to contribute. I don’t believe that is fair or true. Attitudes are changing as many people live longer and better lives and are able to continue contributing to society in much-needed ways. I do think, though, that there is more work to be done to re-classify the later phases of life in such a way that allows us to accept the reality of ageing, at the same time as recognising what can be and has been achieved by the older(est) generations. Old age isn’t a disease. It’s a fact of life. Let’s acknowledge it, talk about it and be as positive about it as possible. Let’s draw the most out of every day, whatever age we are.
Or am I just kidding myself?