No wonder I’m finding retirement difficult, witness this extract from last Sunday’s Observer.
Automation and globalisation are combining to generate a world with a surfeit of labour and too little work. A job – apart from family, the most important piece of social infrastructure – can no longer be counted on to fulfil its roles : ordering our days, providing purchasing power and strengthening social ties that come when individuals contribute to the community. Workers are unlikely to take these woes lying down. The battle lines of the great social upheaval are being drawn.
Now I realise that not having a job when you’re ‘legitimately retired’ is different to not having a job in that part of your life when you ‘should’ have one. I’m sure that the impact on one’s self-esteem is more damaging with the latter. However, the power of the above statement does give a fair indication of the vital role work plays in our lives and the psychological and practical cost to not having a job when a person retires. I reckon, despite some differences, much of the above statement can apply to retirement as well as one’s working life. For example – ordering our days – may just be the most obvious point of comparison. In my own case this lack of order, despite various attempts to fill the void, has a perhaps unexpected and unwelcome spin-off – I worry more because I have more time to worry. As I think I said in a recent blog, the Devil makes work for idle hands. The ‘work’ in my case is more time to have negative thoughts about my retirement.
For reasons that I’m not going to write about in this blog (this will come later) I got quite fed-up this week. Things (as yet unspecified) keep going wrong. The grape-eating sheep one such example and there are others. The point is not that things didn’t go wrong when I was working but rather that, when I was employed, I didn’t have the time to go over and over these ‘bad’ things, I had to get on with my work of helping others deal with their problems. Nothing like being appropriately immersed in somebody else’s problems to over-ride one’s own. The only over-riding that happens to me these days is when the next set of problems come along and overlays any former problems. A bit like the guy whose life had been threatened in a previous blog making my nasty little problem seem pale by comparison. This works a bit for me but this – there’s always someone worse off than yourself (just watch the TV news) doesn’t work perhaps as well as it should for me. I can accept that intellectually it’s the case but emotionally I still feel sorry for myself. Phew, I told you I was a bit down in the dumps this week.
I should be cheered by point two – providing purchasing power – but although some of us have decent pensions, as I’ve written before I have no idea what constitutes a ‘decent’ pension, but I’ll assume we’re doing OK, retirement inevitably reduces our spending power. The bald truth is we are living on about half of what we used to. I worry we overspend on a weekly basis and that this is entirely my own doing. Mrs Summerhouse has little use for consumer durables if that is what they are still called. And, to be fair to myself, neither do I except for my weakness for guitars (two more purchased at the auction last week) not to mention all the peripheral items such as music stands, guitar stands / straps, effects pedals and on and on. I suppose I’ve always worried a bit about money, who doesn’t but I put it to the court that retirement adds a certain piquancy to this financial worry.
Then finally, point three – strengthening social ties that come when individuals contribute to the community. This seems like a two part concern. First, there’s the loss of friends (and colleagues obviously) through a variety of reasons ranging from people dying, moving away, developing different life-styles when they retire to the probably least-attractive – I can’t be bothered, I’ll be dead soon, so what’s the point in having friends, certainly no point in making any new ones. I told you I was feeling a bit gloomy this week.
The second part of this, about contributing to the community, I realise should become more of an option when a person retires rather than less. After all isn’t this what a lot of retired people do, they work for charitable organisations, they do good works, give their time to others either family or otherwise. And God bless them but sadly this isn’t me. I suppose before I retired I vaguely thought I might do this sort of thing, use my counselling skills or whatever for the benefit of others. For whatever reason – one being I didn’t want to feel tied down and therefore not able to travel the world – ha. And then there’s the ‘I’m too selfish’ reason. Anyway I haven’t done it.
So yes, retirement is still a bit of a struggle for me and serves you right too, you’re probably thinking having read this. I don’t suppose I’m unique but then again I don’t know. As I’ve suggested we don’t have loads of retired friends to compare with and those we do have you can only ask so many times – so what do you make of retirement before they strike you off their list. It’s not that I’m bored, quite the opposite either planned or otherwise we have a very full retirement life but we seem to have filled it with activities – gardening business, house renovation, health (just started on insulin, another worry), vineyard, blog writing, children and so it goes, so it goes. It does cause me to wonder what a perfect retirement might look like and whether anybody out there has actually achieved something of the sort. Next week we’re off to Scotland (somewhere the euro hasn’t proved problematic at least not until they get independence). Hopefully, I’ll have an internet connection up there so I can continue to brighten up your lives with my little cups of poison (as one critic described Woody Allen’s movie, Stardust Memories and that’s the significance of image at the beginning). Retirement it’s a jolly business.