My Retirement Story
In September 1974, aged 20 I was employed in my first job with a multi-national, American Company.
40 years and four months later, in December 2014 I retired having spent all my working life with this same Company. My career was wonderful, rewarding, fulfilling, challenging and many other superlatives too many to list. There was not one day that was ever the same, I was stretched both physically and intellectually, hours were always long but that came with the ‘turf’. I was well trained (continuously) well looked after (financially and emotionally) well informed (constantly), valued as an employee (and told so frequently). I had responsibility which increased with experience, had direct management control of large numbers of direct and indirect employees, managed assets and contracts worth millions of dollars and worked in some wonderful places.
I was/am truly lucky and blessed for such a wonderful working life……in my industry the one constant is change, adapting to that change is key, embracing that change is necessary and that for me was the factor that kept my career so interesting, so stimulating, so fresh and gave me a spring in my step every day.
In the industry ‘I grew up in’ we take nothing for granted, by virtue of what we do, we are measured, controlled, considered. We review what we plan to do, build in steps to quantify our actions, develop measures to analyze the gaps. Steward the progress and outcomes and quantify success. The criteria is to deliver flawlessly. This was, I thought, how I had planned my retirement.
My Company sent me on a fabulous ‘pre-retirement’ course, well ahead of when I anticipated to retire, we covered lots of really fundamental ground not just financial planning. It was always the intention to reduce my working hours before retirement – that did not happen, when I ‘finished’ I was still working long hours, five days per week, sometimes more.
I retired and ‘fell off the cliff’. I kept busy for three months, nice holidays, decorating, gardening but then reality kicked in. I had lost my responsibility, I no longer had lots of folk reporting into me, I no longer felt valued, I had no one telling me what a good job I was doing, I had lost my ‘working family’. I had lost my purpose in life – rudderless!
Then Salvation! Some nine months later, a call from my old employer, they had a really challenging project, could I come back as a self-employed contractor. I started up my new company immediately and three years later I haven’t looked back. I’m enjoying it enormously, my mojo returned as soon as I returned to working life. The BIG difference now is that my hours are flexible, not less than three days a week but sometimes more, I once again feel valued and have purpose, I feel my life has balance and I’m really enjoying life without the constraints of being employed directly. I like to think of myself as semi-retired not retired, very much appreciated and very CONTENT.
Full retirement works for some but not all – many of my peers think I am insane to return to the pressure (although I also think there is a certain amount of envy as well!) but we are all different and I think it’s all about striking that balance in life that individuals want. It certainly works for me.