I well remember a conversation I had with colleagues, over coffee, more than a decade ago, now. In the middle of the hubbub a question was posed. You know, one of those questions that hangs in the air for what seems like an age while the brain goes into overdrive in pursuit of a watertight answer.
“Who would consider early retirement if the opportunity presented itself?”
It was me who popped the collective thought bubble. While others were stroking their chins and imagining a life without work, my instant response was simply, “I would.”
Others weren’t so sure. No doubt they all had their own personal reasons for being apprehensive or non-commital. They never actually said. The talk just segued from the prospect of not working, to something work-related.
Eighteen months later, all employees received an email, with an open invitation for interested parties to discuss voluntary redundancy.
Before I scorched the carpet en route to my head of department, I spent around half a week communicating with the people in the university’s pension section. Me making enquiries about lump sums and monthly pension payments, wondering if all those AVCs would actually pay off. They, coming back to me with increasingly attractive propositions.
At home, we pored over the figures, calculated and recalculated. It would be a little bit tight, but totally possible. I could finish in 2006. Mags would properly retire one year later. By properly I mean, she would be entitled to a full state pension, plus her works pension. I still have a way to go before I qualify for state pension, due to the goalposts being moved by those who know what’s best for us. But that’s by the by.
The point is – yes there is a point – it’s entirely possible to finish work if you’re not planning to live extravagantly. It wasn’t too hard for us because we’re not big spenders. There would be no cruises or globetrotting adventures on the horizon, even if I had gone the full distance. Our only plan was to continue living simply, make the most of our surroundings, and give time over to some of those pursuits we didn’t have room for whilst we were wage slaves. We had abandoned any notion of ever being home-buyers, let alone home-owners a long time before abandoning the workplace. Tying ourselves to the purchase of a property was something we could never take seriously. Although we did dabble with a mortgage for a few short years, during the 90s.
Having said all this, for many the prospect of finishing with work only raises its head when someone asks “The big money question: would you quit work for £1m?” When The Guardian asked it a variety of responses came forth. I found myself nodding with Indi Jackson and Sarah Walbank, mostly. I guess my own outlook is somewhere between the two.
I eventually leapt into the half-light in June/July of 2006. Our first grandchild arrived in December of the same year, followed by identical twins in 2009. Being on hand to see them grow and develop has been better than all the cruises, meals at swanky restaurants, seats for blockbuster shows, and new cars all rolled into one.
All in all, it’s been a great journey, so far. Absolutely no regrets for either of us. When I shared the Guardian piece on Facebook, earlier, a friend responded with, “Quit in 1988 for peanuts. Wonderful.” My reply, “Me, too. Shackles off. Worth more than 10 million pounds to me.”