Work, retirement and widowhood

This question was recently posted on Facebook, and raising some interesting issues about work, retirement and widowhood: “I reached full retirement age within the last two weeks, and I am working for the next two years. I know others are working longer for the same reason, while things straighten out in pension funds and other accounts. It is basically our last opportunity to be wage earners. Currently, I work at a job that has me putting in up to 50 hours a week. So do many others in my profession; it’s been a way of life for over 40 years. I also have a side business that requires up to 20 hours a week. I am also researching and writing two books, one is a book on the widowed experience, the other is a historic crime novel. That means up to 90 hours a week can occupy my time. Yes, I can reduce hours on the books and part time business as other demands require. That also means that when I retire, I have something to occupy my time up to 40 hours a week. I have read about the time wasters and money wasters that can be a hazard to one’s wellbeing as well as health in retirement. I have also read that if you have a hobby or pastime that not only replaces an expensive hobby, but is enjoyable as well as generating a little income, that is a positive thing.

What is also coming up is the loneliness part of the widowed life, before or during retirement. Are long hours of work some means to cope with the situation? After 4 1/2 years I find myself not in a serious relationship. Are long hours some type of subconscious buffer to keep me from moving forward?

work retirement and widowhood

The thing is, I like my work. I get to deal with and interact with people all day long. It’s the same thing with my part time business. I’m the business partner that does the marketing part. I also enjoy the writing. People I talk to tell me they sense a certain excitement when I talk about the storyline or the characters in my historic crime novel. I am doing three things that I enjoy that require many hours of my time.

As far as lifestyle, my home environment, and my health are better than they have been in almost 20 years. Financially, I could retire now, but there is a certain income level I want to have. Also, I have been really using all resources available relating to my health, dental, and eyewear insurance. I have really good insurance”.

Should this man retire?

There are a number of factors in play here –

The meaning and value of work

– if financial factors are not a consideration (as appears to be the case) is there a benefit in continuing to work for the satisfaction of the daily challenge?  Or is this man afraid of retirement, a change of life, a loss of status?  Only he can answer that, but a dispassionate view would be that we shouldn’t be worried about change – rising to a new and different set of circumstances (retirement) is the stuff of life itself.


Loneliness – that is indeed the scourge of aging.  The loss of a long time partner is one of the most difficult issues to cope with.  Keeping busy is a way of not brooding over the past, boredom, lack of social contact – and work is a provider of those distractions. The NHS has some advice but no-one would pretend to have an easy answer. Stay active, involved, try to smile – trite words and not easy to follow.

A personal anecdote – I have a memory of observing my father through my rear view mirror, as I drove away from the family home after my mother’s funeral.  I was leaving him alone for the first time in 50 years – a picture of misery and desolation.

Time – work occupies our time.  Both at work and thinking about it, plus the daily commute, all eat into our waking hours – which are limited.  A limitation that we are increasingly aware of as we age.  We could easily spend 40 years at the coalface and just a dozen or so trying to spend our accumulated wealth.
Money – a universal factor in deciding when to retire.  It seems to me that once you have enough to fund your chosen lifestyle (frugal, traveller, extravagant – you choose) spending time to make more money is pointless. Many, many people have no choice of course, either through lack of planning, circumstance, a plethora of life’s choices – whatever the reason, your financial circumstances in retirement are likely governed by the choices you make in your prime earning years – 30s and 40s.  It’s certainly going to be more difficult to fund a luxurious lifestyle  with our current pension arrangements, so the current crop of retirees may be a golden generation.  We should give thanks and make the most of it.
The answer – there isn’t one of course, based on a brief description of the circumstances.  But some rules may apply in approaching a retirement decision –
  • Sort out your finances – get some advice, work out a budget, be realistic about your future prospects
  • Plan your new lifestyle – do you want to travel, be active in your community, spend more time with your family.  Retire with a purpose and a plan.
  • Maintain a positive attitude – something we should all strive for and admittedly difficult at the present time
  • Look forward – to a new life full of possibilities and challenges.  And don’t look back with regret – nothing good lies that way.

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