This ‘seeingmeout’ blog has been intermittently evolving in my mind ever since I accepted an early retirement package from being a film academic at Queensland University of Technology at the end of 2010. Contrary to managing, years in advance, a well-thought-through retirement process, my departure from permanent work turned out to be a speedy, unexpected roller-coaster ride over a couple of months. This rather unorthodox and unplanned experience was essentially a metamorphosis into the unwelcome, even alien state of becoming a ‘retiree’, a label I had shied away from for years. With the wisdom of some hindsight now at the beginning of 2014, this experience has become quite a liberating, though not at all straightforward, transformation into the mysterious messy world of post-work.
I started morphing from long-term worker to newborn retiree at the end of 2010. The University was enacting a form of ‘generation change’, and, of course, the ageing generation called the Baby Boomers was targeted.
One significant ‘ah-hah’ moment for me occurred when, amidst sorting out my finances post-retirement, I bought a brand new car in early 2011. Seemingly well-meaning, sympathetic people commented, ‘Ah that’s good. The new car will see you out’. My immediate reaction was resistance – No! I want at least five more cars, including a red sportscar, before I’m well and truly ‘seen out’.
When the further acquisition of a shiny new stove brought forward another grim chorus that this stove would also ‘see me out’, I found that this rather quaint expression, designed to comfort me, actually disarmed me, raising intimations of my mortality. I couldn’t help feeling that I was literally ‘on the way out’, with all my possessions lined up, waving me a fond farewell. I even found myself panicking and taking on this doomsday line of thought, scanning my wardrobe, for instance, wondering if the clothes I had already acquired would indeed ‘see me out’..
I pursued this rather puzzling ‘seeingmeout’ syndrome. My friends and acquaintances reported that their parents comforted themselves in their twilight years by saying they hoped that some possession or other would ‘see them out’. I realized that this fateful bitter-sweet expression could lay the rather shaky foundations of a personal blog, with the modest aim of unpacking and hopefully disrupting the related myths and realities of ageing, retirement, financial planning, and many related topics. This resistant blog is definitely not meant to be a standard self-help tome on how to retire or age gracefully…but hopefully from my experiences there are some useful tidbits here and there for others to contemplate.
I had not prepared in any substantial emotional, psychological or practical way for this confronting ‘seeingmeout’ state called ‘retirement’. When the offer came through, I was on leave in London in October 2010, and by December I had embraced the fact and retired. Having some distance geographically from the institution did help me make my decision to accept the retirement package – as well as some good advice from my long-suffering accountant. For years building up to this, I had tried to avoid thinking about Retirement and associated concepts such as Superannuation or Financial Planning, and would even become irritated or bored if my peers raised these topics, especially at social gatherings. As with any form of literacy or skill acquisition, readiness is all, especially when one is thrown into the deep end.
By the beginning of 2010, retirement to me had seemed a long way off, given the rather shambolic state of my financial affairs. At the time, I was reluctantly persuaded to attend a Baby-Boomer-targeted Planning for Retirement seminar run by my superannuation provider, Q-Super. Thankfully I bumped into an old mate and we sat at the back of the room, mystified by the charts and projections, behaving like the naughtiest girls in the class. Over a welcome recovery coffee afterwards, we both recognized that, while the people around us all nodded and behaved as though they knew how to realise the perfect dream of becoming successful Self-funded Retirees (SFRs), the path to retirement was a very shaky one, for different reasons, for both of us, and rueful laughter seemed the only way to cope.
My commonsense told me to face up to ageing and take a more mature approach to the realities of impending retirement. I therefore paid for a stint with a Financial Advisor. He made me feel as though I had been sent to a stern headmaster for a detention. This Advisor forecast that I was doomed to longevity in the workplace, given that I had had my head in the sand for too long. I had apparently committed the following catalogue of lifestyle cardinal sins, indulging in, for instance:
- Ongoing mortgage debt
- Too many overseas trips
- Living beyond my means each fortnight
- An expensive social life etc (by implication perhaps too much crazy wayward spending on unmentionable pleasures)
I also quite categorically had no real safety net, apart from superannuation, summed up as:
- No savings to speak of
- No real inheritance
- No stocks and shares
- No second property investment…etc etc
Both my parents had sadly died a while ago at 74 years of age. On discovering this fact, the Advisor’s barely disguised disdain shifted to a kind of macabre optimism, that at least I wouldn’t need very much money to survive, given the family history. Apparently his financial acumen also contained powers that could prophesy that I would definitely follow the family mortality pattern. In the midst of this financial and bodily damnation, I pathetically cried ‘Surely I can see New York and Paris again?’ The answer was a very predictable one from this grim financial reaper. He had already seen me out.
coming up: This blog contains no simple ‘seeingmeout’ recipes for life. But please tune in for hopefully diverting and refreshing views on my great timeless love, films, along with a further exploration of post-work pleasures and pain.