A few years ago a friend of mine retired. He’d been looking forward to it for years. He bought a cottage on the isle of Anglesey, in Wales. He furnished it, then waited for the moment when he could walk away from forty-five years of work and drop down into his new patio lounger, glass in hand, and watch the tide coming in and out. The big day came. He moved over to his new home and a week later he dropped down dead.
It could have happened to anyone. We were all shocked and saddened. But so often we hear similar tales, and the common thread seems to involve that dreaded transition from being needed, respected, indispensable… to being surplus-to-requirements.
You are going to want to avoid this happening to you. Whether you are in your thirties, forties or fifties, the time to avoid the scourge of transition is now. This isn’t about planning for retirement, it is about planning for non-retirement.
Who wants to feel useless? All that training and knowledge gone to waste? I think cloud-watching could be an over-rated pastime.
The secret is: Do the thing. You know, the thing you always wanted to do. The career you couldn’t choose because you had a family to feed, a mortgage to pay. Photographer, artist, actor, musician, and in my case, author. And I suggest you do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t get to that big day and find yourself looking up at a learning curve that resembles The Eiger.
Of course your day job might also be your thing. If that is so then congratulations, and I have nothing here to offer by way of advice. But of course you have no plans to retire, anyway. Why should you give up doing the thing you love? The rest of us, well, we need to start now.
Begin to dabble. Start acquiring the skills. Take a little time to ease into your chosen creative world and learn the connections. There’s often a barrier to entry, a gatekeeper, and this could be the insider knowledge about how to submit to exhibitions, how to get into Musical Directors’ address books, becoming known in the local amateur theatre circuit or knowing where to submit stories. Get to know the gatekeeper early and get yourself a set of master keys. None of this has to detract from your career. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies. Except you know: it isn’t a hobby, it’s a beginning. It’s that thing that will grow and become all-consuming. Your raison d’être.
Then, when the time comes for you to make the transition – note we’re not using the R word anymore – you will find there is no transition. You are ready. You are accessing a supporting income, that some people call a pension, to allow you a moderately risk-free transition into the thing you always wanted to do. The old day job is no longer a precious jewel you have lost but an old thing you can at last push aside so you can get on with the real meaning of your life. If you can earn some income from your former-hobby/new-career, then great, every bit helps. If you don’t earn much, then no matter, you’re not going to starve.
All of this is subject to your own circumstances of course: having access to a reasonable pension, retaining your health, having a conducive domestic situation. These things matter and they are all part of your forward planning, not just your creative thing but taking exercise and being serious about financial plans. But if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to act. Find your thing and take those first steps.