Today is the second anniversary of my new life. My husband and I both retired from the Met Police exactly two years ago. I thought that I would share some of the things I have learned or struggled with along the way. Please don’t think that this is a smug article about getting it all right and leading the perfect life. Life throws in plenty of challenges along the way.
- Start planning the new phase of your life early…. MUCH earlier than you think you need. It is really hard to spend time and energy focusing on your future, especially when you have a really busy and pressurised policing job. However, once your date for leaving arrives…do you know what? They will manage without you. I know that is hard to imagine, but the reality is that we all just make ripples in the pond. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your current responsibilities, but you need to start to plan to look after yourself and your future – no-one else will.
- Get all the help you can to plan your future finances. Attend as many pre-retirement courses as possible. I learned something from each one. Work out what your net income will be. You can run calculations through the www.gov.uk pensions calculator, or closer to retirement, ask your pay branch to give you an estimate. Remember that you won’t pay NI or pension contributions on your pension. Just tax. (Also, you can continue to get good life insurance for retired officers through the Police Federation…if you apply within three months of retiring). Look at the gap between your future net pension, any other income top ups, and your outgoings. Also, maybe do an inventory of what you currently spend your money on. I know that I used to spend plenty on coffees and lunches. Now that has reduced significantly…not because I’m stingy, but my lifestyle and working pattern has changed. I really felt the responsibility of investing two lump sums was a very heavy burden. It represented two lifetimes of blood, sweat and tears. I took independent financial advice, paid well for it, and enjoy the reassurance that it is being well-managed.
- What will I do now? Will I work? Self- employed or employed? Full or part-time? Lots of choices and decisions. Don’t worry… if you get it wrong you can always switch. I thought that I wanted some regular routine – so I took on a lecturing post for two days a week. However the demands of preparing to teach, marking papers etc. took up so much time that I couldn’t put enough time and energy into the new business my husband and I had also started. It wasn’t disastrous to change direction once I had decided to give up the teaching post.
- If you are going to be self-employed, pay for a good accountant. Interview a couple before you decide. Talk through the options around being a Sole Trader or a Limited Company. It was all new to me, but now I actually enjoy the flexibility of having our own Limited Company. It also still feels strange to invoice people and then they pay you!!! Also, be careful you don’t waste money. I have just finished a two year business contract on our mobile phones and changed to a much cheaper option where we are not tied in. With hindsight, maybe I should have got less fancy phones and saved the business a fortune. Remember that if you buy a gold inlaid desk and travel first class everywhere and charge it to your business, then that means less dividend or income for you at the end of the year.
- Be prepared to be flexible. Life will throw plenty of issues at you – from ill health, caring for nearest and dearest, grandchildren etc. etc. You will probably find that you will have to regularly reappraise what and how much you work.
- Think about what makes you tick. There is little point in starting a new phase of your life and not enjoying it. If you are a people person, then working at home all the time might not float your boat. I have found that I can manage some days working on my own, but I really thrive on working with others and I like plenty of social interaction. So, I am working on shaping my work and interests so that I get enough of the right balance for me. Remember, you might get the ‘fun’ parts of your new life from pursuing more of your hobbies and interests too.
- Look after yourself. Mentally and physically. Try to factor in some activities which support your mental and physical health. We got a dog. My daughter had pestered for years and we finally ran out of excuses. Walking our cockapoo Ted everyday not only gives me fresh air and exercise… but it’s also boosted my social life too. I’ve not turned into Barbara Woodhouse yet, but I do know lots of dog owners, walkers, keen gardeners etc. in the area. Ted is a great ice-breaker.
- Don’t over rely on your partner to keep you entertained. They won’t be used to having you around… and frankly probably just want to get on and ‘do their own thing’, as they always have done. My husband and I retired at the same time and it has been a strange period of adjustment. However, I do my stuff, and he does his. He does ask me not to keep ‘managing’ him… so obviously I don’t always get it right. We actually diary in when we want to spend time together, or do some joint work.
- Be open to new ideas and then develop them. You may have a very definite idea of what you want to do and how you want to do it. I found that I had some half-formed ideas and took professional advice to help me to shape them. It’s still a work in progress. Most of my work has come about by chance. I say that, but in reality it’s been the result of networking. Networking doesn’t have to be an onerous round of handshaking. When meeting old or new acquaintances let people know who you are, what you can do, and what sorts of things you’d like to do. You should ideally start doing this well before you leave policing. I don’t say I am a retired police officer. I say that I used to be in the police and now run my own business.
- Enjoy your life. This isn’t a dress rehearsal (at least not for most of us).