Q: How can one tell when it’s the right time to retire? I’m “of age” and have the savings to make most of my post-retirement dreams a reality (so money isn’t an issue), but I just can’t bring myself to quit my job, which I’ve been doing for over 30 years.
A: When I was in my 20s, I didn’t really understand why we ran retirement courses, but in the last few years, I recognise that retirement is like embarking on a brand new career, a major move that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Up until a few years ago, the decision to retire was made on your behalf. Men retired at 65, women went at 60 and a lot of bank managers started playing golf three times a week at the age of 55. When the big day arrived, your closest colleagues gathered for a retirement presentation, a lunch or dinner and after a couple of emotional speeches, the appropriate gift of a strimmer, a golf bag or some travel vouchers was handed over. You said goodbye to the company credit card and looked forward to living your dreams by spending your pension and some of your savings.
But since 2011, employers can no longer force you to retire. In theory, the decision is up to you and I can understand why you find it so difficult to make up your mind.
The right answer will vary from one person to another. For some, early retirement provides the perfect chance to pursue a lifetime ambition, embark on a second career or live a life of leisure. For others, retirement can extinguish the burning purpose that made life so worthwhile.
If you are so in love with your job, stick with it. But when retirement finally comes your way, fill your diary with travel, friends and pastimes. It doesn’t have to be golf – bowls, a choir, bridge and the local rambling club can work just as well.
Last month, one of our most senior colleagues decided to retire. Perry Watkins has done a most amazing job for our business as the operations director of the Timpson shops, responsible for about 2,500 colleagues who run our core key cutting, watch repair and shoe repair business.
I first met Perry in Aylesbury where he was a young shoe repairer in a scruffy shop we had just taken over from a competitor. Perry was 18 and gave no hint that I was talking to the man who would play a critical role in our future. Within a year, he was managing a shop and at the age of 25 became our youngest area manager.
He displayed an awesome talent for finding people with the right personality to look after our customers and to pick out those most suited to be part of our area management team. Thanks to Perry we haven’t had to hire a field manager from elsewhere for over 25 years. Perry has been responsible for running the business while it has grown from 350 to 1,350 shops.
But, while all this was going on, Perry was also very busy in his spare time – pursuing a hobby that has, more than once, got him into the Guinness World Records. The first we knew about his talent for model building was when he built a remote control vehicle called Mr Nasty that appeared in the television programme Robot Wars. After that Perry started building some extraordinary roadworthy vehicles, including the world’s lowest and smallest cars as well as the fastest piece of furniture – a bed that can reach 140mph.
So when Perry decided to retire at the age of 60, we knew he wouldn’t be short of something to do. His timing was perfect. Day to day management in our type of business is pretty full on – a life spent on the road, visiting all the shops and tackling a neverending list of everyday problems, pressures that take their toll with age. Perry retires at the top of his game having helped the business negotiate the pandemic and with plenty of energy to pursue his unique hobby and enjoy the holidays he has planned with his wife Angie.
When it comes to finding the right time to retire, Perry found his perfect answer. He picked the moment when he could hand over to the next generation, leave a remarkable legacy and still have the fitness and enthusiasm to pursue an absorbing hobby.
But a word of caution, life can be full of surprises. Your job has probably produced plenty of highs and lows so expect retirement to bring a few unexpected twists and turns. Whatever you decide, it’s unlikely that retirement will go precisely to plan.
Sir John Timpson is chairman of the high-street services provider, Timpson.
Send him a question at [email protected] and read more answers from his Ask John column here