Think retirement’s all about beige, bowls and bingo? Think again. Watch Kathy’s story (above) for proof positive that you can still be bold when you’re old.
When you’re still young, it can be tempting to dismiss retirement as a period of life you’re going find a little bit dull. After all, you’ll have nothing better to do with yourself than watch daytime TV and claim your free bus pass, right?
Well, not exactly.
Because as 73-year-old Kathy shows, your later life can often prove to be the time of your life. Especially if you take a few steps to prepare.
“I’ve always been short and I’ve always been stumpy,” says the self-effacing star of our Old and Bold film, which we produced in collaboration with Vice. “But I still get there.”
And it’s fair to say that’s something of an understatement.
Kathy has now taken part in more than 1,000 races and competed across the globe.
When she could no longer compete as an elite ‘Judoku’ in the British women’s judo squad, as she had done for much of her life, Kathy decided that a shy and retiring retirement just wasn’t for her. Instead, she took up marathon-running at the age of 57, starting with the Berlin Marathon back in 2000.
Since she completed that first 25-mile run, Kathy has taken part in more than 1,000 races and competed across the globe. She has run the London Marathon, the Midnight Sun Half Marathon at night-time in Norway, and countless other races throughout Europe and elsewhere. In the year following her 70th birthday, she ran 124 races – beating her initial target of 70, and putting most of us to shame in the process.
“When I finish a race I feel like I’ve won,” she says. “I feel fantastic.”
Happiness comes with age
Kathy isn’t the only one who’s feeling sparkly in her golden years, either. Because, contrary to what you might think, in a survey of 6,000 over 30-year-olds, retired people were found to be the happiest age group of all.
In our Voice of New Retirement report, nearly two-thirds of retirees described themselves as happy, compared with just 42% of those who aren’t yet retired. And they were also twice as likely as unretired people (14% vs 7%) to be ‘extremely happy’.
When are people happiest?
On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is the happiest and 0 is the unhappiest, people aged 75 + scored the highest (7.15) while those aged 40 to 49 scored the lowest (5.55) and those between 30 and 39 scored 5.82. People aged 65-74 were only just behind the 75+-year-olds, with a happiness score of 6.77 out of 10.
So why are the older generation so happy with their lot?
Retirement is often thought of as a liberating experience, and this could play a big role in why people are happier once they’ve retired. Almost four in five retirees feel in control of their lives and free to make decisions, compared to only half of the unretired.
Our research also supports the view of retirement as a chance for people to do all the things they haven’t been able to do before. More than half (53%) of retirees say it has given them the opportunity to do this. So if you fancy travelling the world, writing a novel or even starting a new career, your later life could be the ideal time to do it.
As our retirement and savings manager, Alistair McQueen, says: “The transition into retirement provides the perfect opportunity to realign or reinvent ourselves and our life following our full-time working career and can be seen as a new beginning.
“Many of us can spend our earlier working lives with little control over our daily routine, so the opportunity to start a new chapter in later life is one that should be maximised.”
Preparation is key
Just like in running, preparation is key if you want a happier retirement.
People who start planning for retirement a long time in advance are the most likely to feel the experience has exceeded their expectations, according to our research. And they’re also the most content financially.
So if you don’t have a pension already, it makes sense to start one as soon as you can – because the earlier you begin, the easier it is to make a big difference to your pension pot – even through small changes.
Five quick tips to help you save for a happier retirement
2. Take it seriously: There are always other expenses competing for your hard-earned cash. Make sure you take savings seriously and make it a priority over short-term spending splurges.
3. Visualise your retirement: If you’re under 50, it can be hard to think of yourself as a pensioner and no longer working. Instead, think about the dreams and goals that you would like to pursue when you stop work. Thinking about the positive benefits of savings can be a strong motivational tool.
4. Put money away regularly: It can be daunting to think of saving up a large sum to invest in a pension, so take it step by step. Start your pension as soon as you can, and then increase your contributions when you receive a pay rise, a bonus, or have more disposable income.
5. Take control: Rather than procrastinate, it may be better to be proactive and take some initial steps towards saving. Once you start, you might find that thinking about saving for the future becomes a habit, and one you can build on for future financial security.
Remember, as with most investments the value of your pension can go down as well as up, so you may not get back what you invested.
Put your best foot forward
As our Alistair McQueen says: “Preparing for retirement is essential to ensure we make the most of these years by setting out what we want to achieve. As well as making sure the right financial planning is in place to do so.”
We can’t all hope to be running races when we’re well into our 70s like Kathy. But with the right preparation, we should all be able to at least look forward to an enjoyable retirement. So if you’re only living for today right now, perhaps you should start putting some money away for your future self as soon as you can.
Because at the end of the day, life’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Get a sneak peek into your future
Wondering what your lifestyle might be like when you retire? Use our Shape my Future tool to find out by answering a few simple questions.