|Prior to ceasing full time paid employment, I set myself a number of short term objectives. I decided on short term (i.e. first 12 months) to allow me to explore longer-term opportunities rather than immediately committing to activities that would lock up my schedule.
These initial objectives included:
- (limited) ongoing part-time employment in my vocation as an engineer;
- application of my more recently acquired skills in garden design, including a makeover of our church garden;
- ongoing participation as a member of a community choir, which we see as a way of connecting our faith with the community;
- becoming the “manager of domestic affairs” (aka housework, but also improving my cooking);
- committing more time for short breaks with my wife, and
- making time for a hobby (model railway modelling).
I have also been able to make time to catch up with friends and former colleagues for a coffee or lunch chat, where we “solve at least one world problem”. A hip replacement mid-year also took a significant slice of time, both in pre and post rehabilitation. As an observation, health issues are an increasing time and cost devourer for those in Q4. Both my wife and I have offered to take on additional roles in our local church community. A number these offers were not taken up and our time is now being rapidly taken up with other activities. Our observation is that churches are often not as agile as the secular world in grasping opportunities.
I was purposeful in planning a longer term approach to an exit from full time work, without initially setting a definite date. Over a five-year period, I progressively reduced my working week from around 60 to 30 hours, including moving to a four-day week in what proved to be my last year. At my request, I took a significant salary cut and moved from senior management to leading a small project group and mentoring younger staff. I found this most rewarding, and it also allowed me to “leave my work at the office” at the end of each day, something I had been unable to do for many years. The time freed up by this progressive transition was replaced with additional commitment to the choir run by my wife, completing a post graduate qualification in garden design, and some additional travel and leisure.
If I could live again the ten years before entering my fourth quarter I would probably reduce time at work, although senior roles come with a significant time demand. My wife and I actually took a “sabbatical” year in our mid 50’s and travelled the globe to address the collateral damage on our marriage from long term 60-80 hour working weeks.
To quote the old saying, “It is better to wear out rather than rust out”. Most of us leave our work places with an accumulated learning and experience that has the potential to be reinvested in others. For those of us who are fortunate enough to be financially independent and still physically fit, we are also able to offer that experience in a variety of practical ways, including mentoring those in the generation following. Whether that is within a Christian or secular community can vary from person to person. However, for a Christian, the foundations of our faith can be applied in either context.
Initially following my departure from my regular employment, I found myself with a certain sense of guilt that I was not off to (paid) work, that it was OK to start drawing from our super fund, or that it was OK to undertake activities that had previously been reserved for “holidays”.
It also took some time to find a new rhythm to daily life, and to be purposeful in planning activities; it could be quite easy to drift into a leisurely/lazy way of life. Finding new networks of those in the Q4 cohort is a problem that may be turned into an opportunity if there are organizations that can facilitate connections between those in this significant sector of the community.
And, whilst some may disagree, I am resisting the temptation to offer to work on the soup van or the like, and am still exploring opportunities to use my accumulated professional skills. I see these as the potentially best use of my post-working time.
Both my wife and I are somewhat surprised by the number of our friends who have a lifetime of commitment to their church community or even full time formal Christian ministry, and who are feeling progressively disenfranchised or disillusioned with their church, often to the point of reduced or complete non-attendance. It is open for debate whether this reflects individual attitudes that emerge with retirement, or whether churches are unable to connect with the relatively healthy and intellectually/spiritually alert Q4 cohort.