Transcript: So what do you do?
Angellica: Welcome to Rewirement, with me, Angellica Bell, brought to you by Legal & General. I’m talking to amazing people who are living inspiring, unique, and colourful retirements.
Life begins where the day job ends, so I'm on a mission to find out how you and I can take inspiration and wisdom from real people's retirement stories. It's funny, isn't it, how whatever age we are, we have a tendency to assume that as we get older, our best years are behind us.
Now, in this series, we're going to be hearing how far from the truth that really is and how the things we do right now can make sure our retirement years are their best. Whether it's fulfilling dreams, switching jobs, or spending more time doing what matters most, I'm on a mission to find out how you and I can take inspiration and wisdom from real people's colourful retirement stories.
Throughout our working lives, many of us are defined by what we do. We talk about it at parties or when we meet new people. We plan our holidays and schedule life around our day job.
So, when you retire, it can leave quite a hole in the identity you present to the world, and perhaps also the way you feel about yourself. But leaving your job and changing course doesn't have to be a shock. With a little planning, thinking, and dreaming, you can find a whole new way of life.
That's why this time, I'm going to be talking to some incredible people who followed their passions, so they continue to have a sense of deep meaning and purpose in their retirement pursuits.
I'll also be talking to Legal & General's Andrew Kail and Helen Cathcart, co-founder of Bolder, the website on how to grow older, on things to think about to help you achieve more than you dreamed possible in later life.
My first guest is Nigel. After a career, as a university academic, he wanted to turn his skills and knowledge of health and the food system to make a real difference on the ground in his community. That's how he came to set up the Lincolnshire Food Partnership. Tell me about your transition to retirement. What were you thinking at the time?
Nigel: I was thinking that I didn't want to sit down and do nothing or just play golf. There were lots of things that I still wanted to do. In particular, I think as with a lot of people, I thought I had a set of skills that I've developed over a working career that shouldn't really just go to waste.
I think a lot of people fear retirement because they lose who they are as people and worry about having nothing to do. And I know a lot of people in my former profession who couldn't even face retirement because they were worried that they would just ossify and fall to pieces or whatever. Yet they were all perfectly intelligent people capable of making that transition.
Angellica: So retirement for you is not so much about what you can do for yourself, it's what you can do for others, and use the experience you've had to broaden this Lincolnshire Food Partnership that you were a part of setting up.
Nigel: Yeah. I mean, in a sense, you can say it's what you can do for others. I think it's always very gratifying to be able to help. So, it's not really a selfless act, it's just actually being to bring about change that I've been talking about. And it's really rewarding to see things happening that weren't there before, to see people maybe better fed than they'd been before, but also, it's about developing and instilling a sense of community in people.
We run a cafe in Lincoln as part of the Lincolnshire Food Partnership, which uses only waste food to provide meals at a next to nothing cost. Our strapline is friendship through food, because it's actually about the community as much as the feeding the belly, if you like. That's important and gratifying.
Angellica: Can you explain to me, Nigel, what exactly the Lincolnshire Food Partnership is?
Nigel: The Lincolnshire Food Partnership is an organization that brings together... We have 10 members of the board from very different walks of the food sector. So, we've got people from food banks there, we've got people from community grant projects, we've got the county agricultural chapter, for example.
So, the church is obviously involved. But also, we've got the commercial sector. And in Lincolnshire, we're very fortunate in having a county level co-op, and the Lincolnshire co-op is brilliant in both its enthusiasm and enjoyment and support at the food pantry. So, a very broad range of people across all sectors.
But one thing in common is to make food much more community and locally based more than just agriculture. But it's about the whole of the food chain from growing through to consumption and indeed waste, because we use waste to help feed people.
Angellica: Which is still quite astounding in this day and age, that there are people who go hungry.
Nigel: The food bank demand since COVID has gone up in the county by an average of just about a 1000%. And at the same time, we throw away about 35% of all the food that’s produced. In a sense, putting it simply, that's one of the big motivations I had for getting involved in the first place.
We’ve got loads of food here and loads of hungry people there. Put them together. It’s almost as simple as that.
Angellica: No, it is interesting. I want to go back to a point you made about what people in retirement age can offer. A bit like what you’re doing. Do you think people need more support when it comes to retirement? Because like you said, there are some people who are lost and don’t have a focus, and that can be really challenging.
Nigel: Yeah, I think it’s a big deficiency, which I notice now. I’m here, of course, in retirement. But as a nation, as a culture, and it's not just the UK, it's everywhere in the Western world, we spend an awful lot of money, rightly, in what we'd call initial education, nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools. And then when they hit retirement age, we just can't address and say, " Cheerio." And I think there is a huge job to be done in educating people into later life.
My father died last year, having had a longer retirement than he had a working life, because he was just over a hundred and he retired in his early 50s. That length of his life, he was given no guidance about how to conduct that to best effect whatsoever. I think we’d all benefit from an education that teaches us that retirement is just the next phase of life, rather than God’s waiting room, if you’d like. That there is a lot of life to be had and to be used wisely.
The great thing about it is if you're lucky enough to have any kind of pension, you can choose what you do without having to worry about income quite so much, if at all, and that changes the potential, the scope for what you've got hugely. You can do things that are immensely fun but that don't make any money.
Whether it’s singing, playing music, helping others, whatever. That’s a quality of life factor that we just don't educate people enough about relative to business, income generation and so forth.
Angellica: So, in a way, you had your father as an example, seeing him retire for a long, long period of time. And you also touched about music, because he was a musician. You played with him, didn’t you? You all love jazz. And in your retirement, you’ve sort of used this time as well to explore that and do things that make you happy.
Nigel: Access to computer recording is a revolution in terms of one’s ability to be able to hear music. I write music for my own pleasure, certainly not for anyone else’s. And since the age of 10, when I got two old reel-to-reel tape recorders to bounce tracks, a feature that I'd been fascinated, that multi- track recording, I can now record a full symphony orchestra at absolutely pristine quality with me singing in front of it. That’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
Angellica: Talk about your brother a bit, if you don't mind, because he retired and didn't have a sense of purpose, did he?
Nigel: No. Unfortunately, he was absolutely lost when he retired. He was one of those people who was his job. He didn’t know how to be anyone else or do anything else, and he became very depressed. And unfortunately, he took his own life about a year after he retired. I think largely because his life had come to an end in his own perception, and he could only perceive beyond that sort of deterioration of getting older.
But to me, it seemed important to understand why he’d done that, and also important to try and educate myself into making sure the same didn’t happen to me. I think it is that failure, that thing that I mentioned earlier about we have to educate ourselves into a happier time.
Because it's a wonderful time. The constraints of this, that, and the other, the mortgage is about to be paid off, the kids are independent. We’ve got a great potential to have a fantastic time, and we do need, if it's educating ourselves, so be it, but educating each other about it also. It’s a lifesaver literally in the case of my brother’s example.
Angellica: What advice would you give to other people approaching retirement themselves?
Nigel: I think the first thing to do when you retire is have a nice long holiday to get all of the stuff out of your head that you've had in work a bit, but also to recharge your batteries. Everyone gets exhausted from work psychologically as well as physically. But then gradually begin to think not just what do I want to do, but what skills have I got that might be useful to somebody else. How can I use those in a slightly different context?
And I think above all, and this is probably more or less universal, " Who can I spend my time within order to make that contribution, but also to stop becoming lonely?" I mean, that’s a bad time to say it during the pandemic when we're all in lockdown. But I think communion with other people is the quickest route to happiness.
And communion with other people where you can use your skills to help other people, it's a no- brainer in terms of how good it makes you feel. And it’s not do-gooding. It’s actually, you’re taking the joy out of it rather than just putting the joy in it. It’s an entirely mutual process, and I would commend doing that to anybody.
Angellica: Nigel's made new friends whilst making an impact in his local area. He also gets to use his experience in a very different way than he did in his academic career. The food bank has been used as a model to help other organizations build growing schemes and share food around other parts of the UK during the pandemic. It looks like he’s found that golden combination of community, connection, and a strong social purpose.
My next guest is Rosetta. She truly is an incredible woman. And as a lifelong artist and learner, she enjoys more of what she loves in retirement. She's travelled extensively through her life, and her local cabbie in Manchester calls her a citizen of the world.
Rosetta's husband, Omar, is from a village called Bati in Gambia. They have both been volunteer teachers in Gambia, and today, the couple still have a close connection with their family there.
With their shared passion for gender equality and education, they now run projects to support their community, normally splitting the year between their homes in Gambia and Manchester. She spoke to me about her art and the sustainable development project she runs with her husband in Gambia.
It's obvious that art is a strong passion of yours.
Rosetta: Well, it started when I was drawing on the wallpaper when I was two and my mom said I could draw faces better than she could. I sold my first painting when I was 14. Us artists sometimes have a very restless mind. We want to push ourselves. We want to do something different than the mundane.
I always wanted to combine my arts degree and my psychology honours degree to be an art therapist, so I thought it made sense to put the two together and do some good in the world, help people. So I studied after that, a course on medicine and the arts at University of Cape Town, Khayelitsha Hospital.
When I was younger, I did all the pet portraits thing to make money. It doesn't make you feel amiss. It doesn't make you noticeable. It doesn't give you as much satisfaction as creating something totally unique that nobody else is doing.
Angellica: So, are you saying, Rosetta, that an artist never retires? It's something that you will always do.
Rosetta: It's in me. I think that I was born that way.
Angellica: What has retirement meant for you?
Rosetta: Freedom to get on with what I love doing best. Put my heart and soul into everything that I'm doing. No distractions. I don't have to worry about earning a wage. I've got a pension; I've got two pensions. I've got a husband in Gambia stuck there at the minute.
Angellica: We know that an artist's life is precarious.
Angellica: So, did you think in advance about the future? Because you say you've got pensions. Is it something that you've made a conscious decision to do to make sure you are secure as an older person?
Rosetta: I have a pension and I have savings. I made sure I'd save up. I made sure I was able to afford to rent a studio while living in another building. And I made sure that when I had the studio opened, I could tutor people, tutor young people in art, or take classes. I've got a Zoom class with some Russian ladies.
Now, who wouldn't want to do this kind of work? It's very, very satisfying, isn't it? I just love to be able to share my skills with others. Some people can be precious about skills. Me, I want everybody to enjoy life, to have fun, to enjoy art, to get over the " I can't do it. This isn't good enough" attitude.
I always tell people, "Do what you really enjoy doing." And if they want something different to do, there are lots of things that they used to do and enjoy when they were younger that they could go back to doing right now.
I think the best thing I ever did was set up an occupational pension when I had the jobs where I could do that, because you couldn't actually survive on a state pension alone. And having the luck to be able to have an occupational pension on top of it really helps, because I don't have to worry about do, I heat or do I eat, like some people talk about. And if I can make a little few pennies here and there with my art, that's good.
Angellica: Well, another thing you throw yourself into is your sustainable development project in Gambia. Talk us through that and why it's so important to you.
Rosetta: I'm an eternal student. I never stop studying. Lifelong learning is what I promote and tell people. So, I studied a course called sustainable development for all through Open University FutureLearn.
Angellica: When did you do that course?
Rosetta: Just before retirement, because I knew my retirement was coming up and I knew I wanted to do more there. And then when I decided, " Look, we've got to get more trees out there," because climate action needs to be kept up. It has to be sustained.
And I said, " Look, the only way we will have trees there that they don't cut down for firewood, for charcoal, for cooking," because they don't have electricity, there's none out there, "What do I do? Fruit trees." All assorted fruit trees. Some of them are bearing fruit already, and the kids are eating them and picking them off it. Mangoes, fresh mangoes. How tasty is that?
The nurse who we know out there is (Muhammed Ceesay), no relation. He delivers babies in the village and he puts a band around the arms of the children to check malnutrition. We are happy because Muhammed has fed back over the last two years. No malnutrition. None at all in the village, because they are eating well.
I set up a free school dinners scheme so that the kids would always have a good dinner at school. Set up a school garden for them to grow their own veg to put in their... I just supply rice, 25-kilogram bags, big sacks of rice, and a big container of cooking oil, and they supply the rest. And the PTA of the school, which serves three villages, does the cooking. And if they have anything left, they take it out to the elderly people in the village.
Angellica: In addition to tackling hunger in the villages, Rosetta and her husband have set up a crochet group called The Helping Hands. They are now making clothing, blankets, and other items. She also donates to the school in Bati to make sure children have a consistent education.
Rosetta's using her pensions and making a little extra here and there with her art and painting. She's put thought into her finances, which has freed her up to push the boundaries in her art and focus her energy on her work in Gambia.
Two different retirement experiences, both driven by a passion for making change and doing good in the world. Even if you don't want to do 10 things at once in retirement, there are some steps you can take to make sure you're primed and ready for the best. I'm joined now by Legal & General's Andrew Kail and Helen Cathcart, co-founder of Bolder, a website on how to grow older, which aims to change perceptions about older people.
It's wonderful to talk to you both, and I'm really interested in what you've got to say. So, I'm going to start with you, Helen, because you've written a book as part of Bolder. What drove you to challenge this conversation about aging?
Helen: Me and my friend, Dominique, set it up together. We were two girls in our 30s, working in publishing, and we just wanted to change the narrative around aging, because the messages we were being sent was, already in our 30s, single, we were done for. We were old already, and old was bad and the only good thing was youth,and we were rapidly moving away from that.
We felt that we wanted to change that story and we realized that in our work, we were often sent to overlook older people, but we had a real interest in them. And when I was photographing, those were the people I was drawn to and those were the people who have the best stories. We just chose to focus on that.
Angellica: Was there anything personal about this for you? Because most people in their 30s, they're having the time of their lives and retiring is years ahead of them and it's not at the forefront of their mind.
Helen: Yeah. I think we were different in that respect. It was personal. We were aware that society was ageist. Antiaging creams, everything. It was that aging was bad. We just wanted to find some positives. By interviewing these people, we did. And then it became addictive because they were just defying everything that we had been sort of brainwashed by in society, and we just find uplifting stories. Yeah.
Angellica: Andrew, you’re nodding your head there. Is this something that resonates with you?
Andrew: It does hugely. I mean, it’s interesting. The World Health Organization have just published research about officially classifying ageism as a problem they want to deal with. So, I think there is an ageist bias in society. I think particularly when it comes to recruiting workers.
It’s come out of the COVID research that people need to find jobs post the crisis, with the high levels of unemployment and society can be ageist. So, I think it does resonate. I think there is a huge contribution that we can make. I say that as someone that’s sort of getting older myself and not in my 30s. So, I could perhaps relate to it more. But yeah, I think it is an issue, but it's an important one.
Angellica: Well, the idea of settling down in your 60s and 70s with a pipe and slippers, it doesn't really ring true for the modern retiree, does it?
Andrew: Absolutely not. I think that the whole... There's so many of the old cliches of retirement that are disappearing now. I mean, the simple fact of it is people are living longer.
That's a really good thing. There've been fantastic improvements in healthcare, so retirement in the 60s and 70s, people are now looking at potentially decades in front of them, which is a very different landscape to what it was sort of some years ago. So, people are working longer. They're not just stopping work age 65, never to work again, they're moving to part-time or semi-retirement jobs.
And then I think things like technology and travel, like they open up society for everyone, it's no different for retirees, and they've got lots more leisure time. So, I think it is changing the way that people live their lives. And we heard from Nigel and Rosetta earlier. I mean, it's massively changed what they would have done from their counterparts a few generations ago.
Angellica: So, what are some of the common misconceptions that exist around older people in their work, in your opinion, Helen?
Helen: I think the main was when we started up Bolder, we were like, " Well, what's our cut-off point for old? What age are we looking at here?" We decided on 70, randomly. And then the more and more we did Bolder, it was like 70 is actually really young. The 70-year-olds are too young for Bolder. And I think the traditional view is that you work hard, you stop, and then you die when you retire.
And the Bolders taught us that you've got all this life stretching ahead of you, even from 70. They basically were changing the meaning of what it was to retire. You can retire from your job, but you don't have to retire from life. That's the attitude that they had. They were just choosing to follow their passions.
Their job was often their passion. And as Andrew said, they were continuing that, and that was keeping them going, and that'd be continuing part-time. Or using skills from that job to then go on and do other passions, but not just stopping. I think that was the key.
The view is that success is to be achieved by a certain age. That it has a deadline. But it doesn't, and new goals can be set at any age. That was a key thing with our Bolder interviewees.
One reason we did start this was to help our future selves, because we're all getting older, to change the narrative around it now while we can and can be listened to and have that forum was something that we really thought of.
Angellica: Yeah, because I suppose a lot of people are scared of retiring. That word especially. It's meant to be exciting. It's when you get your life back. But for a lot of people, it's said in a negative way. So, are you about trying to turn that into a positive embrace moment in your life?
Helen: That's exactly it. Some examples of our interviewees, (Ellie MacGowan) is 78 and she became an open water swimming champion. (Pat and Alicia Moorhead), age 87 and 72, compete in skydiving competitions around the world. Pat completed 80 jumps on his 80th birthday.
That was his goal that he set himself. (Jennifer Murray) is age 74 and took up helicopter piloting in her 50s and headed off around the world and decided to do that because no woman had done it solo. So she was, "That's what I'm going to do when I'm older."
Angellica: I love those stories. They're just amazing. Do you know what, my little one wants to get roller skates and she wants me to get them too. And I was like, " No, no, no, I'm too old for that. I'll break a bone." But now you've put me to shame. I'm going to be roller skating soon.
Helen: It does change your mindset. It made us feel really that we think negatively and leisurely.
Angellica: Exactly. Well, Andrew, you've touched on how retiring has changed between the generations. Can you just expand on that?
Andrew: Helen just makes a great point though, because as I said before, if you look at some of the structural things, life expectancy's longer, healthcare is better, but I think that there are probably two other factors I maybe draw upon. One is pensions are often better funded.
We've got a generation of pensioners now. The lucky ones who have got defined benefit pension schemes from years in employment. That gives them an income for life that they're enjoying. So, they're funding, if they're fortunate enough to have one, a retirement over a longer period of time, which is really important.
The second one I'd say, and we've touched on it again already, is particularly in the UK, service-based economy. There are more jobs for older people. So, retirement doesn't need to mean you stop working, never start again. There are sectors of the economy, hospitality and leisure being two of them, where a large proportion of the workers are potentially retirees, which is really helpful.
But I think Helen has just made a critical point around mindset. I suspect if we went back 50 or 60 years, people retired and that was the waiting for God moment, because their life expectancy wasn't very long.
Now it's very different. It's the next era. It's get a different job. It's find a new hobby. It's build a new circle of friends in the expectation. This could be several decades of your life. That mindset point is hugely important to the way that people plan and think about retirement. It has all sorts of implications, but hugely positive.
Angellica: And our older generation, they can have a real impact on the economic benefits for society as well, right?
Andrew: I think hugely, and I speak from sort of personal experience. The family unit, the way that the family unit can pull together, particularly whether it's childcare or looking after the house or supporting you, Is fantastically helpful for the family unit, and I think many families benefit from that.
But as you're saying, the economic, the spending power now of retirees is enormous and there are whole sort of sways of the economy. I mentioned hospitality and leisure as being two that are incredibly dependent upon retirement incomes for their business.
So, I think it's hugely good for society and the economy that we have a group of retirees over many decades have got the sorts of hobbies and lifestyles that Helen talked about. Those are probably at the more adventurous end, but we've got a very sort of thriving sector of the economy in what can often be referred to as the great pound, but it's a hugely important part of the economy.
Angellica: And with Nigel and Rosetta, they both planned well. In Rosetta's case, she continues to earn during retirement. So, she's really empowered herself by thinking ahead. It does matter to get that straight.
Andrew: It does. Many of the times, it comes down to economic choices. People don't like the idea of stopping working and not making a contribution. So, people do it for social and professional reasons too.
But the planning is critical. Partly here, it's economics, it's time value of money. The sooner you start saving, the more it will grow, and that makes sense. But I think it's really important that as soon as you can, and of course, this is sometimes hard when it's decades away, but making that conscious decision about, " What sort of retirement do I want to have? What are my likely savings and income that I want? And then what are my options and choices?"
This all comes down to planning. It comes down to advice. So, these are typically uncertain for many reasons. And we know from talking to our customers, they find it very complicated. So, the plan is hugely important and getting the right support and advice around you is important too.
Angellica: We’ve just gone through a very strange year, and people retiring during the pandemic might've faced some difficult decisions. What sort of impact would COVID- 19 have had on people retiring and planning to retire in the next couple of years?
Andrew: Fascinating question. We’ve just issued some research on Legal & General. What it shows is that there are real winners and losers. So, the research we’ve just published estimates you've got 1.45 million people who are now going to delay their retirement as a result of COVID.
Andrew: Which is a huge group of people. Equally, there are 1.3 million people who said they're going to accelerate their retirement. What it really does highlight is that some people have saved because of COVID, because they've not spent, they've still continued to earn their salaries, but have not had to spend the money.
Some people have lost their jobs or had less money, and therefore had to delay. So we’ve really got winners and losers, and it does show you that there's a big inequality issue to deal with pensions too. And unfortunately, it falls harder on certain sectors and it also falls harder on women rather than men.
Angellica: Is this something Legal & General is advising people on, either way, in what they choose to do?
Andrew: Yeah, I think we are. Lots of companies are too. It’s really important, given the complexity around this, that people seek advice and guidance. That can come from a number of sources. If listeners are feeling that that would be very expensive, there are plenty of options, whether it’s through the money and pension service maps or indeed Legal & General’s own tie with the Open University, about getting free advice. So, I think the important point is get advice and plan, and don’t be put off by potential cost of that. In certain places, it’s available free of charge.
Angellica: Helen, what are your tips for anyone in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who have big, big goals to achieve, seeing as you've been around these people who are achieving so much?
Helen: They’re so not focused on age. And actually, that part is quite irrelevant, and it doesn’t really matter if you're 40s, 50s, 60s. If you’ve got a goal to achieve, that's what you need to focus on, and don't be thinking, " Do I need to think about it differently because I'm 50, because I'm 60?" And the thing we’ve talked about throughout this, which is the mindset to gain the passion and the positivity, and that you're never too old, basically, to achieve any goal.
Angellica: My final question, what’s on your Bolder older bucket list? Now, mine is going to be roller skating. I’m going to be nailing that. What about yours?
Andrew: Mine would be a sort of tour of a lifetime, drive coast to coast America. That would be-
Angellica: Route 66. That’s such a good answer.
Andrew: Route 66. Absolute all the way, in a big old trailer. That would be fun.
Angellica: You might have to put me in the boot. Thanks, Andrew and Helen, for joining me. Hopefully, that’s armed you with some brilliant ideas on how you can return to your passions, change the world, and feel financially secure and ready for retirement.
If you’re building up that pension fund now, why not also be thinking about how you can ready yourself for some amazing achievements that will bring you happiness, community connection, and a sense of purpose later on? You can get more tips and find out more about retirement planning on the website at legalandgeneral.com/retirement. Next time...
Speaker 6: The joy of being this age is that you can pick things up and you can enjoy them. And if you don't enjoy them, you can drop them and try something else.
Angellica: I’m Angellica Bell. You can follow this podcast on your favourite platform, and I'll catch you next time.
To kick off the new series, Angellica Bell will be chatting to people who have embraced the chance to fulfil passions and meaningful projects after the day job has ended.
Throughout our working lives, many of us are defined by what we do. We talk about it at parties or when we meet new people. We plan our holidays and schedule life around our day job. So when we retire that can leave quite a hole in the identity we present to the world.
In this episode we hear from Nigel, a former university academic who wanted to use his experience to make meaningful change to the lives of people in his community. Nigel explains how pursuing this path has been satisfying for him and helped him meet new people in retirement.
And there’s creative powerhouse Rosetta, a lifelong artist who runs a sustainable development project with her husband in Gambia, in addition to many other pursuits. She explains how she splits her time between her two homes and why retirement means ‘FREEDOM’ to her!
Helen Cathcart, Founder of Bolder, a website to empower us all in growing older, and Legal & General’s Andrew Kail share their thoughts on some practical steps you can take to plan for your retirement dreams.
CEO of Legal & General Retail Retirement
Andrew Kail joined Legal & General in 2021 from PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he spent 30 years in a wide variety of roles, most recently as Head of Financial Services. Andrew is passionate about customer service and the social value that Legal & General’s inclusive capitalism agenda provides.
Photographer and Co-founder of Bolder
Helen Cathcart published ‘Bolder - Life lessons from people older and wiser than you’ with Dominique Afacan to champion people over the age of 70 who are still creating, inspiring or working. Through the stories in Bolder they have challenged their own and others' perceptions about growing older.