The Accidental Investor: Shy of Retiring

The Accidental Investor by our contributor, Nick Warren, returns with his thoughts on retirement…

Retirement is wasted on the old. It is best suited to the young and dynamic. Those you read about in business and lifestyle magazines. The young bucks that make their fortunes and build their empires and ‘retire’ at 35 only to saunter back onto the front covers with new ventures as 40-year old veterans.

For a long time my modest dream was to retire in my early forties to a lakeside cottage where I would write the Great Modern Novel. It was a dream I fostered until the birth of my first child broke the spell of indulgent immortality as the vision of her uncertain future crushed my self-obsessions.

With the end of my roaring 20’s still very evident in the rear-view mirror of my mind’s eye I retained a real sense of that bulletproof arrogance of youth. Life was good. I was a thirty-something graduate, happily employed in the advertising industry and the concept of ‘planning for retirement’ was as alien to me as the notion of self-doubt. It was something that happened to other people, those who no longer contribute, the burnouts, flops and failures that peppered the pavements at the side of the commercial communications highway.

But, succumbing to the pressures of some hitherto inert parental hormone, I asked around, got a recommendation, made an appointment, and then drove to meet my policy maker.

After some tedious technical talk that amounted to the fact that nothing he said could be held against him in a court of financial consequences, he asked me when I would like to ‘reach retirement’.

It was as if the Grim Reaper had politely asked me when I would like to die.

My head filled with images of myself as a pasty-faced, slack-jawed, incontinent old geezer, shambling about in elasticated tracksuit pants, hands quivering deep in the pockets of some formless cardigan, breakfast crusting in the uneven stubble of my chin as I mumbled to strangers about gout, golf and gardening.

Still clinging to the sprightly fantasy of my lakeside writer’s retreat I opted for the shortest possible term. Some time when I would still be able to support my own weight.  But no – the shortest retirement annuity possible was scheduled to pay out when I was fifty-five years old. Fifty-five years old! Over twenty years into the future, an incomprehensible – almost geological – span of time.

I dutifully signed the paperwork knowing there was no way I was ever going to be fifty-five years old. The only people I knew who were in their fifties were politicians, bosses, bankers and the parents of my friends. I didn’t personally know anybody that old and the idea of ever actually being one was disturbing.

That policy is due to ‘mature’ in 2016. I am nowhere near willing or able to stop working, I am still chasing the theme for the Great Modern Novel and I plan to roll it over for another twenty years in the hope that by which time they should at least have a cure for gout.

Now where did I put my slippers…?