Ruth Everson

Retirement: The Word that Shall Not Be Uttered

Ruth Everson is a poet, writer, keynote speaker and coach who strives to live On Purpose. We got to know her as a teacher at St Stithians, where Carel is chair of the governing council. Ruth taught English for 39 years and continues to follow her passions: poetry, speaking, facilitating and workshopping. From time to time, Ruth contributes to the CN&CO blog, for which we are delighted. She does so under the banner “WholeHearted”. Her articles give pause for thought and add enormously to the richness and diversity of our blog. Here is her latest contribution:

I goal set to die at 63.

Goal setting is an area of expertise for me; I know how to do it effectively and successfully. I’m asked to run workshops on it. So why would I set such a radical goal?

I’m going to say the word that shall not be uttered: Retirement.

That word used to make me feel like the hyenas in The Lion King when they taunt Scar by repeating Mufasa’s name as a thing of terror: ‘Mufasa! Ooh, say it again!

Retirement! Ooh, say it again!

I set my goal over 10 years ago. A good goal will include a clearly defined vision for the future. And that was the problem – I had no vision for life beyond teaching and I certainly was not financially prepared to step away from the security of a monthly income. Fear shuts down the ability to see clearly. It also shuts down any desire to see. If you are stuck in financial fear, find a gentle soul who will help you to sort through your plans. Too many advisors see the numbers and not the person.

While still in formal employment, I was required, as I should have been, to attend a retirement workshop. All I can remember from that workshop is that I was given a free calculator on which to calculate my pension. Retirement! Ooh, say it again! The future seemed bleak.

In March of this year, I triggered my own retirement. (You could say I gave myself marching orders.) I knew I wasn’t prepared but I did it anyway. Since then, I’ve had time to think more clearly and I offer these reflections in the hope that they will make a difference to someone else.

I’ve had so many conversations about retirement with people; those with a seemingly long way to go and with those who are on the brink of that threshold. Fear of money is a common thread. I’m not going to give financial advice, if I knew anything about finance, I’d have signed up for something like EasyEquities at age 18 and have been sipping cocktails and writing poems in exotic locations by 55.

Here’s some of what I wish I’d been told.

Shop around for a financial advisor the same way you’d shop around for a car. I took on a recommended advisor and I trusted him because he was trusted by others. He, apart from refusing at a final meeting to co-sign a document making my wife my direct beneficiary, gave me disastrous financial advice. I based my retirement decision on the non-taxable amount that I would be able to take from my pension lump sum. I saw it as a reasonable platform from which to launch my coaching and writing career. This was a discussion that I had had with this advisor more than once. He failed to ask if I had drawn on my pension before – I had. My new advisor told me that this meant that I could only draw half of the amount I had ‘banked’ on. That was, let’s say, an interesting revelation.

It was my sister-in-law who asked me if I had applied for UIF. Um, no? It takes a little gathering of paperwork but it’s worth the effort. Make sure that your employer gives you a scale of salaries and fills in the forms (UI2.8 and UI-19). It sounds silly not to know the basics, but as with everything, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I took no notice of that monthly UIF deduction on my pay slip and would have missed it entirely when I most needed it. You have 90 days from your date of retirement to lodge a claim. The uFiling site is not user friendly but I found everyone at the Department of Labour in Randburg very helpful. Find out what you don’t know – there’s bound to be something.

I have been challenged by extra tax, medical expenses incurred after an accident and not being covered by my medical aid plan or the gap cover that I pay for every month. I couldn’t claim gap cover because my medical aid had not paid anything, therefore, there was no gap.

I haven’t touched on the head game required in the retirement zone. It requires a separate article but if you are in this space, you’ll know how tough it can be. If you’re not, don’t joke with people about retirement or tell them how lucky they are, they may just be screaming inside. Be helpful but never be flippant.

In just over a week, I’ll turn 64. If I get there, and I am trying, I will have thwarted my goal to die at 63. I’m on the other side and navigating this new space. There are days where I am afraid but mostly, I’m excited that I can write, speak, workshop and do the things I love. I’m still standing and ready to take the next step.

Look out, we Silver Foxes are on the move, we have no plans to retire. No plans at all…

#retirement #fear #silverfoxes #goalsetting