From TOIL to TOYL – What’s it all about? Happy New Year 2023!

My first TOYL blog post was almost 5 years ago and a lot has happened since then. Covid-19 is said to have accelerated changes in the workplace etc. that would have happened anyway in time. However, at the individual level forced redundancies and in some cases early retirement will have caused personal angst or possibly opened eyes and opportunities seized. Working from home may become the new normal and be seen and experienced by some as a great opportunity to avoid the rush hour commute whereas for others it may feel isolating especially if there are some personnel still in the office and FOMO sets in – real or imagined. Stress is of course in the eye of the beholder and we each handle it differently, better, worse or of course not at all! (That’s a lie -we ALL experience stress!) The cost of living crisis will have affected most of us in one way or another and that pay-check or pension may not be stretching as far as it once did. The Corona Virus that gave us Covid-19 the acute morbidity, mortality and the chronic ‘Long Covid’ can’t be blamed, it’s a virus and most would say not even alive. (A virus isn’t considered living because it doesn’t need to consume energy to survive, nor is it able to regulate its own temperature. Unlike living organisms that meet their energy needs by metabolic processes that supply energy-rich units of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of life, viruses can survive on nothing, unlike Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin the butcher of Ukraine and the world economy who seems to live off terror, carnage and killing those he professes are citizens of Russia. Let’s hope we can see off the virus and the man in 2023!)

So, New Year resolutions!? – Who, What, Where , When and How?? I’ve been pretty poor when it comes to pushing the retirement button so who knows what 2023 will bring me but so long as I’ve purpose if not passion I’ll keep going…for now!

Some will have had retirement forced upon them, others will have taken voluntary redundancy or seen an opportunity to pivot to something else, workwise or lifestyle change. This blog is not about retirement per se but the transition to what some call the 3rd act (1st Education, 2nd Work, 3rd Retirement leading to the concluding scene of the 4th Act…death!) I’ve often pondered about who is the target audience is for this TOYL blog and thus when should one start thinking about the next scene, in conclusion I think best sooner rather than later. In reality I suspect there is a fleeting albeit brief inkling when we look at the pension deductions on the payslip but seldom more than this for most of us. There are however a subset of the population who have though about this and decided that retirement can’t come soon enough and to facilitate this work hard, save a large portion, often live frugally, invest and eventually secure a big enough pot such that they can live off the interest for life, somewhat the reverse of a traditional pension pot that drip feeds the pot over decades and will only provide for a reasonable income after decades. This is FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early. This assumes that ‘work’ isn’t the answer in the long term whereas for many of us it can be the passion that makes life more interesting! Work – What is it good for?!

So, for anyone who has a mind to contemplate retirement I invite you to look back through the blogs and see if you can’t join the train from TOIL to TOYL – Have a great journey!

Retirement, the Third Age, entering the 3rd Act or whatever you might call it has changed dramatically over the last few decades such that we can now expect to live far longer than those born a hundred years ago. Among men, life expectancy at birth increased from 50 in 1910 to 80 or so a century later. If we assume that the 1st Act – Birth and formal education has remained essentially the same and the 2nd Act of ‘the BIG job(s)’ ends traditionally in the sixth decade but possibly much, much earlier, we might well live with purpose for another score beyond the 3 score and ten! This 3rd Act and its duration are determined in part by luck but also having hopefully looked after ourselves in the previous decades. We, that is those beyond the mid-point of our life expectancy don’t have all the dilemmas posed by the ‘The 100 – year life’ but it can still be a challenge worth facing and considering our options.

However, we likely have much more time than our parents and forebears. The modern world has many downsides, many of us work harder for longer to provide for ourselves, family and future and this can take its toll. However, the improvements in public health, medicine and technology have increased not only our life expectancy but the likelihood that we will live these bonus years in good health and maintain our mental and physical wellbeing for many years. The old retirement has been replaced by something new, I’m not sure it’s even been formally identified and certainly I can’t find the descriptive noun that adequately describes it. For now being positive ‘TOYL’ – The Time Of Your Life ( to have the time of your life!)

Rather than the traditional token gold watch ending our working lives, by choice or otherwise and a life of inactive leisure that many were utterly unprepared for and lasted but a few years, many of us aspire to do and enjoy more of the things we had no time for, whilst avoiding the things that sapped our energy in our 2nd Act.

This can include continuing to work in either a different role, part-time or doing something completely different, or not. Expanding an existing hobby, as opposed to finding one once transitioned is an excellent start, albeit that very few will actually want to play golf every day and will need a bank of pursuits even if it’s only for rainy days!

So how do I see this ‘age’ – Beyond ‘This is the time of your life to have the time of your life’ ? It is the transition to and beyond the 2nd Act, that of often full-time work, however that is defined. When this starts can be by choice, circumstance or design. Some will retire early and enjoy a life of leisure, others may work well into their eighties for the pleasure, purpose and passion that their job/work gives them.

My first draft of this was when I was approaching sixty (Wow – How time flies – I’m 62 and still working part-time!) working in a traditional profession and looking to discover what life will like be once I stop work. I am fortunate to be financially secure but have like many worked long and hard hours at the expense of building up hobbies and passions that I can look forward to expanding on when the time comes to stop work. In fact, I am lucky/hesitant enough to not ‘fall off the cliff’ but to have the opportunity to ease my way out by working part time and using some of this freed up time to explore my future life!

It’s interesting how others essentially take the same data set and come out with very different answers. The range is huge from those ‘downsizing’ in their 30s to a simpler but more fulfilled and sustainable life to those for whom there will seemingly never be a right time to stop or even slow down, never enough money, status or achievements to give them whatever it is that some of us recognise as ‘TOYL’ the Time Of Your Life and to do different.

There are no right or wrong paths and we all need to find our own way.  The little that I have picked up so far suggests that there may well be some misconceptions that create barriers to making the transition from TOIL to TOYL. Ask the majority of financial advisors how much money you will need and the answers will range all the way up to 90% of one’s last annual income. I would suggest that no more than half this is necessary and quite possibly half that. It will be very individual and dependant on the ‘lifestyle’ one expects to either maintain or transition to. Remember no more work-related costs, commuting fares, offspring may now well be financially independent and the mortgage all (but) paid off. There will (hopefully) be a pension, possibly some realisable assets, property to sell and downsize from etc. The balance may be rather more modest for some than others but overall we would hope that we will at least manage.

On a financial point it may well be worth getting this down on paper and seeing where you are at now and where you’ll be when the salary check no longer gets paid in. How much money will there be at the end of the month or how much month at the end of the money!

It’s a good idea to talk this through with an independent financial advisor but do challenge and make sure the predictions reflect your aspirations and realistic expectations – most are not going to drive off into the sunset in the new Ferrari on a European road trip taking in the best 5* hotels, Michelin star restaurants and finest wines – However if that’s your plan, it might need some planning!

This is me transitioning, my journey into a somewhat unknown 3rd Act, both exciting and filled with trepidation. I’ll share my insights and those of others here and would welcome your stories too. What worked for you and what didn’t? Can others learn from the experience of the hive? Can we make the transition from Act 2 to 3 to not be the final curtain call but really and truly The Time Of Your Life To Have The Time Of Your Life?

I truly hope so! Let me know how you are getting on!

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