Here’s how I ruined my retirement… and how you can avoid doing the same

I can still remember the day I retired. I was over the moon and the happiest I had felt in

I can still remember the day I retired. I was over the moon and the happiest I had felt in years. Like most people, I had been waiting for this day for many years and had amazing plans for how I would spend the rest of my work-free life.

My husband and I were both 62 and had decided I would retire first. I was a nurse and was increasingly tired out after work every day. Being on my feet all day was exhausting and having to lift patients and heavy equipment was getting harder and harder.

My husband, Bill, was the one who suggested I retire sooner than we had planned and that he work a few years longer. Bill had an office job, which he loved, and he was happy to stay in the workforce and save extra money for our future.

We discussed how we would handle our finances as we headed towards retirement, but to be honest I was never that interested in money. Bill took care of most of our fiancees, organising bills, savings and the mortgage.

Once I’d retired, I drew down a large portion of my super and a week after my 62nd birthday and Bill and I set off on a 6-week holiday around Europe.

We had planned for that trip for nearly two years, carefully detailing every destination and every activity along the way. It was like a dream come true for both of us and we often talked about how happy we were.

A few years passed and I thought everything was swimming along fine. We made trips to other cities to visit our grandchildren and renovated our bathroom. Without over-indulging too much, we enjoyed lunches out and dinners with friends. We cut back a little knowing we didn’t have the same income we used to when I was getting a pay check every week, but for the most part our lifestyle didn’t change too much.

A year later, everything changed. Bill came home one day and told me he had been made redundant. It was 2008 and with the GFC in full effect, the company was downsizing. Despite the fact he had worked there for 20 years, Bill was one of the first to go.

Suddenly our financial state was thrown into the spotlight. Our combined super, which had only been big enough for us to live a modest retirement suddenly plummeted as the stock market collapsed. The capital from our super that we had planned to live off was now a lot less than we had anticipated. Coupled with the fact that Bill was out of the workforce sooner than we’d expected, things were suddenly very different to what we had planned.

It quickly became apparent I would have to go back to work, even on a part-time basis. At 63 though, getting back into nursing wasn’t an option. I had spent my whole life training and working as a nurse and now I was going to have to find a job doing something else. I searched the job pages in the papers and looked online for something I could put my skills to that wouldn’t be too physically draining.

After months of searching things were becoming harder and harder. Bill got knocked back at every interview he went to. I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing it had something to do with his age. He was an expert in his field and was over-qualified for nearly every job he went for, but still – no luck.

At 63, neither of us qualified for the pension and as we tried to preserve what little super we had left, we had to tighten the purse strings more and more every week. Finally Bill had to step outside his field and he found a job as bus driver on the local council bus route. The hours are gruelling and require him to wake up as early as 3am some days and get home well after 11pm on others.

I found a casual job as an office assistant where I work three days at week. The work is easy and the people are nice, but sometimes I still can’t believe I’m back in the workforce so soon. Looking back, Bill and I both agree we made mistakes along the way and a bit more planning could have meant things would be totally different for us now.

In retrospect, I never should have drawn down on my super as much as I did. We should have saved the money for our holiday and renovation before I retired instead of relying on my retirement fund. We also should have paid closer attention to our super fund and where our money was being invested. Some of our friends were also caught out by the GFC and lost a significant amount of the super, but others, who had taken care and been involved with their super and where it was being invested, had sailed through it with barely a scratch.

Now, I’m the most money-focused I have ever been. I count every dollar and keep a close eye on my super and our bank account. Bill and I both have to focus on our finances now if we ever want to have a chance at retiring before we turn 75. It’s going to be a hard road for the next few years as we try to get back on track, but I hope it will be worth it.

The more I read about money and finances, the more I realise Bill and I are not alone. There are thousands of other Australians who are in a similar situation to us and who had to head back into the workforce after thinking they had retired for good. I just hope my story is enough to warn anyone heading towards retirement to take another look at their savings plan and prepare properly for their future.

Can you relate to this story? Have you had to go back to work after retiring?

  1. Wyes, I can relate to this story. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of your ilk out there in Aistralia and other Westernised countries. Cmplain, complan, whinge, whinge. You have to go back to work fr a couple f years, so what. Be eternally thankfull that you are healty enough to do so. You already regret and resent the money you spent on your holiday of a lifetime – would you prefer to sit and look at your bank statement.. Why didn’t you consder downsizng your home (wasn’t mentioned, presume you have one as a mortgage was referred to)
    If you don’t wake up and start enjoying all the things you have going for you, the rest of your life is going to be as miserable as you..
    Lastly, put you self in the position of a say, bank manager in Syria. 12 months ago, his life was settled, all was god. Now he and wife are camped on the Turkish border with all their possessions in a bag. No superannuation here, no savings.
    You live in Australia, the lucky country. You will never starve, the medical system will look after you –
    YOU are the lucky ones.

  2. As I live alone, planning for my retirement 3 years ago was all I ever thought about. I got to work on a budget for myself and by doing that I was able to salary sacrifice every extra dollar I had earned, making the little sacrifices before retirement has now allowed me to live on my combined full age pension plus my super pension which is the difference between survival and struggling, oh no I don’t have a large super, far from it however I’m so grateful that I did go without while I was working to make life bearable now.

  3. For Zimbabweans leaving their country with nothing and starting again at 60 in a new country is not a walk in the park. I am now over 70 and still working.

  4. Glenda Faber  

    Sorry, this story doesn’t make sense to me. She retired at 62 and after a few years at 63 she had to look for a job? If in Australia before 2008 they would have been able to get age pension. Maybe this tale wasn’t set in Australia.

    • Jude  

      Sounds more like USA to me not much help there when you get old – rather live here i Oz thanks!

      • Glenda Faber  

        Yes, I think you are right. I am glad I am in Oz, too.

    • Sancha  

      The writer does state she’s letting other Australians know of her predicament. So she is Australian. Cheers.

  5. Jenny  

    Thank you for telling your story. A timely reminder to us all. As newly retired teacher (not in the old super scheme unfortunately) I am amazed how money can disappear if you’re not careful. We might live in the lucky country but unfortunately the cost of living is continually rising and I feel for the thousands who won’t have enough money for the years ahead even after working hard their whole lives. We thought we’d have enough but I do wonder at times with how how our economy is going. If need be we’ll move back to the country to free up capital from our city home and use cheaper options like YHA, house swapping and house sitting to travel. Good luck in the future.

  6. clifford  

    I retired last march ….I’m 67 was self employed ..sold my Business …end of income …now on the “O.A.Pension” …just got divorced ….we all know what that costs … …after 12 weeks of retirement …”I was over it ” financially & mentally …so I’m going back into business ( I’m too old to employ ) I’m fit and….” deteriorating slowly ” going into the Cash only Business ….. two things come from this …it keeps me occupied opposed to becoming a couch potato…and I get some ” Arthur Ash ” …because my savings and Government pension ,,,just will not cut it ,,,,.. if Barnaby Joyce can spend $ 670,000 refurbishing his office …..I intend to spend the cash income ( Hobby money )…refurbishing my ” office ” ……you need to take care of yourself ….nobody else …Government or family ..will do it for you ……Have a great day… I reckon most of us will work till we fall into the box …!!
    But find something you enjoy doing … it’s rewarding & give’s you “Purpose in life “….

  7. Super is a compulsory investment strategy, but by far the worst investment option. Pay what you have to into super and nothing more, it is, and always has been, a rip off.

    • I’m very happy with my super, I saved heaps of tax by salary sacrifice, plus adding that extra made a huge difference to the balance, plus my super fund gave me great advice on planning for retirnment, wouldn’t be without super.

    • Each to their own, I hope you dont learn the hard way, but I have a feeling you will. Lets hope not.

    • We have been self funded on super for over 11 years and still have more left than we started with. we did go through the GFC as well.
      Super has really worked for us, and we are not risk takers, we go OS every year as well
      Wayne must have been given very poor advice

  8. One of the first things we did was to sell the big family home. Downsized to a smaller place in a Over 50’s village. One of the best moves, freed up some cash. Now both on the pension and the very modest amount we get for our super and we live very well.

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