‘Retirement was never part of my life’s plan’

Mar 30, 2021
Adrienne was pushed into retirement long before she was ready, but it hasn't been all bad. Source: Stock Photo/Getty Images

Retirement was never part of my life plan. For 13 years, I worked my dream job. I worked as hard as I wanted to. I planned to do it until I died — or at least until I could no longer talk or drive.

I visited primary schools all over south-east Queensland showing them literacy resources. I was on commission so the more appointments I had, the more the financial reward. I had 16 weeks’ unpaid holidays every year — 12 weeks’ school holidays plus an extra four at the end last term when teachers were only interested in getting through to the end of the year without committing a crime or suffering a nervous breakdown. I had been one of those teachers for many years, so I understood.

As often as I could, I headed to Europe for the 10-week break over Christmas, stayed in budget accommodation and ate cheaply, but that’s another story. When in November 2017 I was made redundant, I went into shock. I wasn’t ready to retire. And I didn’t.

I applied for another job, interviewed, and started in the sales department of a newspaper office in January 2018. I hung in there for three months but hated it. The office politics, the red tape, my female co-workers and the two-hour drive home in traffic all contributed to my resignation.

It was soon obvious I couldn’t live on the pension. After paying rent, I was left with just over $100 a fortnight. So I started making candles, selling cowhides, marking NAPLAN, and tutoring after school to make ends meet. Still not being able to keep my head above water, I started to share my living space. I really didn’t have any other choice.

My $32,000 nest egg (my winnings from The Chase) soon evaporated so I cashed in my superannuation (all $1,504 of it!) and went to Europe. I couldn’t afford it — I knew that — but I thought my health may deteriorate if I left it another year. As it turned out, it wasn’t my health I should have been worried about; it was the world’s health. Who knew the whole world would be struck down by a pandemic?

I have currently just over $20,000 in credit card debt, but I’m not crying poor. I had four months travelling Europe in 2019-2020, so I’m not poor. Financially challenged — definitely — but poor? Never! Money and material possessions have never meant happiness for me and I learned a long time ago never to worry about money. It’s just not worth it.

My ex is a millionaire, but is he happy? From all accounts, he is not. If I want to travel when this pandemic is over, I don’t have anyone to tell me ‘we’ can’t afford it. I’ll be getting that vaccine and heading off as soon as they’ll let me out of the country.

Never a person to sit and do nothing, I am now learning three languages: Spanish, Portuguese and Italian and keeping my French updated in U3A classes (University of the Third Age). These keep my brain active. Of course, I’m also involved in travel class sharing stories of past trips and write travel blogs for Starts at 60. The prizes I have won for my writing supplement my income and help pay for groceries. (Thanks, Starts at 60.)

I go to aqua aerobic classes and play walking netball twice a week to keep my body fit, tai chi to help my balance, and have just started learning to play mah-jong on Saturdays.

I am definitely busier now than when I was working full-time. And more importantly, I’m happier than I’ve ever been!

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How have you planned for your retirement? If you're retired, what lessons have you learned?

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