In our ‘Rest Less Real Life Retirement Stories’ series, we talk to people about their lifestyle and what makes up their income in retirement. 

People’s retirement stories are incredibly varied. Many continue working part-time well into retirement these days, as well as pursuing hobbies, and other activities, such as looking after grandchildren. Meanwhile, pension freedom rules introduced in 2015 opened up a wide range of options when it comes to producing a retirement income. However, the cost of living crisis is making it tougher for many people to make ends meet when they finish working full time. 

Here, Rest Less Member Sue Bottomley, 71, from Towcester, Northamptonshire, tells us her retirement story.

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How old were you when you retired and what prompted you to retire then?

“I was 62 when I retired because at that point you could claim your State Pension at that age. I did all sorts of things before I retired to earn money. I fostered children for a few years, hosted Chinese students for six years, and worked as a cleaner and in a care home. Towards the end of my time working, I was also looking after my mum until she passed away 11 years ago.

“I’ve been married for 47 years, and we have three children and six grandchildren. My husband, Neil, is 75 now and fully retired too. He worked as a self-employed painter and decorator.”

How old were you when you retired and what prompted you to retire then

What is your annual income in retirement and how does this compare to your pre-retirement income?

“My income is made up of the full State Pension and my husband gets this too. I don’t have a private pension but he gets a small amount of income from one. It’s very difficult at the moment. I used to make about £1,000 a month when I had the Chinese students living here, but you had to feed them out of this income. I’m living off less now post-retirement.

“Even at age 75 my husband would like to carry on working. He has a will of iron, but he just can’t do it physically. He worked as a self-employed painter and decorator, but fell off a ladder at the start of lockdown and broke his ribs. He’s still recovering from this, and has had several operations.”

How are you spending your time in retirement?

“Our eldest daughters are 46 and 44, and our son is 40, and they all live nearby. I have five teenage grandchildren and one who’s now eight years old. We see them often.

“I love travelling and I’m  fortunate to have visited some wonderful countries. I’ve lived in Devon in the past, and we still have breaks there when we can. We went to North Devon in May to a caravan site in Woolacombe for a few days, but I’m suffering from long Covid so it’s difficult to drive.

“I’m currently a member of the charity the University of the Three Ages (u3a), which is a good idea for retired and semi-retired people. They have different talks and functions, and I’m looking forward to getting back to that. I go to all sorts, such as photography, walking and exercise groups. When possible, I do enjoy walking, swimming and gardening too. I have lots of friends and enjoy catching up over a coffee or maybe the odd lunch.”

How have your spending patterns changed in retirement?

“We won’t be having a proper holiday this year. It’s just not affordable. We used to go out for lunch and day trips, but nobody knows what’s around the corner in life, and things are a bit on hold at the moment. Our home has become our sanctuary and we’ve worked to make it really nice. Neil decorated the whole house even with his injuries.”

What do you wish you’d known about retirement planning before you retired?

“We wished we’d saved more, but we had three children and they were our priority, so we didn’t. At one stage I was doing 10 cleaning jobs a week, running a home and cooking all meals from scratch. What I would say though is don’t spend all your time doing things for other people – plan to spend time on yourself, too.”

If you’re considering getting professional financial advice, Aviva is offering Rest Less members a free initial consultation with an expert to chat about your financial situation and goals. There’s no obligation, but if they feel you’d benefit from paid financial advice, they’ll go over how that works and the charges involved.

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