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. Some continue working part-time well into retirement these days, as well as pursuing hobbies and other activities. Meanwhile, pension freedom rules introduced in 2015 opened up a wide range of options when it comes to producing a flexible retirement income. For many, retirement is the start of a new and exciting life stage, and we would like to share your experiences as valued members of our community. 

Here, Rest Less Member Kate Smethers, 71, from Pitstone, a village near Tring, Bedfordshire, tells us her retirement story.

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

I retired in March 2017, when I was 65. I worked for a charity that helped adults with learning difficulties, focusing on looking after them in a horticultural setting so they learnt how to grow plants and enjoy nature. 

“I worked part-time for three or four days a week for quite a few years. I decided to retire because of my age, and thought it was time to stop and do other things. Also, I started having grandchildren and wanted to be available to spend more time with them.”

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 about £900 a month from the State Pension. My husband, Nigel, is 71 and a retired self-employed accountant. Our retirement income comes mainly from his pension. I do have a small private pension and other investments, but I haven’t needed to draw on these yet.”

“My personal income now is definitely lower than my pre-retirement income partly because I only ever worked part-time. I was lucky to have some money from my parents when they passed away which I have in reserve. I’d say we need at least £3,000 a month or possibly a bit more than that to live comfortably after tax.”

What makes up your retirement income?

“Just the State Pension for me personally, but as I say, our income mainly comes from my husband’s pension. I wasn’t specifically saving for retirement but I did put money into savings when I could in case we needed money, such as to buy a car. We sometimes bolster our income from our savings though.”

How do you spend your time in retirement?

“We’ve got three children, Mark, 43, and Naomi, 41, and Daniel, 37, and five grandchildren, ranging in age from two months to 10 years old. We regularly look after the grandchildren. I also volunteer for the National Trust. In our village there’s an old windmill that’s only open during the summer months, so I go and welcome visitors and pick up litter in the car parks. 

“The Women’s Institute (WI) is a national group that I’m part of. There are monthly meetings in our village where we have a speaker or other activities and then smaller groups meet in between. I help organise walks and also belong to the supper club.

“I’m also a ‘housekeeper’ for a house that’s used by local Girl Guides, which involves checking the property when it’s been used, and replenishing supplies. I also like knitting and crocheting for local charities, making blankets and sending them off where needed.

“For many years I have been learning to play the piano accordion, which is quite an unusual instrument in this country. I play in an accordion orchestra – we practice once a fortnight and play occasional concerts. It’s great fun!

At some stage I’ll have to slow down but while I can I don’t want to sit around and do nothing. I get out and do something most days.”

How have your spending patterns changed in retirement?

“We still eat out fairly often and I don’t think our spending patterns have changed that much. Perhaps we don’t take as many holidays as we used to, and we will gradually reduce our spending when we can’t do as much. Having said that, we’re going on a three week holiday soon that’ll use some of our savings to Alaska, America and San Francisco, where our son lives. 

“We have considered moving to a ‘retirement village’ but wish to stay in the area where we now live and there is nowhere suitable. We are also considering a move to a bungalow but the availability at the right price is a problem.”

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

“These days you have to have a pension. I don’t think we’d have done anything differently but I would say we benefited from taking financial advice. This was important to make sure we could plan for a comfortable retirement by putting our money in the best places.”

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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