A terrifying realisation hit me yesterday following George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, that being that more remains of my working life than I have already completed.
I had naively thought, when I began my working life that I would be retiring by 65, if not by 55 if forward planning, sheer will and a good company pension had anything to do with it. Even so, when I left university and started working full time at 20 (although I had been working part time since I was 16), that seemed like such as very long time away.
I carried on in this assumption until I got made redundant at 34 from a very successful career in recruitment and then again six months later from a similar position. I was owed a couple salary and other allowances from one of those companies when into administration.
Thankfully I’ve been one of the few who managed to get work straight away and although it meant a 50% cut in my salary I’m grateful that I’ve been in work ever since. I’m also grateful for the opportunity it gave me – I’d been unhappy in my career for some time and this gave me a push to do something different.
My working life has since taken a different direction, based around roles in public service and it’s been immensely rewarding in many ways. But there is always a downside isn’t there?
Yesterday, the Government announced that the age for receiving the national state pension would be increased. Many people will now have to work until they’re 70.
Unfortunately, my employment pension’s eligibility age is linked to the state pension, meaning that I can’t retire any earlier and live of my private pension like many people may be able to.
I’m not going to get into the political, social and economic question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Whilst not happy, I appreciate that we are an aging population and the money needs to come from somewhere…. although I wonder if I’ll be fit at 70 and not just slumped over my desk, semi comatose and crippled with arthritis.
But it has raised an interesting question for me. That is, if I am only half way through my working career, like many people I know, what opportunities are there for me and do I want them? I suspect that actually there may be quite a few if I can only whip up enough motivation to exploit them.
Having already had a bit of a high flying job, I had firmly convinced myself that my days of the cut and thrust of big business were well and truly over.
As time and life goes on, there’s an overwhelming wealth of other “stuff” to consider – partners, parents, caring for people, extracurricular interests and all the other commitments which can make life exhausting but also incredibly fun.
Do I really want to give up my flexible hours for the sake of a few thousand pounds? If I take on that role with longer hours or more travel, what will happen when that emergency call comes from the hospital and there’s an elderly relative to take care of?
I also often wonder if these are questions that everyone asks themselves, or indeed if they are primarily asked by women?
Wait, hold your horses, I’m not saying that women take everything on, or should, just that we seem to be programmed (or conditioned?) to think about all these things more than men. Or is it that we are constantly living in the “what ifs” and not, like many great men that I know (my husband included), thinking “what now” or “what next”.
So here is the awakening for me… the moment of clarity…. the “oh right” moment.
I’m of a certain age and hopefully going to have some kids sometime soon (although lots of lovely holidays sounds equally as appealing sometimes). With the cost of child care in the UK, having them late in life, and having already done the career bit, I’ve always thought if I did I’d stop working for a bit.
I never thought about what happens after then? I’d assumed that I’d go back to work eventually, perhaps when they were in school, or sooner but part time. But now I realise that could still mean another 20 – 30 years of working. How frightening is that?
Of course, this realisation should have come to me along ago. The maths makes sense. Why hadn’t I seen it? Is being wrapped up in putting the needs of others first a downside of the female condition?
Now of course I’m not going to start running down the streets shouting “It’s all about me”, kicking old people in the shins and leaving any kids I have to fend for themselves in a locked house with nothing more than a can opener to stave off the hunger.
What I am saying however is that perhaps it’s time to get some balance back. If you financially have no choice to work until you’re into your seventies and perhaps beyond, then maybe we need to think about ourselves a little more. Perhaps it will be worth going for that promotion, perhaps it’s worth changing career or taking a risk to pursue something you love, after all you’re going to be doing it for a while.
So, in short, thank you George. I may have an opinion on the Autumn Statement but I will keep my own counsel on that. But I will reluctantly thank you for inadvertently giving me a kick up the bum and the motivation to make some career decisions which are long overdue.
- Autumn Statement 2013: Have women been hit the hardest by George Osborne’s plans? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Judges announced for Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (womensprizeforfictionbookreview.wordpress.com)