Starting retirement doesn’t have to be a short, sharp shock. These days, more and more people are taking a measured approach – winding their work down while gradually increasing their leisure time. Here, MyTime talks to Robin Parker, a Bristol-based entrepreneur about the joys – and challenges – of semi-retirement.
Having left a successful career in advertising, Robin moved into the printing business. He first bought a franchise of Kall Kwik in Fareham, Hampshire – and later, in 2004, set up his own brokerage firm, CC Printing.
‘Over 8 years at Kall Kwik, I learned a lot about printing. I finally decided that I would like to work without overheads and buy print on behalf of customers. And so I became a print broker.’
Over the years, Robin grew CC Printing into a successful brokerage with a range of regular, trusted clients. But as he approached retirement age, Robin faced the challenge that many small business owners confront – how to stop working but still make the most of their asset.
‘I had offers to buy my business in the past. But in the end I couldn’t see what value the buyers would get. My clients were used to dealing with me, personally, and would be reluctant to carry on with someone else.’
Robin’s solution was to continue the business himself – but to increasingly fit his work around his lifestyle. While, in previous years, he had worked hard to drum up new customers, he began to focus only on his existing clients. And, when customers naturally fell away, Robin chose not to replace them. The result has been an organic transition into retirement – but not one without challenges.
‘I wouldn’t neglect clients when I went on holiday – even though I was working on my own. To keep things ticking over I check emails each day and usually do a couple of hours. It can be stressful at times, but work is mostly on my terms these days.’
Today, Robin works with just a handful of his favourite clients. But, not one to become idle in retirement, he is filling his free time volunteering – as a tour guide at some of Bristol’s historic tourist attractions.
‘When you’ve got half a dozen adults who really are interested in history, then I find I can be extremely enthusiastic.’
But what if things had been different for Robin and he hadn’t been his own boss? Would he have approached retirement in a different way?
‘I think that, for most people who have had a successful, challenging career, the idea of retirement, in the traditional sense, is terrifying. One day they are important members of society; the next they have complete anonymity. I’m not sure that’s very healthy and, personally, I intend to fill my retirement doing something useful and productive… alongside regular fishing trips of course!’
As Robin’s experiences show, retirement doesn’t have to be a shock to the system. If managed carefully, it can be used to redress the balance in life, shifting it gradually from work to leisure. And as the evidence mounts up to suggest that staying busy later in life is central to mental and physical health, the argument for an active ‘retirement’ has never been stronger.