Retirement is the time when many decide to get a dog. They offer exercise, company and they’re cheaper than a gym membership. But which dog? My advice is ditch the over-priced, handbag-sized accessory breeds and go to a rescue society. Not the ones who import feral, psychotic pack dogs from abroad but our own dogs’ homes, where you will likely find many beautiful young animals that have been “comfort” buys in lockdown and dumped when the boss called their owners back into the office.
A senior railcard gives you the chance to see the world – or, at least, our national rail networks – at a very reasonable price. Ditto a bus pass.
I’d also recommend RHS/National Trust membership for a lovely day out, nice cakes and a chance to pretend that these immaculate houses and glorious gardens are your backyard for a few hours. Indeed, many museums and galleries have good value membership which are culturally rich but also give you a great place to meet friends.
The new smartphone
A bigger income allows you to choose a more expensive phone, says the pension survey. That’s not an “essential”. You’re not working now, so all you need is one that allows you to take and make calls and store pictures of the dog (and the grandchildren, of course). Just make sure your partner actually remembers to switch it on when he’s gone to get the keys cut while you’re in Waitrose.
There’s no doubt that holidays could be considered a luxury, rather than essential, in retirement because some would say you’re permanently on holiday once you’ve left the rat race yet many have big travel plans for when they stop work – although we’ve been happy to discover the diversity and charm of our own island, when we were unable to go anywhere else for the past two years.
But the good news is that when you don’t have to fit dates around work colleagues or schoolchildren, retirees can take advantage of going off season and getting cheap deals.
What sort of lifestyle will your pension pay for? asks the survey. Turns out that a “minimum” income retiree can afford a £4 bottle of wine and three cans of Carling a week, while the “comfortable” can expect an £8 bottle and three cans of Punk IPA.
This is the trouble with surveys. They assume that expensive is better and everyone has the same aspirations i.e. buying a “decent” (pricey) bottle of wine. Let me just say I’ve had more fun knocking back a £5.99 Animus from Aldi than I ever had with a Grand Cru Montrachet.
Egyptian cotton sheets
But perhaps my number one “essential” for retirement is making your home a warm and welcoming place – not easy, I admit, with the energy price hike – but splashing out on comfy chairs, cosy throws and good quality bedding is important when you’ll be spending more time there. And if you’re a couple, more time together.
To celebrate her husband Ron’s retirement, my friend Tricia had a bedroom makeover – new lighting, 800 thread Egyptian cotton sheets and planned a spot of afternoon delight when he came home.
She arranged herself on the bed and heard his footsteps on the stairs. Ron opened the door, looked around with a puzzled frown and said “I’m sure I came up here for something” and then turned and left.
“I thought he was joking,” said Tricia, “but when I looked out of the window, he was mowing the lawn.” Soon after that, she got a gardener.
Jan Etherington’s Radio 4 comedy series Conversations From a Long Marriage is available on BBC Sounds