I am going to retire
Retirement ages are being pushed back more and more, but for me today, January 9th, 2024 at the age of 66 - I am officially going to retire.
But what is retirement? A couple of dictionary definitions:
leave one's job and cease to work, typically on reaching the normal age for leaving service
withdraw to or from a particular place (my particular favourite - Suzy and Simon retired to the bar)
I know many people who are waiting for the day when they take their last cup of coffee from the shitty vending machine and bid farewell to colleagues only to be faced with that awkward moment when presented with an inappropriate gift from the company, by a boss who probably doesn’t even know their name.
It also seems with advancing age many people lose their dreams and aspirations.
I did look at some statistics about longevity following retirement, but there were no firm conclusions.
It’s not just about having nothing to get up for in the morning. Factors such as diet, exercise, mental agility and importantly and financial wherewithal play an important part.
In the United Kingdom, if you make enough social security contributions during working years before retirement day, you receive a pension based on what you have paid in.
Many old-school companies and public sector bodies have generous pension schemes which top this up and there are tax incentives for less fortunate employees/self-employed to have their own private pension.
The problem for governments is that people are living longer, and unlike pension schemes which rely on long-term investments, have to pay the pension (and in the UK national healthcare costs) from current tax revenues.
Birthrates are decreasing and therefore we have less working population to pay for the retirees. This forces an increasing retirement age - an extract of which is shown in the chart below.
Putting back the age when you can draw your pension does cause agitation in the working population and as per usual, the French, who are really good at protesting, attempted to force the hand of their Government to change policy but unusually this time to no avail.
Retirees that have money can, and often do, start a totally new chapter which is inextricably linked to their financial clout, giving them the ability to do what they want, when they want to do it.
The vast majority of people in the world are not so fortunate but regardless of your financial status, remember to Take Time To Grow Old…
Suzy and I wrote this for all those that have given up. Stop. Listen and ‘burn some Kaufman rubber’.
There is a huge difference between a job and a vocation.
Many doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, social workers, scientists, educators and those in the military are classed as vocational: tough jobs where people are not paid what they are worth and need to give so much of themselves in their pursuit.
Vocation: a person's employment or main occupation, especially regarded as worthy and requiring dedication.
Many of these actively encourage people to retire early and in the case of police officers, firefighters and the military, are forced to due to the physically demanding nature of the work.
Happy Valley - starring the marvellous Sarah Lancashire - is one of the best dramas we have seen in many years: if you haven’t watched it I suggest you allocate some time - you won’t be disappointed.
It’s a harrowing tale of a police officer demonstrating total dedication to her vocation and in the final episode, retiring from the force - cynical, broken but triumphant.
We are full-time artists and spend a couple of days a week writing the blog and researching/recording the podcast. If you want to support our work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription. You have no idea how important a regular stream of income is to us.
So what’s the deal with artists?
Artists like ourselves have our own issues as generally we are self-employed and the vast majority of us bounce around the bottom of the financial barrel.
To be a full-time artist is indeed a privilege and certainly becoming a lot harder. It takes luck, vast commitment and resolve - certainly a vocation with a capital V.
Although this discussion is outside the scope of this essay, I have written a few on this subject.
Can an artist ever retire?
I don’t know of any, their output may slow down but generally, everyone seems to just keep going.
Like a fine wine or wheel of Parmigiano, actors just seem to get better with age, leveraging their appearance, experience and demonstrating their gravitas. Visual artists, sculptures, writers and filmmakers just keep banging out work. Dancers, who are as fit as fleas, eventually turn their skills to teaching and mentoring the young or just carry on doing their thing.
Musicians are slightly different as it is a combination of recording and performing live. There are two major camps at the top of the tree:
Ones that relentlessly tour based on their most successful historic material e.g. Wishbone Ash, Deep Purple et al
Those who come up with innovative and fresh material e.g. Sparks, Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel et al
When the last curtain falls, the likes of Les Paul, Jeff Beck and Pablo Casals, died with their artistic boots on so to speak. Casals for me made one of the most inspiring quotes:
In 1957 at the age of 80 Casals was the subject of a movie short, A Day in the Life of Pablo Casals. The movie's director Robert Snyder asked Casals, "why he continues to practice four and five hours a day." Casals answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”
As you move down the ladder of success - and here I am referring to income and not artistic providence - most of us can’t afford to stop!
It’s all about the art
Today is my birthday which I share with one of my all-time guitar heroes, Jimmy Page. He is still going strong, curating the magnificence of the Led Zeppelin back catalogue.
Since getting together nearly 11 years ago Suzy (my wife, business partner and musical collaborator) and I have managed to survive by diversification.
Our first love and the primary driver is creating our original music and artwork.
This year we are writing and recording two new albums, producing work for film and forging out on the road again.
Alongside this we run the Supertone Records studio, publish this subscriber-funded blog & podcast (which is syndicated worldwide), sell our Supertone FX pedals, cables, amplifiers and speaker cabinets plus work as session musicians & producers.
There is no reason to stop. What the hell would we do with our days? Probably write music, so what is the point?
Over the past twelve months we have taken the bull by the horns so to speak - a very appropriate saying as we currently live in Samora Correia, Portugal and known as the heart of the bull - reduced our drinking, increased our exercise and artistic output. If you want to know about what we were up to in 2023, take a look at this recent article.
A spring chicken, no - a maturing cheese, certainly
So at 66 I creatively feel like a slab of fine Reggiano chilling out in some Italian cave, brimming with new projects, ideas and planning the next projects with my sensational wife and artistic collaborator, Suzy Starlite.
I still have a lot to say and my sonic palate is increasing every day.
Fuck retirement, but the pension is most welcome.