Retire when the wheels come off

I came across a headline in one or other financial supplement the other day.

“Do you dream of a happy retirement?”

I sprang from my bed, naked, and ran onto the balcony.

“Yes! Yes!” I shouted, raising my arms to the sky. That’s another black mark against my name on the body corporate’s death list.

I think, from the outset, one should ascertain whether or not one dreams at all. I have had dreams so vivid that I have fallen off the couch and begged to be taken to hospital even though I have been alone. I have also had dreams in which I discuss the weather with someone who has no face. It gets so boring that I have to wake up and also beg to be taken to hospital, but for different drugs.

Presumably these brazen inquisitors are inquiring if you daydream of a happy retirement. Anyone who has sleepy-time dreams of retiring is way beyond help.

Imagine not working!

Imagine working!

Two sides of the same filthy coin. It’s unlikely that the unemployed dream of a happy retirement. It’s also unlikely that they buy a newspaper every day, but even if they do, they probably don’t read stories with headlines like, “Do you dream of a happy retirement?”

The story, which turned out to be an advertorial for a conference run by – surprise, surprise – a financial advisory company, went on. “Do you have an idea what your life will be like in retirement?”

Even though this wasn’t a questionnaire, I felt I should take a stab at answering it. I turned to the fat ginger cat. It’s not mine. I live in a complex. Apparently it’s fine for other people’s animals to wander in and out of the units at will, but let me try that and the place would be awash in police and paramedics.

I call it FGB. Short for Fat Ginger Bastard. I don’t know why I bother giving it an affectionate nickname. It doesn’t care either way. But, for better or worse, it is my financial advisor and my oracle.

I don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy cat because the moment I wrestle it onto its back and spread its legs to verify its gender, someone will walk into the room and I’ll never get laid in this town again. Well, I might. But not by the kind of people I have in mind. And when I say people …

So. Do I have an idea what my life will be like in retirement? Thank you for asking. As it so happens, I do. I am a freelance journalist who abandoned the cruel notion of a day job back in 2004. I have no safety net. I write or I die. Retirement is my unicorn.

And if I keep on writing rubbish like that, I won’t be around for very much longer.

I have an idea that my retirement will start with FGB tentatively nibbling at my face after I have fallen asleep in a puddle of gin. It seems unlikely my retirement will improve much from there.

A third question was posed. “Do you want your actual retirement to match your dreams?” I struggled with this, no matter how much I drank. This was beyond Zen. Eventually I settled for no, I don’t want my retirement to involve having to fight off giant vampire bats while flailing about in a vat of custard.

“The decisions you make or fail to make about your retirement are likely to have a huge impact on your life.”

There’s only word that jumps out in that sentence. Fail. It grabs me by the throat and shakes me. It makes a sound halfway between a gloat and a laugh. A glaugh. It wears a blue polyester suit and a bright red tie. I fight off the glaughing beast. Flip it over. Pin it down.

“Are you saying,” I shout as it writhes beneath my grip, “that even though I am over fifty and prefer beer to money I can still make decisions that will ensure my golden years are made of real gold and not that fake shit that flakes off the Rolexes sold on Addington Beach?”

The brute goes still. Pretends to be dead. But he’s not. He’s thinking his way out of this one. Financial planners, like estate agents, cannot be killed. They simply mutate and spread from one town to another at the speed of lies.

More than 40 percent of South Africans rely on their children to take care of them in their old age. I should have done a Zuma and had dozens of kids. Maybe it’s not too late.

* I just read the conference programme. One of the presentations is “Investing for your goals.” Having recently pawned my reading glasses for a half-jack of brandy, I thought it said “Investing for your goats.” I’m going with the goats.










One thought on “Retire when the wheels come off

  1. Karen says:

    I nearly went to one of those years ago when I was walking around Umhlanga (I didn’t live there but maybe the poor woman touting the event thought I did) but only for the offer of a box of chocolates and bottle of sparkling wine at the end. However, the thought of sitting through two hours of something I knew I wasn’t going to invest in changed my mind… 🙂

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