Exploring Retirement

"The institutions and instruments which have been created to meet the problem of ageing, are in no position to provide us with a policy for that great majority of retired people who present no problem at all"

Peter Laslett: A Fresh Map of Life.

On the last page of A Fresh Map of Life, Peter Laslett wrote “nearly all the attitudes and institutions appropriate to an era of transformed age relationships have yet to come into being”. I believe he was right about this as indeed he was right about many things. Finding the new institutions that are coming into being and reporting them to a wider audience is what Exploring Retirement aims to do.

Welcome to the June 2018 edition of Exploring Retirement. In 2018 we are exploring some of the roles open to people in "retirement". Not necessarily full-time, not necessarily paid but all of them interesting! This month we are looking at being a "time trader", a role with hugh potential for forging community connections.

Exploring Retirement is fast becoming the most comprehensive source of ideas for an active retirement lifestyle on the internet.

Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. If you are interested in writing for Exploring Retirement, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk. For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.

We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living

Time Affluence in Retirement

The one thing all retired people have in common is that they are, relatively speaking, time affluent. I say relatively speaking because there are still only 24 hours in each day. Nevertheless, compared with working for a living, when we retire we have at least 8 hours or more free time each weekday than we had before. This raises the question of how best to manage this gift of time. Some people struggle with unstructured time in retirement while others say they don't know how they ever found the time to go to work!

Psychologist Tim Kasser's research has shown that time affluence is a more consistent predictor of well-being than material affluence. In both cases it is not how much you have that matters but how you choose to use it. Time affluence means you have the time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful. You have more time for rewarding leisure pursuits that can contribute to both your physical health and social relationships. And of course you have the time to reflect on your use of time.

A helpful starting point in our discussion of how best to use the time we have, can be found from the work of Professor Ed Diener. Professor Diener spent his entire professional life studying what he termed "Subjective well-being" or in lay terms, how happy we are with our lives. Professor Diener defined high subjective well-being as the frequent experience of positive emotions, the infrequent experience of negative emotions and an overall sense of life satisfaction. A person who experiences high subjective well-being may not necessarily be well-off in material terms but, more importantly, they have psychological wealth.

An important finding from Ed Diener's research is that it is the frequency with which we experience positive emotions that contributes most to our overall well-being rather than their intensity. With this in mind we should plan to use our time to maximise our experience of life's small pleasures rather then looking for emotional highs. Interestingly, retired people consistently rate higher on subjective well-being than the non-retired, reporting feelings of contentment rather then ecstasy.

Another important result from Professor Diener's studies is the concept of a happiness "set point". When ever we experience an emotional high or low in our lives, we eventually return to our more usual day-to-day level of well-being or emotional set point. Thus to maintain high well-being indefinitely, we would need to keep running harder and harder. You can see this in people who set themselves a difficult challenge. No sooner have they reached their goal, than they are off pursuing something even harder. Professor Diener suggests a different strategy to improve our emotional well-being. Rather than doing more of the same, only more challenging, we should frequently "ring the changes" and set ourselves different targets. That way we don't become emotionally acclimatised to our activities.

To gain a sense of control over our finances, we can use a spreadsheet to show us where our money is invested and what return, if any, we are receiving. We can apply a similar approach to analysing the sources of our psychological wealth. Dr Ben-Shahar, author of Happier, suggests that we produce a "time budget" by recording our daily activities for a week or two. At the end of each day, write down how you spent your time that day, from reading the paper to searching the internet to cooking your lunch. This data can be entered into a simple grid where you record the activity and how much time you spent on it. He recommends that you rate each activity in terms of how meaningful and how pleasurable you found each one. You can use a simple rating scale of 1 to 5, where 1 indicates no meaning or pleasure and 5 indicates a high experience of meaning or pleasure. Finally, write down against each activity whether you would like to spend more or less time doing it in the future.

Now that you have got some data to look at, give some thought to how what you have recorded fits with your view of the life you want to lead. We have a useful expression in Northern Ireland, "futtering about". It means to spend time without achieving anything worthwhile. We all need to take some time to unwind and destress from time to time. After all that is what you promised yourself you would do when you retired! But could the time you spend "futtering about" be used for a better purpose?

Adding value - small amounts of time

We are often advised that getting the habit of saving even small amounts of money will result eventual in our accumulating a valuable sum. The same principle can, I believe, be applied to time management. When you examine your time budget you will probably find that you spend quite a lot of time, albeit in small chunks, without achieving very much. This can result in a vague feeling of pointlessness. Why not determine to change this bad habit for a good one and set out instead to achieve something personally meaningful? Let me give you an example from my own experience. Just over a year ago I embarked on a course to learn German, something I always wanted to do. The German language is not for sissies! There is a lot to remember and my memory is not the greatest. Two days a week I travel by train from my home to Belfast, a journey of just over half and hour in each direction. By bringing my German course work with me, I have no alternative for that half hour but to study. The result is that both my German vocabulary and my comprehension of the language have both increased noticeably. A lesson I learned a long time ago is that half an hour is long enough to accomplish a great deal, if you use it wisely.

Quote - Unquote

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!"

Rudyard Kipling

Featured Activity: Time Trading

Time trading is a system of community barter where members exchange services. Very importantly, no money is involved. In time trading members earn credits for time spent helping other members. One hour of service earns one time credit, no matter what the service. In this way, everyone's time and contribution are valued equally. Members can then trade their credits for services they want or need. The system operates rather like a bank than manages your time rather than your money!

The important distinction between time trading and simple bartering is that you can time trade with anyone in the group. This greatly expands the range of services you have access to. The principle is very simple to put into practice. Suppose, for example, you offer to help a neighbour cut their lawn. This might take you one hour and earns you one credit. You can then trade this credit with another member for a service you require. This can be virtually anything - you might need help with servicing your car or value the opportunity to practise a foreign language with a fluent speaker. Whatever it is, the other person who provides the service will also earn a credit which they in turn can use to obtain a service they need, and so on.

The system is managed by everyone involved signing up to a computer database. Each potential member joins online by filling out a brief questionnaire, setting out what they believe they have to offer. They may then be asked to attend an orientation session, were the system can be explained to them in more detail. The member is then granted access to the time trading website, where service offers and requests are posted and hours are recorded. If a member does not have a computer or regular access to the internet, they can still make use of the system, only they will need someone to manage their account on their behalf. Young people under 18 years of age usually require the consent of a parent or guardian to take part.

Apart from the obvious advantages of giving access to expertise at no financial cost, the system has proved to provide other benefits. Because it brings people together in a common cause, it can be a marvellous way to get to know your local community, form new connections and widen your circle of friends. An important aspect of time trading is that it is not necessarily just about performing tasks for other people, it can be about teaching the other person how to perform the task for themselves. In this way you can contribute expertise gained from years of experience. This can be a great way to help others and, incidentally, get a real boost to your self-esteem.

I don't know what it is about Boston! In 2007 I spent 4 weeks travelling around the United States studying retirement initiatives while on a Churchill Travel Fellowship. I spent an entire week in and around Boston as it was a real "hot spot" for new thinking on the emerging third age. I would have loved to have met up with the Time Trade Circle group, featured in this a short video, but it was only getting started at that time. To learn more about time trading, click on the video start button below:


Michael McSorley

Michael's regular readers will know that he is a keen cyclist. Unfortunately, Michael was involved in a hit-and-run collision with a car just before Christmas, from which he is still recovering. As part of his recovery process he has been rediscovering the joys of walking. In this months article he shares some of the pleasure to be gained from getting out and about in our local countryside.

Click here to learn more.

Jeanette Lewis

This month Jeanette reflects on the importance of kindness, not just to the recipient, but to the giver as well. To read Jeanette's article, click here

Ronnie Carser

Ronnie is an occasional contributor to Exploring Retirement. Here he is writing about the subject of identity - who we are and where we come from. We have quite a few readers in North America and I thought some of them might find Ronnie's reflections on "Irishness" interesting. To read the article, click here.

Photo Gallery

"Consider the lilies of the field".

My friend Henrietta Price sent me this magnificent photo of the Hawthorn blossom that grows in abundance in our countryside. After one of the wettest Springs on record, we have been enjoying a few days of glorious sunshine and Summer seems to have arrived at last!