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Retire with no pension and no savings: retirement income and frugal living.

Updated on October 7, 2014
Artwork Courtesy of Alistair Parker
Artwork Courtesy of Alistair Parker | Source

Work to Live

 The secret to a long and happy life is work. The moment you stop working you stop living. I never thought I would say something like that, but reflecting on experience has taught me a few lessons as retirement age approaches.

I could cite the opposite sentiment. Why work when you can retire and take it easy. I know plenty of people who started work a few years before me who are retiring early on final salary pensions. When I asked my old mate Roy if he would go back to work, he looked at me as if I was an idiot, "not me mate, I'm having a great time".

Guy's like Roy who retired with a lump sum, mortgage paid off, no kids at home and enough income to not have to work, are a dying breed (but not anytime soon if you are reading this Roy). He worked for more than forty years in the same industry (Health Service), the classic Baby Boomer job for life. He deserves his retirement because he earned it. He determinedly stuck with a job that was 'just a job'. He didn't hate his work, but he didn't love it either. Roy was the classic case of 'work to live'.

After seven years in the same job as Roy, I knew I was going to have to wait for Roy to retire before I got a promotion. I also couldn't stand the idea of working in the same place doing the same thing for the next thirty eight years. So I foolishly converted my Health Service pension contributions into a private pension that will return about £400 a year when I'm sixty-five. In eleven years I won't even be able to buy Roy a beer for that.

But I took my chances and went my own way in a varied and not always successful series of careers. Now at fifty three it's a bit late to think about saving for retirement. But that's okay because now I've discovered a view of the future that Roy never had.

Retirement: It's nice to get out of the rat race, but you have to learn to get along with less cheese.

— Gene Perret

Live to Work

It's taken me thirty-six years of working to finally find a job that I love - writing and film making. I've had some really bad jobs, but that's another hub. They say there is no substitute for experience and all that time has been spent accumulating a personal bank deposit of memories, stories, experiences, tragedies, comedies that I can dip into anytime I want with no withdrawal penalty. A life spent job hopping has turned into a store of firewood that will fuel my writing fire for the duration. I might be new to Hubbing but I can see that if I persevere, eventually I'll have a fund of writing that will be my pension.

Of course writing isn't for everyone, but that's not the point. The point is... do something you love... then retirement will be out of the question. It doesn't matter if it takes half a lifetime to work out what that something is. Just as there is a someone for everyone, there is also a something. It could be knitting lifesize dinosaurs or teaching Swaheli to Baby Boomers. If you love it do it... it's never too late to start.

In my mid thirties I was doing an MBA with the Open University (another misgiuded career choice) when I met an octagenarian student on the same course. He had retired as a Director of the giant British retailer Marks and Spenser many years earlier. I asked him "How come you want to do this course?", tactfully leaving out the 'at your age' subtext. "I just want to see what you young fellows are up to". Eighty years old but determined not to be left out of the loop!

Work into your Eighties

Working into your Eighties

I did a video trailer for 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist', to be staged by the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. The Director, Christopher Morahan, is well into his eighties and still going strong. He was directing TV shows before I was born and was Head of Drama at the BBC when I was in school. I asked him if retirement was something he'd ever considered, "Oh good lord no", was the reply, like I'd asked him the dumbest question ever.

Sir David Attenborough the TV presenter is eighty five and still making award winning programmes with undiminished vitality.

My theory, and it's not - work in the entertainment business if you want a long life, is that we are defined by our work. We derive our sense of identity from our jobs. It doesn't seem to matter if you are the President or the Paper Boy, there is a strong but undeniable link between loving your work and health and vitality.

Longevity vs Retirement Age

Age at Retirement
Average age at death

Lies, damn lies and statistics

These people may be the exception to the norm, in fact a study of retired Boeing employees by Dr Ephrem Siao Chung Cheng suggested that the earlier you retire the longer you live. Which suggests the either Boeing is a tough place to work and people were much happier out of there or it could confirm that people's loss of identity associated with their job severely affects life expectancy.

This study is contradicted by another published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 stating that retiring at fifty-five significantly increased risk of death compared with those retiring at sixty-five. So who do you believe? Most people surviving to receive the Queen's telegram (100) are busy, happy people. I prefer the evidence of my own eyes.

Of course all this debate is because we live so much longer now. Only a century ago the 'Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' would be lucky to see fifty.

Lifestyle, culture and finances have a big influence on whether you will be able to work past your sell by date, as does the country you live in. Good if you live in Macau who are top of the longevity league with 84.33 years, no need for a pension in Swaziland where you are lucky to make 32. The UK and the USA come in 37th and 47th places respectively, distinctly average. (Source -

Life Expectancy Top 10 by Country

84.33 years
82.67 years
82.07 years
81.89 years
San Marino:
81.88 years
Hong Kong:
81.77 years
81.53 years
81.16 years
80.87 years
80.74 years
80.74 years

Die with your boots on

If you can keep the health and vitality thing going along with doing the work you love then you just might be lucky enough to die with your boots on - leaning on your spade admiring the tomatoes in your market garden. And if you are of a green disposition they might just dig you in with the potatoes.

There must be some mileage in my theory of continued working, the British Government have just announced plans to remove legislation which allows employers to forcibly retire employees when they hit sixty-five. They also have plans to push the state pension age up from sixty-five (men) to sixty-six, and by the time I get there the goal posts will no doubt have moved futher. The French government also want to increase the retirement age - which caused riots. A fifty something female TV presenter successfully won her case against the BBC for ageism in the workplace. So the global thinking is definitely directed towards power to the pensioners - their campaign slogan is 'What do we want? We can't remember'. Sorry, that's a bit ageist, but if you are going to work till you drop then you'll need a sense of humour.

And that brings me to the big question... what do you do if you can't work because of illness or just sheer old age?

The nomadic Indian's used to leave their old people behind when they became too much of a burden. If leaving Grandma to the wolves is too much of a hardline solution to an ever ageing population problem then what are the options?

Options for a Retirement with no pension

The No Money Options -

(a) Family - traditionally the family would look after the old and infirm and for some of the lucky ones that is still an option (I hope you are reading this kids!).

(b) A trip to a Swiss clinic - very sad and probably only for the desperate.

(c) Sitting out on a mountain top and waiting for the last dawn - I quite like this one (kids, if you don't fancy (a) then check out the top of Snowdon if I haven't been around for a while - they have a train to the top!)

Liquidise your assets -

(a) Reverse mortgages or Equity loans- if you own your own home then you can release the equity with these schemes - but read the small print first.

(b) Rent a room - you might even get a sympathetic lodger to do your shopping and take out the trash (not you!).

Income in your sleep -

(a) Write a hit song, especially a Christmas hit, then sit back and wait for the sound of the big fat royalty cheque hitting the front doormat to wake you from your semi permanent afternoon nap.

(b) As mentioned above - become a successful Hubber and dream of an income to pay the nursing home bills.

(c) Build a business then sell it for so much money you'll never even need to think about anything more than the sun warming your beer while you doze on the beach.

But if you are like most of the wage slaves - continue buying a lottery ticket every week and keep your fingers crossed for your retirement.

Retire like Bill Gates

Retirement Poll

What would you prefer in your dotage?

See results


This hub was a prizewinner in the Personal Finance Hubpages competition.

Thanks for reading and remember to rate and/or recommend to your network.



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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      HHmmmm, rather have the odd liqueur rather than beer, but I take your point. :-)

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      3 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Might sneak beer in there too!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      As a retiree, I enjoy life, and wouldn't like to have to work again. If I can start to make a small amount online, I'll be happy. Enough to cover internet and domain would be fine! :-)

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      3 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for reading Jacey

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      The forum is a brhtgier place thanks to your posts. Thanks!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      A simple and inileltgent point, well made. Thanks!

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      4 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Well it's good to know I'm not the only one. At the rate I'm blogging I'm aiming for a Creme Egg!

    • Hugh Morrison profile image

      Hugh Morrison 

      5 years ago from London, England

      I definitely believe it's possible. At the moment my retirement plan (I'm 42) consists of a private pension which is projected to give me a retirement income of about 3/5 of b*gger all, state pension, which probably won't exist, various savings and investments, which due to the likelihood of zero interest rates for ever (thanks, bankers...) won't amount to much either. But I reckon if I keep writing fo rthe next few years I can build up enough passive income just to buy me enough Werther's Originals to keep myself alive in old age.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      5 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the comment Hugh... Am hoping writing will be the thing that keeps me going, I'll probably be a pensioner before I make any money from it!

    • Hugh Morrison profile image

      Hugh Morrison 

      5 years ago from London, England

      Excellent article. I don't have much faith that even the basic state pension will exist when I reach retirement age. It's frightening however when I hear people say 'But you've paid in! You've paid your stamp!' They need to think again - your NI 'stamp' goes towards today's pensioners, it doesn't get put in a big pot with your name on it. I think your view of working till you drop is not necessarily a bad thing, providing you can find work you enjoy.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      6 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks Travmaj, I think the more you take your foot off the gas the harder it is to pick up speed again.

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      i really like this hub - totally refreshing and makes so much sense. - I've no intention of ever retiring - thank you so much... and cheers

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      I think you are right Susan, why not have a lifetime project? It doesn't do any harm to think big.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    • Susan Miles profile image

      Susan Miles 

      7 years ago

      Great hub! I too want to work at something all of my life. Never slow down, never grow old. Voted up.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Pension Calculator - Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    • profile image

      Pension Calculator 

      7 years ago

      Interesting post on pensions, agree that it is important to keep active and maintain an active and healthy work-life balance.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      I think keeping busy = keeping young.

      Pipe and Slippers Syndrome is always waiting for you to let your guard down!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Another funny hub. Love your style. I am officially retired but busier than ever looking after the grandkids and doing things I love. I can't imagine sitting around doing nothing.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Cheers Howard. The Swiss have clinics for voluntary euthanasia. It's very sad really but people who feel they can't go on with terminal illness usually. It's illegal in UK but people spend a lot of money to go to these clinics - there has been a lot of debate about in in the newspapers here.

      Yeh, that Boeing survey was on a fairly limited population I think. I would like to see some figures for the population at large.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the comment Shaekelly, appreciate you stopping by.

    • Howard S. profile image

      Howard S. 

      7 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia

      I like an easy read like this one--serious with just enough humor to hold my attention. You lost me on the Swiss clinic, though (probably a cultutal difference). And that first table just doesn't feel right intuitively, but I didn't verify it and I know you did!

    • shaekelly profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      This was very informing and comical thanks for writing this hub.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Many thanks for reading PP.. good point, for all our supposed sophistication in the bigger picture we are not doing that well!

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 

      7 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Wonderful hub,thanks for sharing! The tables say it all! Congrats on the win!

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for reading Becky. I find some of these topics can be terribly dry if you don't squeeze a little humour in there somewhere.

      I guess it is a serious topic, I don't really want to be an old age pensioner having to choose between food or heating. So I'd better get my finger out and play catch up!

    • Becky Puetz profile image


      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      I enjoyed reading you Hub. I chuckled all the way through. You have a great sense of humor; "a fund of writing that will be my pension." and "teaching Swahili to Baby Boomers" yet you managed to achieve a serious message that's important to many. Thanks for an excellent Hub.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks Arterial I know there will be no moss on your retirement rolling stone.

      Thanks too Treasures of Heaven you are right there is an extra spring in the old step today!

    • Treasuresofheaven profile image

      Sima Ballinger 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Congrats on this winning hub. I am glad you have discovered what you really enjoy doing. Life is full of surprises. Your new found career will give you even more life.

    • Arterial profile image


      7 years ago

      Well done that man about time you saw some return for your efforts. As a fully engaged retire, I support you hypothesis. A really good read and well thought through.

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for all the comments. I'm blown away that I've actually won something, ha who'd have thought it. The prize money has just doubled my pension fund!

      Thanks Simone, welcome to the Die with you boots on club.

      Thanks too Akirchner - I'm pretty sure they do caskets that big these days!! Am hoping that by the time the reaper knocks we will only have to think it for the words to appear on the holographic page - that could be another hub!

      Thanks too Oceansunsets - Random is a good description of my writing style ;-)

    • oceansnsunsets profile image


      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Great point of view, and thank you for sharing it. Welcome to Hubpages, and a big Congratulations on your Random win as well in the contest!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      7 years ago from Washington

      Congrats on the win, Johnny - and welcome to hubpages! I figure I'll be poised or was that posed at my computer with my gnarly old hands typing away....either for hubpages or my regular medical transcription job when they find me and pry me off to put me in the ground. Probably will have to find a casket big enough to encompass that chair stuck to my behind, too!

      Very well done though indeed!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Nicely done! I personally have no plans of ever retiring - I'll work until the day I die! You make some excellent points and observations here - quite a good read. Thanks for writing!

    • Johnny Parker profile imageAUTHOR

      Johnny Parker 

      7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the tip Wordplay, I'd been thinking about how to do that. Will look it up and do it.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the hub.

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      That was well written and heartfelt; a joy to read!

      Rest assured that you can make retirement money and a whole lot more on HubPages. After just three years, the income I make here supports me.

      Here are a few tips: Make sure to put your HubPages affiliate code in every link you post. That will allow you to build a network under you that will boost your earnings. Also, build free blogs (on Blogspot or other free domains) on similar topics to your hubs and link to your hubs from them. That will generate a lot of traffic over time, which will also boost your earnings.

      Best of luck! :-)


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