Not everyone is the retiring type, particularly men. Ric O'Shay, 72, says he’s enjoying life now that he’s left journalism, but admits to moments of anxiety in the lead up. Peter Pitt, on the other hand, is a blacksmith who has no plans to give up his day job – and he’s 76.
Peter, left, and Ric are good friends who are on either side of the retirement arc.
Seniors Card: How important is/was work for men of your generation? How much did ‘being the breadwinner’ play into your sense of self?
Ric: Work isn’t as important as family, but it rates very highly. When my children were in primary school my wife said to her father she had found a part-time job and he was horrified and said to me, ‘Can’t you support my daughter?’.
Peter: You felt it was your responsibility to make sure your wife and children were looked after.
SC: When did you first begin to contemplate the idea of retirement, Ric?
Ric: I didn’t think about it. I had no intention of retiring until I was at least 70, but redundancies were being offered at work and, under the law, I wouldn’t have been entitled to the money I ended up getting if I didn’t take the package then. I would have lost money had I kept working. I was 68 at the time.
SC: You’re 72 now. Do you look back and wish you’d retired earlier?
Ric: No. I wish I now had a two-to-three-day-a-week job to keep me busy, but they can be hard to find. I keep myself busy with volunteering work, however.
Peter: I’ve never considered retirement, not so much for financial reasons, but because I need to do something. When I wake up in the morning I know what I’m going to do for the rest of the day. Also, I enjoy working. The business I’m doing was started by my grandfather in 1919 and I’m the third generation and I don’t want to see it finished (Peter has three daughters).
SC: What does retirement look like to you?
Peter: When I have days off I feel guilty. I need to be doing something. I like playing golf, but you can only do that once or twice a week. I’d probably travel around Australia. I have no interest in going overseas.
SC: Isn’t travelling doing something?
SC: So you’d rather be at work than travelling.
Peter: Yes. I’d like to have a holiday, maybe three months, but then have something to come back to. But I can’t take that much time off. Maybe a month. Having said that, the people I work for would go out of their way to let me travel.
SC: So the only person stopping you travelling is you.
Peter: Yes (smiles).
SC: Ric, when you were contemplating retirement, what did it look like to you?
Ric: I hadn’t thought too much about it, but I did listen to others who told me you really have to plan for it, have things to do. In all honesty I was fearful to start with, but I’ve managed to fill in my days and I now regard retirement as an extended holiday. Looking back I didn’t need to worry, but having plans in place helped. I don’t have a lot of spare time each day. I’m certainly not home watching TV. I’m busy from the moment I get out of bed, which is three hours after Peter’s started work (laughs).
SC: So, you’d say you’re happily retired?
Ric: Yes, very happy.
SC: You look at Peter who’s working five days a week, what are you thinking?
Ric: To each his own. He’s happy and it’s good to see.
Peter: It’s easier for me to go to work. I treat it now as a hobby. Some weeks I might work five days, others I might only work four, but I’m free to come and go.
SC: So, Ric, you said you thought 70 was the age for you to retire. Looking back were you right or should you have done this a few years earlier?
Ric: No. I thought I was mentally capable until 70 and, after that, I might become more of a hindrance than a help
SC: Just on that, as you get older do you get to a point where you go ‘hang on I’m a lot older than everyone else here, do I still belong?’
Ric: I think I can speak for Peter too here when I say modern technology has left us way behind. I can do basic things on the computer, but when it comes to more complicated things I have no idea. Work-wise though I firmly believed I was a far better journalist than 95 per cent of the others, no matter what their age.
Peter: Even though I’m 76 I don’t class myself as being old. I can still work as hard as the next bloke.
SC: You’re in a physical job, has your age impacted on that?
Peter: Yes, it has. I’ve had to source out some of the heavy labour although it’s not because of the physical side of things, it’s because of the heat generated by the coals when I’m shaping metal. But like anyone who’s put in a fair day’s work I feel a little sore, but nothing too much.
SC: Can you see a day when you’ll actually just have to stop?
Peter: Of course, but I don’t want to think about it. I’ll think about it when I’m 80, maybe. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had no health issues. That could have changed everything.
SC: Everyone talks about work-life balance nowadays, but was that the case back in the day?
Peter: I definitely did not have a work-life balance.
SC: Was that self-inflicted or did you have no choice?
Peter: I probably had a choice, but the volume of work was there and I did it – 12-hour days. Looking back I regret it because I lost time with my kids and left it all to my wife to do. I do regret that and it’s good that it’s changing.
Ric: I was absolutely obsessed because I wanted to advance myself and I thought my family would benefit from that – I could send my kids to college and so on. Probably up until the age of 45 I was totally consumed by my job.
Peter: I think that’s dead right. We were driven by wanting to make money and provide for the family.
SC: Would you describe yourselves back then as ambitious?
Peter: No, I’m not. In fact, I wasn’t ambitious enough. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t still be working. Not so much making money, but other things.
SC: But you still worked all those hours. That wasn’t ambition?
Peter: No, it was all about doing the job, filling the orders. Looking back, I regret not taking credit for what I did. I thought it wasn’t important.
Ric: I was very, very ambitious. I wanted to be an editor and I lived and breathed my job.
SC: So, looking back, purely in a work sense, do you see a sense of achievement?
Ric: I think I achieved everything I could have.
Peter: I have a lot of regrets on a personal level, but, professionally, I think I’ve done all I could have.
SC: If you could talk to the young Peter, would you say ‘this is the job for you’?
Peter: I wasn’t that in love with the job when I started at 17 working for my grandfather. I don’t regret it now, but I was sort of forced into it by my father and I think I would have liked to have gone into something else.
SC: Do you know what that might have been?
Peter: I was studying accountancy and gave that away to work in my grandfather’s factory. I probably have regrets in not being man enough to say to my dad, ‘No, this is what I want to do’.
SC: If you had to write a resume what would you put down as your job?
Peter: I often think about that. Everything I do is self-taught and a little bit of information from my dad. I would say I’m a blacksmith and a little bit of an engineer.
SC: What do you do?
Peter: I manufacture meat rail equipment for abattoirs. I guess if I was a tradesman I’d have been a fitter and turner.
SC: What hours do you work?
Peter: I start at 6am and knock off about 2.30pm.
SC: Has that always been your hours?
Ric: I used to start work at 6am, work through till about 4pm, have a few drinks with the boys, but my mind was always on work. Even watching the 7pm news my mind was on work.
SC: If you were prime minister, what would you set the retirement age at?
Peter: I reckon 70, if you’re healthy.
SC: Last question – was your wife looking forward to you retiring?
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