THIRD AGE: Working towards a new beginning

YOU can’t help but wonder how much Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, has really enjoyed his first full week of retirement.

Is he already bored, missing his former colleagues and the buzz of running a world class football team? Or perhaps, it is his wife Cathy, who is wondering whether he has made the right decision? She famously persuaded her husband of nearly 50 years not to retire in 2001 because she was worried he would be bored.

“When he’s under your feet, it is a nuisance. If he’s here too long, he gets in my road,’’ she once admitted.

Indeed, Ferguson, 72, insisted in his autobiography that he planned to work for as long as possible because of his own father’s untimely death.

“My father retired on his 65th birthday and one year later he was dead. The worst thing you can do is put on your slippers. People say things like, ‘I’ve worked for 45 years, I have the right to rest.’ Not at all, you have to keep yourself active and in good shape,’’ he said.

According to Greg Butler, a retirement coach, all of these issues are very common for people who have just retired and most will not have thought about them until it is too late.

“The majority of people do not plan for their retirement. Many couples may look forward to having more time together, but may have very different ideas about what they want to do, and typically, they will not have discussed it,’’ he says.

“Although you could have been with your partner for over 40 years, you were not together 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in practice that can be quite challenging for some couples.’’

Butler also points out that Ferguson, who was with Manchester United for 27 years, may find it difficult to find a hobby or interest that will give him the same satisfaction as his team winning.

“Sir Alex probably won’t find it. He will need to accept that gardening or travelling is not going to give him the same pleasure as his work did,’’ he says.

John Higgins, the CEO of the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland, runs courses advising people on what to expect when they retire and insists that it’s vital people plan for it.

“What happens if your career is your identity and now the phone stops ringing? People can become depressed or bored and everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” he says.

“Many issues can arise when you retire. What happens if all your friends are your work colleagues? You have to be pro-active to remain in contact with them, now that you don’t see them on a daily basis,’’ he says.

According to the latest research, retirement increases the likelihood of suffering from depression by 40%. However, Ferguson remains confident that he won’t get bored and insists that he has enough interests outside football to keep his brain active.

He plans to travel, learn a new language and musical instrument, enjoy his passion for horse-racing and read “even more’’ history books.

“I did four years of German at school and I’ve been studying French for years, I could take on Italian. I already know quite a few sentences. I’ve tried to play the piano like my cousin in Canada, who taught himself and is fantastic. I need a tutor and time to learn,’’ he says.

It seems Alex Ferguson has moved the goalposts, with his focus firmly on building a hectic retirement.



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