By Brenda Ward, JUNO

Retirement was a huge life change to make, says author Lindsey Dawson, who founded and edited magazines More and Next. It brought a different pace of life, and a health challenge, but it also brought the joys of being a grandparent and the time to do what she loves.

“People don’t realise that when you retire, the phone stops ringing, the messages slow down, and invitations to office parties stop coming. Until that happens, you don’t realise how much of your social life and self-worth is tied to your job.”

Men often find retirement tougher than women, she says, because they don’t always have the same social networks as women. 

Dawson has kept working part-time, writing books, speaking, editing, and mentoring other writers. “It’s minor in the income stakes, but high in job satisfaction,” she says with a smile. 

Her health suddenly became an issue last year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “You go along thinking things are going to be fine – and then suddenly they’re not.”

She says she was grateful she’d kept up her health insurance, even though it had become quite expensive. It meant treatment was faster, she had the surgeon and the oncologist of her choice, and appointments were made quickly. Now that her lumpectomy and chemotherapy are behind her, doctors tell her she has a very good prognosis. 

Dawson says she and husband Pete have used a portfolio manager for many years. “She’s managed to keep us ahead of the eight-ball, and we have a moderate income – enough to do what we want to do.”

They were also lucky to be able to buy their own home early, she says.

“In our day, people married young and bought homes young,” she says. “We were fortunate in that if you started young, despite a few downturns, with a bit of luck you made a bit of money every time you moved on. No one talked about investment properties. You’d change jobs, buy new places and gain equity at that same time.”

However, there were difficult periods, particularly in the mid-1980s, when mortgage interest rates soared to
18–20 per cent.

She says many people find it hard to know where to put their savings, and the 1987 crash discouraged her generation from investing in the share market. 

“But the share market is a really good place to put your money, if you do your homework or your portfolio manager does the investing for you. If you spread the money around, which we do, if one sector goes down, your investment can be buoyed up by these other sectors.”

And there are benefits to being 71, she says. “You’re older, wiser, smarter, less easy to sell to, and not suckered into empty consumerism.