Thoughts of Retirement | In the Dark

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Thoughts of Retirement | In the Dark


I’ve been reviewing my situation while here in Barcelona. One of the themes that keeps popping into my head is well expressed by part of a little speech by Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai:

But there are times… when suddenly you realize you’re nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything – or if it made any difference at all, really. Particularly in comparison with other men’s careers. I don’t know whether that kind of thinking’s very healthy, but I must admit I’ve had some thoughts on those lines from time to time.

Healthy or not I’ve also had thoughts along those lines, and sometimes feel I should step aside and create a job opportunity for someone younger. I know my employer wouldn’t mind if I did that either. They’d much prefer replacing me with someone cheaper and more compliant than me. I think if I asked for early retirement they would probably jump at the chance. I’d miss the teaching and the students, of course,

The fact of the matter is though that I can’t afford to retire yet. I have a mortgage to pay and I’ve only had five full years of pensionable service in the Irish system, so won’t get much of a pension. I have the frozen residue of my UK pension, of course, but that is subject to an actuarial reduction if I take the benefit before I’m 65, which is also the standard retirement age for academic staff in Ireland. I can’t be made to retire here until I’m 70, in fact, but I think I’ll be well beyond my best-before date by then and am not keen to overstay my welcome.

So it looks like I’ll have to stay until I’m 65 at the earliest. That means that when I get back from sabbatical I will have four years left until I can retire. I don’t know what I’ll be teaching when I return but I hope I get a chance to teach a few new modules before the end. In particular some cosmology or astrophysics would be particularly nice.

When I moved to the Emerald Isle in 2017 I supposed that I would carry on living in Ireland after retiring. Now I’m having some doubts about that. I have been advised by medical experts that my arthritis would be more tolerable in a warmer climate. And there’s the cost of living in Ireland, which is much higher than Spain. I can imagine living here, actually, though I think Barcelona itself might be a bit expensive for a pensioner. Somewhere in the surrounding countryside, or along the coast, might be nice. I’ve got a few years to think about that.

Another thing in my mind is what will happen to the Open Journal of Astrophysics when I retire? I would like some larger organization or community to take it over in the long term. It’s not expensive to run, actually, but someone would have to take over as Managing Editor. Moreover, I don’t think it’s really fair to expect one small University in Ireland to bear the full cost of a global astrophysics journal indefinitely.

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