Retirement…don’t make me laugh!

March, 2017 Guest Blog – Bernie Ward

We’re delighted to have Bernie Ward, Founder and Director of Ward Health & Safety, as our first guest blogger. This month, Bernie shares his approach to and lessons so far from ‘retirement’. Read on for a refreshingly honest account from the man himself…

Retirement…don’t make me laugh!


I have worked full and part-time from the age of 16, before that if I count being a paper boy! I was bought up to pay my own way; my father was frugal, so a great financial advisor.

Following a spell in the Royal Navy and at Didcot Power Station I joined Oxfordshire Fire Service in 1978 and remained with them until my transfer to Dorset Fire & Rescue in 2004.

In all that time I paid into the Fire Service Pension, there was no sensible alternative.
By the time I retired in 2008, I was paying 11% of my wage into the pension and although at the time I thought this to be a lot of money, I now reap the rewards.

I was lucky to be on a final salary scheme and knew, virtually to the penny what I was going to receive on the day I left; a simple spreadsheet produced these figures.
I sort of planned what I was going to do with this lump sum.
I paid off my mortgage therefore saving payments of over £300 a month. Advice from the wonderful Martin Lewis!

I was not ready for retirement completely and after a statutory 10 days off work went back working for Dorset in the role I had just left, but as a civilian. I was actively looking outside though.

1-5 years into ‘retirement’

We, my fiancée & I, made some big decisions.

  1. We got married (poor financial decision 1)

WHY? If we’d married whilst I was in service she would receive a widow’s pension on my death. We have had to take out additional insurance to cover this eventuality. Colleagues have sensibly taken this into account recently!

  1. I bought a good second hand car (poor financial decision 2)

WHY? Second hand! I now have NEW private lease car that I can hand back. Hassle free & less than the mortgage payment with manufacturer’s warranties

  1. We bought a property (partial mistake 3) to rent, as interest rates were dropping.

We should have bought 2 x properties and this would have saved us the insurance payments (1 above). The returns are so much better and will provide an income for as long as needed. We do now have 2 x properties and this has enabled me to reduce workloads considerably and an inheritance for the daughters.

I am now self(ishly) employed working less hours for better money and a better work life balance, something we all strive for. I am still keen to work but appreciate now, 8 years on, that time at home, time with grandchildren, (she didn’t arrive until 2 years ago) and being a “house husband” can be as enjoyable as working.

Retirement? Perish the thought!

We all think that we are too young to retire and at 52 I probably was, but, at 55/6 I should have thought harder and planned the slow decline of working differently.

My wife is self employed and although younger than myself, still enjoys working and will continue for a few more years. It does enable us to plan holidays better and outside of the busy periods. We can see more of the world, before we are unable to travel the long distances.

Many people say children and lifestyle keep them working; I would like to think I have both. I have two daughters and one grandchild; they (the daughters) are big enough to look after themselves, or so I tell them. Yes, we help out but I don’t give, I loan…interest free of course.

You adapt, change your own style, we are planning 3 years ahead now to move and have the type of house we intend to locate to in mind. We also appreciate that that may be sooner as opposed to later. We adapt, as I said, to what our current finances are and the changes to the body, I am not getting younger; watching rugby as opposed to playing or refereeing. And just try running after a 2-year old!!

The challenges, changes and responsibilities

My father died December 2015 and this brought additional challenges. He had planned ahead, providing financial information to allow me to deal with the estate and left my my mother and sister to ensure he got a good send off. I appreciate that not everyone can do this after such an event but I think my working background helped no end.

I dealt with the probate and he had a will but “it ain’t that easy” as they say! And then there were accounts to change and consolidate, TV and internet services to cancel to name but a few things.

Dad had shares that Mum did not have a clue what to do with, we kept them all and she has a reasonable return from them, she was involved throughout. My sister and I can now discuss with the share company any issues or changes that need to be made.

We have completed Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) for my mum for both finances and health, again whilst she was able to understand the process.

The next challenges for us are; what do we provide for my children, yes you’ve guessed it – a second marriage and although my wife appreciates my kids and loves my grandchild, they’re not hers, so there are lots to discuss and wills to change.

Learn more about Bernie’s business at

Bernie provides H&S advice as well as delivering Policy, Risk Assessment, Method Statements and site inspections providing written reports and solutions to issues identified.
He’s recently started working with other local companies to enhance the business further to provide a complete Health Safety and Welfare package for companies, including; training, asbestos inspections, auditing and Fire Risk Assessment.



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