A sideways look at economics

As a more senior Fathom employee, I’m about to hang up my mouse and keyboard for what really is the last time. On the other hand, perhaps I should never say never. You see, this is my second shot at retiring. I eagerly jumped off the conveyor belt of work at the age of 60 after a long career in financial services, only to jump back on again two years later when I started work with Fathom. My partner was encouraging, saying that joining an exciting team would reignite my mental activity and allow me to use my experience.  To be honest, I was so much older than most of the people at the company that I felt like Robert De Niro in the 2015 film The Intern (although sadly not on the same rate of pay – which reminds me, I still haven’t taken that up with the CEO!). 

Three years flew enjoyably by at Fathom, and suddenly I had reached 65. As an aside, what a damp squib turning 65 was! After waiting for it for years as the turning point in my life, they shifted the pensionable age to 66 which doesn’t have anything like the same ring about it. Another year has passed, and now at 66 the state pension is finally looming and it probably really is time to say goodbye. (Apologies to those with later state retirement ages!)  

As you can see from the chart below, I am far from the only person who is still in harness or has decided on returning to work after 60. So here are some reflections on working life in your 60s which I suspect might strike a chord with workers of a similar ilk to me. 

Happy retirement, Craig - the joys of office life in your 60s

Sunday night syndrome

Youngsters might get that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach at the thought of work in the morning, but me – never! I was excited and looked forward to being amongst colleagues and feeling part of a team. Hopefully I could use my experience and attitude to help my younger colleagues. 

Office attire 

As I started my second career in my 60s, I decided to be rebellious. I was definitely not going to wear a tie. Not wearing a jacket — well, that was just going too far. But when I arrived at the office, the order of the day was strictly casual. T-shirts and even jeans were the norm. Well, I got that totally wrong! 

Buzz of queuing up at coffee shops 

Everyone else might be pulling faces at the length of the queue, but as a work returner it felt great to be part of a crowd with a purpose. Whether I was getting a Starbucks latte or a hot sausage roll from Sainsbury’s — incidentally, they are superb — or picking up a free Evening Standard, I was simply loving the hustle and bustle of working life.  

Trepidation of the modern, technical, office coffee machine 

Nerve-wracking. Checking that nobody was in the kitchen to see me, and that everyone was immersed in their work for fear of the dread request, “Craig, please can you get me a latte?”, I would slowly manoeuvre towards the enormous, shiny machine and stare at it blankly. They had told me how to use it several times. “I can do this,” I muttered. Sadly, no, I couldn’t, and was shortly departing to Costa. 

Modern office Christmas lunch      

A bit of a let-down. I was really looking forward to the traditional Christmas dinner, only to be faced with platters of Spanish tapas! Not a Yorkshire pudding in sight. 

COVID-enforced technology #1   

Tricky. On my first time heading up a group Teams call, I realised at the end of the meeting that my colleagues had been talking to my midriff. You just miss having a (several decades younger) colleague sitting next to you to point these things out.  

COVID-enforced technology #2 

Working in sales, I am usually quite forthcoming in meetings with clients, keeping the conversation flowing. But when I attended a virtual client meeting with Erik, our CEO, he did all the talking. Don’t get me wrong: this was appropriate, and the reason I literally did not say one single word was that there was no need. It was very odd, though. This would never happen with a face-to-face meeting. 

The Oliver B… moment  

I received an enquiry just before a Monday morning team meeting. So when we got to Any Other Business, I tentatively said I had received an email from Oliver Blanchard. The room full of Masters degree economists fell silent.  As a non-economist, apart from achieving a ‘B’ grade at A level (which my mum was very proud of), I had never heard of Olivier Blanchard. Also, I said Oliver instead of Olivier. I found out afterwards that the reason they all went quiet was because they were thinking: “Does he mean Olivier? If so, wow! If it’s some guy called Oliver, well OK, no biggie.”

It appears that Olivier is akin to Ronaldo in the economics world, so much so that one of the Fathom team actually uses his name as a password, although that may change after this TFiF.[1]

Beer o’clock and office banter 

One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic is the invention of Beer O’clock.  Promptly at 5pm on a Friday, Fathom colleagues get together on a Zoom call to mull over the events of the week, discuss what they are doing at the weekend, and generally indulge in office banter — which for me normally meant trying to steer the conversation towards football. This would not have happened without COVID.

The final farewell

So now (with thanks to Frank Sinatra) the end is near. As I take off my work jacket for the last time (again), I can look ahead to getting through my bucket list, and to sorting all those personal administration and DIY jobs that have accumulated over the last 45 years… Or could it be time to apply to the local coffee shop as a trainee barista?  

[1] It was THE Olivier Blanchard.