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Interview: Di Murphy talks about Dare to Retire Free

Di Murphy has chartered several career paths very successfully, including tourism, marketing, health project management, real estate, local government councillor and, subsequent to her husband’s first go at retirement, established a successful small business with him. Di talks to NZ Booklovers about the book she has co-authored with her daughter, Kristin Sutherland.


Tell us a little about Dare to Retire Free.

Here is an extract from a reviewer who was a former Director of Strategic Planning for the State of Victoria and former Director of Planning and Community Development Auckland Council:


‘Most people retire after decades of work in a structured and organised environment, Retirement, however, is not structured and organised for you. It can be a yawning hole of disappointment, or an opportunity for enjoyment and fulfilment. Dare to Retire Free is a classic planning guide to making the most out of retirement.


There is a chapter of finance, but mostly the book is about structuring your life priorities, social networks, self-worth, skills and talents, work activities (volunteer or paid) and healthy living. At the end of each chapter are activities to be worked through.


Read the book and do the activities and by the end, lo and behold, you will have prepared a comprehensive retirement plan, or at least the bones of one.


Even better, the book is easy to follow. It is designed to be read by people from all walks of life and levels of education. There are references to be followed up by the research minded but the language is mostly non-technical plain English. The text and activities abound with examples and real-life anecdotes. There are memorable quotes sprinkled throughout and every chapter is illustrated by cartoons to provide light relief whilst reinforcing the points made in the text.


The strength of Dare to Retire Free, is its classical planning approach with a very human touch, an easy-to-follow lifeline that is serious but also leavened by humour. At the same time, it is not a ‘once over lightly’. It is easy to read, but with a serious purpose that dips deeply into many facets of retirement life.’

What inspired you to write this book?

Following an incident involving my husband, John, on his first day of retirement.  

It was the much anticipated first day of retirement for John.  He had looked forward to this day for many years and was enjoying lunch out with me when he collapsed and slid under the table. After many anxious hours of ambulances, hospitals, tests and scans, the emergency room nurse reluctantly agreed to discharge John from the hospital, asking, ‘Has anything significant happened in the last few days?’ to which John responded, ‘I retired!’ The emergency room nurse responded knowingly, ‘You are the fifth one this week to end up here after retiring, and sadly, only 2 of you have walked out; the other 3 were taken out in body bags!’ John spent the next few weeks trying to work out what was wrong with him and finally concluded - he didn’t feel needed anymore! After many years running a busy legal practice, retiring had left him lacking a sense of worth and purpose.


It appears this is quite common for many people entering retirement, with anecdotal evidence from family and friends recalling similar instances when a loved one looks forward to retirement day only to suffer a major and sometimes cataclysmic event.


At the time, my daughter and co-author, Kristin, was working at Auckland University on a health project with several specialists from New Zealand and Australia, looking at cardiac issues and health outcomes. Her comment was that there is nothing in the coding of illnesses or deaths that notes if the patient was recently retired. So, the emergency room nurse's comment to John and all the anecdotal reports regarding early deaths of recent retirees go without recognition or medical note.


When Kristin and I researched what was available to assist those transitioning from full-time work to retirement, we found there was very little to offer, that is, other than a huge amount of material on financial planning.


What research was involved?

We spent weeks and months scanning what other books and general information was available worldwide; and Kristin was able to access a vast array of research through her work at the university. The internet was another excellent resource along with information from contacts we both had here in New Zealand and in Australia.


There was a plethora of books related to financial planning but little about all the other issues that needed to be considered when transitioning to retirement. It is a major life change, and many people spend more time planning a daughter’s wedding than their own retirement.


What books, information, and courses we did find were most likely to be from the USA, though we did find an excellent programme in Ireland.


Also, one of Kristin’s colleagues at the University is a renowned expert on the ageing population, and her advice was sought.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

The story starts during the COVID-19 years, when my daughter Kristin, her then 13-year-old son, Hamish, and I undertook an online course by Kindle Direct Publishing. Each of us learnt much about the process of writing and printing books, albeit in the online world. Each of us has been able to upload a number of books online, and the now 15-year-old Hamish has 12 cookbooks online, two of which are selling really well.


So, after the KDP course and with the desire to write a book as a tool within Smart Retirement, we set about writing a detailed outline of the book, the chapters we wished to include, and then a detailed outline of each chapter's contents.


Once we had this information, we engaged the services of a professional to advise us on the structure of each chapter and how it should flow. He also advised that we develop some characters to whom we could link the important information. This gave us a broad outline of the book.


Once this was done, each of us nominated 5 chapters for which we were responsible and undertook to research and write the text. We gave ourselves about 3 months to complete the task. As we already had most of the material from our online course, the main task in the writing process was to try and make the information fun but authoritative, interesting and engaging but human and relatable.


We set ourselves targets and would spend at least 3 – 4 hours each day drafting and writing chapter after chapter. However, additional research was often needed to expand a concept or idea.


Throughout this process, we needed to remind ourselves of the audience we were targeting and our desire to keep the book light-hearted but professional. We also knew we wanted lots of quotations and cartoons sprinkled throughout the book.


If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Thank you for the Music – by Abba would be a definite.


What did you enjoy the most about writing Dare to Retire Free?

I enjoyed the editing process of writing the book and making sure every sentence was correct and made sense, spelling and punctuation were accurate and conveyed the intended message, and all the facts and quotations were precise and made sense.


The other part of the project I enjoyed was developing the cartoons and book cover with some fantastic professionals.


The cartoons were drawn by Brian Doyle from Australia (a renowned cartoonist), and the cover was produced by Tony Ibotson, a creative director also from Australia. We were fortunate to be able to collaborate with these friends, who have provided us with outstanding cartoons and a brilliant cover.  They are true professionals.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

We are planning to have a party with lots of family and friends, though it is disguised as a Book Launch.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

My favourite book or series is Ken Follet's trilogy: The Evening and the Morning, The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.


This was a new author for me, but I loved the way Follett tells the story of how cathedrals were built intertwined with the primitive conditions of those years. I also enjoyed following the families and how their stories impacted each other. Whilst many of the scenes are gruesome, it was an eye-opener to me just how cruel we have been to each other—and we haven’t learnt from the past!


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Next on the agenda is to get the book into the Australian market and further if possible. I’m sure my daughter, Kristin, will no doubt be considering another book – a follow up of Dare to Retire Free – so in the meantime I’m heading off to the Kimberleys in Western Australia to explore one of my Bucket List items.

Smart Retirement Publishing


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