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Neither Shy Nor Retiring

Jennie Bond is one of British TV’s elder stateswomen. A long and illustrious career with the BBC made her a household name, while since retiring, she has been much in demand as a presenter, commentator and voiceover artist. Here, she speaks to retiresavvy about the importance of taking risks in life, the joys of slippers, wanting to still be active into her 70s, and why everyone should take retirement planning seriously.

I’m A Royal Correspondent… Get Me Out Of Here

After a long stint in the BBC newsroom, Jennie was the BBC Royal Correspondent from 1989 to her retirement from the BBC in 2003, during which time she reported on two royal weddings, the break up of two royal marriages, the 1992 Windsor Castle fire, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and, sadly, the deaths of both The Queen Mother in 2002 and Princess Diana in 1997.

“I’d been there for 26 years and I kind of thought I’d done the job,” she says. “It didn’t seem like there was much left for me [to report on].”

While she had some apprehensions about leaving – the decision to retire was “pretty much on the spur of the moment” – Jennie’s diary didn’t stay empty for long, with an offer from ITV’s jungle-based psychological torture show, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, appearing in her email inbox.

“I thought, ‘yes, I’m 53 and I’m going to have an adventure’. It was a life-changing experience,” she says. “Being in I’m A Celebrity did change my image a great deal. It was a big risk, and I haven’t always been good at taking risks.”

Jennie says the realisation that she’s a pensioner “still surprises” her – shocks her, even – and there are “some home truths you have to face up to about getting older”.

“I didn’t enjoy the realisation at the newsroom at the BBC that all of a sudden, I couldn’t see without my glasses,” she says laughing, miming distance-reading further and further way until she’s at arm’s length.

Enjoying the Good Life

For Jennie, retirement has been a chance to take a step back and enjoy a slower pace of life. Thanks to her status as a beloved household name, she has the freedom to pick and choose whether to work or spend time with her family.

“I feel in control of my life. I love putting my feet up and spending time with my husband. I will not hear a word said against slippers – sitting by the log fire with your slippers on,” she says. “But I also love looking in my diary and thinking ‘ooh I’m off here and there’. I hope that if I’m lucky that will continue into my 70s. I want to be on television when I’m 70 – not as often, but from time to time.”

Unsurprisingly, given the decade-plus spent as Royal Correspondent, Jennie’s still in demand as a commentator on Royal issues. And while she’s usually too happy to oblige “just sometimes, I don’t really feel like it.”

“So I say no thanks, and then I turn on the telly and there’s Nick Witchell standing outside Buckingham Palace in the pouring rain, and I think yes!” she says, with a grin.

Taking risks and planning ahead

Jennie, like a lot of the current generation of savvy, self-assured retirees, winces at the word ‘retired’. “There’s something about the word that makes me recoil – it still has this image of ‘it’s over’ and waiting for the end, but it isn’t that.”

“Retirement is a change of direction; it’s a change of not career but of life. I’ve had more fun in my 50s and 60s than in the rest of my career put together.  But opportunities don’t land at your feet – you’ve got to go out and be pro-active.”

Yet being able to afford a comfortable retirement is clearly an issue that Jennie takes seriously.  “We didn’t have that much money [when I retired], but I had the safety net of knowing that I would get a good pension from the BBC, even if I took it early,” she says. “I’ve been lucky because I had the BBC pension scheme, which was compulsory when I when I joined the BBC at 27.”

Making your own preparations for retirement income, she says, is of paramount importance. “These days, people have real fears about making ends meet – the old age pension doesn’t go very far at all, and in future generations, I don’t know if it’ll even exist,” she says. “My daughter’s coming up on 25. I have spoken to her about thinking about a pension, and of course she thinks I’m being totally ridiculous. I am going to try and put her together with a pensions’ expert and get her started because it’s absolutely vital.”

But Jennie remains a firm believer in taking control – and taking risks – in later life to keep active and engaged. “Not having enough money to do anything you want is a big fear, but I want people to take it in their own hands with a change in direction – maybe a total change in career. Taking a risk and trying your hand at something new will not only keep you young and stimulated, but could bring a few pennies in as well.”

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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