Civvy Life: Peter Chester – Clinical Team Leader At Devon Partnership NHS Trust

Peter Chester is a Clinical Team Leader with Devon Partnership NHS Trust having previously been in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. 

Can you summarise your Military background?

I joined the Army in 1969 when I was about 17 and I served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps until 1984. I went through the ranks and got up to Sergeant when I was discharged – I actually bought myself out of the Army when I’d done 15 years.

How was your resettlement?

I made the decision to come out because our children were coming up to working age and leaving school. Initially it was a little bit difficult to find a job but I started working for myself which worked out quite well until the late 80s when there was quite a slump in the economy. (We had a little business making garden buildings and sheds and that sort of thing – timber frame buildings.)

I was lucky enough to get a job at Broadmoor Hospital which was actually quite similar to being in the Army when I was first there because obviously we were in uniforms and there were very strict regimes. It was a really good move for me. From there I got an opportunity to go to university and train as an occupational therapist (OT) which is what I currently am. I’m still working in the NHS.

What was your specific route into Devon Partnership NHS Trust?

Once I’d become an OT I think I wanted to spread my wings a little bit and find out what was happening in the wider world of mental health. I went off and did some locum work for about two or three years. I was actually self employed again at that particular time and after doing that it was just a case of resettling again. I saw this job and I’ve been here for the last 13 years.

Did your Military career get discussed in the interview?

It was on my CV that I’d Served but there weren’t any questions that particularly related to it. I suppose from my point of view, having the Military background gave me the confidence to go forward for interviews. I suppose it’s just the confidence it builds up in you. That’s part of being in the Services and actually being able to grow as a person. It certainly took me from being a boy to a man very, very quickly.

Do you still draw on your Military experience?

I think you do, definitely. You obviously have to temper it a little bit because certainly when I was serving anyway, it was very regimented. I know that there’s been a little bit of relaxation in that but at the same time when you ask somebody to do something, you expect them to do it, don’t you? I suppose there’s still a little bit of that in me.

How do people react when they find out you’ve Served?

You meet people who have also Served and obviously that strikes up the conversation about what you’ve done, where you’ve been and how you found it. So it’s very much still there but it’s in the background. Its 32 years since I left so it has been a long time.

Do you miss it?

I suppose (I miss) the structure of it and knowing what you’ll be doing every single day, whereas for me now the big difference is that every day is different  – and I’m able to have more control over what I’m doing rather than being in a situation where I know I’ve got to do something. I can actually make some more choices.

I’m still a member of the British Legion and I still regularly mix with people down there. It’s still in me, if you know what I mean. It’s something that you don’t leave behind, even after 30 years.

Devon Partnership NHS Trust


Pensions – Kerching!

So you’ve done your 40 years of graft in uniform and reached the magical 55 years of age. As if having an annual pension of let’s say £40K (and a lump sum of £120,000) wasn’t tasty enough, the even better news is that you can now grab your entire pension pot should you wish to. Suddenly, that speedboat is within reach – without having to go on Bullseye to win it!

Hold on though, before you get a bit ‘Brewster’s Millions’ – there are a few things you should keep in mind. Yes, last year the Chancellor changed the way in which pensions can be handled. Instead of having to buy an annuity (a product that guarantees a certain amount of income per year for the rest of your life), he made amendments that give people access to their entire pension pot – well, sort of.

The basics are that once you reach the age of 55 you’ll be able to take out 25% of your pension savings as a tax-free lump sum and access the rest when you need it (whilst paying income tax as you withdraw it). Smart cookies would probably choose not to take the rest immediately since to do so would put them into a 40% tax band – unless they needed fast cash to buy that dodgy looking painting in the antiques shop that they had a hunch was an undiscovered Picasso or they had a dead cert in 3.15 at Doncaster!* (If you really want to, slightly better advice might be to withdraw near to the 40% band each year until you’d cleaned it all out.)

Free to Spend

Assuming you can handle the freedom and are not likely to be tempted into excessive spending, the new laws could be very useful to you. Sensible usage might be to eradicate expensive loans, credit card debt or mortgages before looking at investing the rest in say, property or yes, perhaps a spanking new sports car.

The good news is that if you invest wisely, your income (or capital growth) might well outstrip that from a traditional annuity. The bad news is that if you spend wildly, you’ll have zilch for the rest of your life and that Fortnum & Mason’s hamper you splashed out on for lunch might just have to last you for 30 years or more.

In short, it’s a tricky decision. The two stark outcomes are to spend too quickly, leaving yourself short later on or arguably worse yet, to be stymied by over caution and not enjoy the full benefit of your savings.

*This article does not constitute expert advice. The publisher of Civvy Street will accept no responsibility or liability for any decisions readers choose to take after reading this article. For goodness sake, consult a qualified pensions expert before choosing to spend or invest.