Cycling is one of the outdoor activities enjoyed by retired cricketer Omar Henry and his wife, Conita. Picture: Glacier by Sanlam

Omar Henry, one of South Africa’s best-loved cricketers, has a simple recipe for retirement: commit yourself to whatever you want to do, work hard, be smart and always try to help others. 

For Henry, aged 65, the best part about his golden years has been family time, freedom and the ability to devote himself to instilling his passion for cricket in young players.  

When his playing career ended at age 42, Henry took up a coaching and consulting position at Stellenbosch University and served on the university’s advisory board. He also served on the South African National Selection panel and chaired it for a stint. Since retiring, he works on a consulting basis with Stellenbosch University and Cricket South Africa.

Glacier by Sanlam interviewed Henry on saving for your golden years. 

How did you save sufficiently for retirement? 

I’ve invested in property throughout my life. I bought flats for my children while they were studying and then sold these off, along with our holiday house. My wife worked in banking, so her experience guided us in how to deal with mortgage bonds. 

Once our kids left, our house was too big for just me and my wife, so we sold it and downsized to a three-bedroom apartment by the sea. 

Along with property investment, I also invested in a retirement policy through my employer (Stellenbosch University), which I reviewed on an annual basis. 

I consulted my financial adviser frequently and followed the advice I was given closely. I found this guidance extremely important, especially in keeping up with the market and inflation. 

What was the scariest thing for you on approaching retirement? 

Never knowing if I had enough. With inflation, my children and our health to consider, I just didn’t know. I had to go on gut feel and financial advice. 

I think you create your own standard you’re happy with, which becomes your parameter irrespective of what other people may have. 

What’s your recipe for preparing for the golden years? 

Get a good financial adviser to guide you. Meet with the adviser annually so you can take stock of the economy and the best path forward. 

The sooner you start saving, the bigger the gains are in the end. The benefits will make the sacrifices worthwhile. 

I think it’s important for older people and people in finance to educate young people. I try to have discussions with my children regularly about what to do with their money – we don’t always agree, we debate about it a lot – but the important thing is we talk about it. I don’t think these discussions happen enough. 

How do you derive extra income now? 

I earn extra income through my cricket consulting. I feel very fortunate – the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over more than 20 years is invaluable and something I need to pass on. The joy I see on young faces when they take a catch means a lot to me. I think they’ll remember that feeling for the rest of their lives – it makes them and shapes them. I know what it meant to me, and I love seeing them get the same enjoyment. 

What was the best part of your new beginning at retirement? 

Being able to wake up knowing I can do nothing today. My time is my own, and it’s a completely different feeling. I can sit and have breakfast and think, “What is it I want to do today?” Our time is very flexible, but our days are full. We make an effort to do something daily, whether it’s consulting, walking, cycling or another activity. Making this effort is important. It’s vital to plan one’s days.

How do you spend your days? 

I consult with various cricket organisations, and I do private coaching with youngsters.

My wife and I love to cycle, play golf and walk together when I’m not consulting or coaching cricket. We try to live an active and healthy life from a brain and body perspective. 

We visit our children and grandchildren often. All my kids are travelling now, so I have to chase them to keep up with them. We travel every two years or so to visit them. 

When you reflect on your life, is it a job well done? 

I’m satisfied with where I am. It wasn’t always easy. I always knew I wanted to play cricket – I’d get hidings from my parents and teachers because I played too much.

My parents wanted to see me go into a secure career, such as teaching, or construction, like my grandparents. So after school, I did a three-year apprenticeship as a joiner so I had something I could fall back on. Only after I’d completed that could I pursue my real passion. 

My cricketing career had its upheavals, but I was lucky. I did what I wanted and what I loved. Every day, I woke up excited about going to work. I was happy to sacrifice more and more to achieve my dreams. It was worth it.