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Retirement is so last century

By Paul McKeon - posted Monday, 8 September 2008

"Retirement" is last century's word. It generally describes the concept of giving up work and entering a period of slow decline into old age. It suggests the end of one's productive life and a time for slowing down.

As usual the baby boomers are not playing by the traditional rules. Most reports on this subject indicate that there are now a lot more people in their 50s and 60s who have no intention of slowing down and growing old gracefully. Indeed the very suggestion that they are "old" or likely to become so, is treated with scorn. I believe a more appropriate word to describe "retirement" in the 21st century, is "Lifechange".

Today when many people leave full time employment, they now go through a life change, whereby they do a range of different things, but often keep working. In fact research has indicated that many would like to keep working into their 70s. Their work is generally different to the job they left and people normally try to work fewer and more flexible hours.


Until fairly recently, it would have been difficult for many over 50s to find paid employment, as corporate Australia seemed wedded to the concept that people over 50 were "past it". Now, the shortage of labour and the realisation that older workers offered many advantages is starting to provide more options to mature workers, but there is still a way to go with the 30-something Human Relations Managers.

Most "life changers" want to keep working because they could use the extra money and because work provides balance and emotional support for many people (especially men). Work helps to provide a sense of purpose, some status and the social benefits of shared challenges and successes with a group containing many friends and colleagues.

While it is generally known that many people are changing the traditional views of retirement by working longer, being fitter, more active and more affluent, what is still not widely appreciated is that the transition from full time employment to some form of retirement is a major, major change for many people. It's right up there with getting married and having your first child.

Unfortunately traditional retirement planning in Australia does not adequately prepare most people for the shock of this change. Most of the focus is on financial planning and people are left with the impression that if their finances are properly planned and adequate, their retirement will be like a long stress free holiday. The reality isn't that simple for many.

Because most people are not aware of the range of emotional and relationship challenges they are likely to face, they are not prepared and often struggle when they find that retirement is not as easy as they were expecting.

Some typical examples are wives who are driven mad by husbands who hang about the house with nothing much to do, except require feeding and offer advice on how the wife should do her housework. One needs to remember that this is the first time in 30 to 40 years of marriage that a husband and wife are together 24/7. It is not uncommon for retirement to create relationship tensions and a divorce at this time of life is both an emotional and a financial disaster.


By the time that they retire, or enter their life change, most people would have learnt that money can't buy happiness. Sure, it's better to have enough than not, but unless people have got some balance in their lives, they will probably struggle to find happiness, and "happiness" is what most people say they want to achieve in their retirement.

While a reasonably fit retiree can expect to live for another 30 or so years, there are still a great many people who spend more time planning their first big holiday than they do on planning the next 29 years. It is surprising that many people who have spent years working in either government or industry, where annual plans and budgeting are the norm, will leave the rest of their lives to little more than chance. It's true that many people know that they don't have enough money to retire on, but don't want to face that reality and so avoid any form of retirement planning.

Our web site strongly advocates the need for people to spend some time preparing a retirement plan which actually looks at their total life. We believe that it's important to spend as much time and effort planning the non financial part of a retirement as is often devoted to organising financial details.

If people are made aware of the emotional and relationship challenges that await them as they go through their own transition from full time employment to a different lifestyle, they will be in a better position to manage change and that gives them a better chance of achieving happiness. While we are not financial or lifestyle planners, the site does give people access to a lot of useful information in these areas, which has been provided by a range of experts.

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About the Author

Paul McKeon runs the Baby Boomers Lifechange site. He is a baby boomer who has identified a need for information other than financial planning, Lifechange provides this resource.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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