Negotiating your choice around work and retirement

Given mainstream media describes our collective lives as an economy rather than society, it is no wonder we put so much importance on paid work.

Work positively influences our lives, yet for many it can become overwhelmingly self-defining. Meeting someone for the first time, we are asked “what do you do?” – referring of course to work.

At a practical level, work tells us when to rise, where we go, who we communicate with for at least 40 hours per week, 48 weeks a year for 40 years.

It shapes how you get to work and your appearance. It affects if, when, where and what you eat for lunch five days per week.

Technology has intensified our relationship with work, keeping us forever chained to the workplace, creating a greater cognitive intrusion into our lives.

Ad. Article continues below.

After decades of work you deserve to have an influence on what your last years of work look like.

Your choices include:

  • Leave completely and enjoy life free of paid work
  • Phase out of work over a number of years until you are ready to leave
  • Stay full time
  • Get another job elsewhere

If your choice is to glide out of work into serious leisure at your own pace, then start by identifying the undocumented knowledge you hold, that is critical to the business you are in.

This is your know how, know what, know why, know who and know when. It is intuitive and therefore not readily available to anyone unless they ask you. It is the stuff you simply and deeply “know”. It is gold when everything else at the time looks like dull tin.

Ad. Article continues below.

Use this as a powerful lever in negotiating your choice. If you are self-employed, then your knowledge and wisdom will contribute to you fetching a higher price when you sell the business.

Do some sums and show your employer the costs in recruiting a new person versus you and a colleague job sharing. On average, it costs between 40 per cent and 300 per cent of the individual’s annual salary to replace them, depending on the complexity of the role.

Calculate how many employees at your work are over 55 and add up the recruitment costs over the next 10 years if conservatively, 70 per cent were to be replaced.

Any full time position can be transformed into a shared role. There is far more cost and headache for companies to recruit and retrain new people compared to redesigning your role and being more creative in their workforce planning.

I can hear you saying “why should I have to do this – why doesn’t the employer do this?”

Ad. Article continues below.

I agree – I am happy to go into this in posts if you like.

If you want a phased retirement and your company is not even talking about it, then this approach will help you negotiate your choice.

Given how work shapes the identity of many people, when faced with unwanted full retirement, it can be a rupturing time of grief, uncertainty and social dislocation. It doesn’t need to be this way.

The biggest risk facing Australian businesses over the next 10 years is not knowing who is leaving and when, and what is in their heads.

Turn their risk into your opportunity to negotiate the next phase of your lifetime and when you are ready to leave completely, take your skills and knowledge into a purposeful life without paid work.

There is so much more to this conversation, like this blog, post your comments and let’s keep the discussion going to create a greater appreciation of baby boomer wisdom.