Changing trend: Is retirement the big deal everyone makes out?

Sep 26, 2019
The rising trend of "un-retirement" in Australia means Baby Boomers are choosing to continue working past the "usual" retirement age. Source: Getty

Years ago retirement signified the end of full-time work for good with your parents no-doubt hitting back with a few celebratory drinks as they entered the next stage of their life. However, over time things have changed, people are living longer, finances are being stretched and well, the relaxed lifestyle is becoming a bit of a bore for some.

Though retirement day is probably something you’ve dreamed about for years on end having slogged away day after day, the fact is, the world is changing, dynamics are shifting and sitting back on the couch at home is becoming monotonous. Some of you may have already embarked on this journey and can relate to that initial excitement and later the uncertainty of what to do next, with part-time work or casual employment becoming an appealing option to fill the days and ease any financial pressures.

It probably comes as no surprise that experts, such as Transitioning Well Co-Director Dr Sarah Cotton, are claiming a re-defining of the term retirement is in order to match the changing landscape and varying paths retirees are taking in Australia. Speaking to Starts at 60 about the blurred definition of retirement, the organisational psychologist said options including intermittent retirement or “un-retirement” as it is commonly known is becoming a growing trend.

“If you look historically how we used to retire, it’s very different to how we retire these days,” she explained. “I think we are seeing lots of gradual retirement or when people choose to retire and then un-retire.”

Instead of jumping on the retirement bandwagon once you’ve hit a certain age many people are choosing to gradually do away with full-time employment. It’s different for everyone depending on your financial and personal circumstances,  so you may cut back work by one or two days for a few years before hitting the stop button.

For 59-year-old Rose Smith there is no chance of slowing down any time soon, with the Aussie starting up her own business Absolute Soul Secrets at the age of 40. Speaking to Starts at 60 recently, the psychic said at this rate she’ll probably continue working until she’s at least 75, maybe even 80, and not because she has to, but because she loves it.

“Just because you’re 60 it doesn’t mean your life’s work is done,” she explained. “The most exciting part may still be on the horizon. I don’t believe there is an actual age to stop or start anything.”

Adding: “Be open to new things. At 40 I started this business and now at 60 I’m just getting my YouTube channel up and running. I’m not a YouTuber which is a whole new career. I’m actually earning money from that source too, it’s not very much, but it’s a start.”

Whether you’re like Rose and determined to keep on working full-time for days to come or are thinking of dropping back a day or two, it’s all a bit of a juggling act. Do you choose to say goodbye to one shift now to spend more time with the grandkids or focus on your hobbies? Or should you go part-time for five years to build up the bank account? It’s up to you and, as Cotton explained, there is no right or wrong way to go about it, with one person’s journey completely different to another’s retirement plan.

So why is retirement going through such a big makeover? Well there are really two main reasons, finances are becoming trickier to manage in older age and people are wanting to stay active and keep their minds busy for longer. This is paired with the fact we are living a lot longer than our parents or grandparents did, giving us 20 years or more, on average, to make the most of after work has come to a stop.

“People need to prepare financially for retirement, but also psychologically for retirement,” Cotton explained to Starts at 60. “Once that honeymoon period has gone, and people have ticked off things on the retirement bucket list, they go ‘oh my goodness, what next?’.

“I think if you haven’t intentionally thought about it, it can really surprise people. A lot of people consider the financial benefits of work, but they don’t actually think about those non-financial benefits such as social connection and mental stimulation. When they don’t have that anymore it can really sort of throw them.”

But even if you want to work later in life, or need to, to live your best life, discrimination and ageism are still rearing their ugly heads and causing issues for all. Whether you have faced it yourself, or know someone who has, it is steering some away from their ideal retirement path.

The fact you’ve probably missed out on a job because of your age or been thrown out of employment for the same reason is, according to Cotton, the reason why there needs to be a shift in mindset when it comes to older workers. Instead of Millennials getting first dibs at the new roles or promotions in the workplace, the psychologist said we need to recognise the tremendous amount of benefits Baby Boomers can bring to the job.

Perhaps when your parents were in the workforce it was the norm to bid farewell to employment at a certain age but in reality careers are spanning much longer nowadays and people want to share their experience with the younger generations. “I think it’s really important for us to challenge our conscious bias around ageism and look at the benefits – stability, interpersonal skills, the list is endless,” Cotton explained. Adding: “As a society we do need to stop and challenge those assumptions that we have held and continue to hold.”

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Have you bid farewell to work for good? Or have you chosen to continue working through what would be classed as the "usual" retirement age?

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