If it ever really existed, the paradigm that you retire at 65 after a long career and simply enjoyed a relaxed life of leisure until you die has itself died. Frankly no one simply retires anymore. The sooner we plan for what life really can be, rather than some antiquated notion of what is once the better we will be. Rarely have people thought of ageing as a time of opportunity, but with people living longer and in better health, seniors are quite rightly determined to give back to their community and be self-reliant.
Did you know that the fastest growing rate of entrepreneurship in Australia is found in the 55 – 64 age group? Increasingly, people are retiring to start their own business…And why not? They have the skills and maturity, and often access to capital that younger people do not.
First some background. The concept of formal retirement first came into being in Australia in 1908, when the Aged Pension was introduced. At that time life expectancy was around mid-50s (that was for period born in 1908). So the pension was virtually an award for having made it through what must have been a tough life of difficult work. Basically before the pension you worked until your body gave up on you. Hence the concept of one enjoying a last ‘Indian Summer’ of life with no financial or vocational problems came to be an aspiration for several generations. But things change and the most significant of these has been our life expectancy and our health.
Our life expectancy today is on average late 80s and we are living better quality of lives thanks to advances in medicine. As a result a funny thing happened: people got bored when they retire. As someone who has advised thousands of ‘retirees’ over 30 years I can attest that most people can only be on full-time holidays for only so long before they either go crazy or get involved in a cause beyond themselves! What usually happens is that after a nice long holiday the word gets out that you’re back and perhaps interested in helping out on a project or two. Then the phone starts ringing from people you know that could really use an experienced hand in their own business or someone from the office that wants to engage you as a consultant. Before you know it you have 2 or 3 days a week or work and could be as busy as ever…if you want to.
Take Bruce for example. After a career as a mining geologist he retired and he and his wife had several great caravan trips. He still does go away a couple of times a year, but he fits it in between working for a charity that sends second hand reconditioned bikes to Africa and being a board member of several mining companies. Oh, and he has just been elected President of the local Rotary Club. So much for a quiet retirement! From what my clients like Bruce tell me though, there’s another important difference – there is no pressure involved in this ‘third career’. Sure, you want to do a good job and not let people down but because you are choosing them, you can walk away whenever you want or decide not to renew your consultancy or stay on after the project is finished.
Tell us, have you gotten busier after retirement? Do you feel bored at all or is your life fulfilling?