Retirement – life event, not just a financial event!

Retirement – life event, not just a financial event!

Results from the American Demographics poll showed that retirement is more difficult than becoming a parent or than getting married*. Those that felt retirement was the most difficult adjustment said that they struggle with the monotony, boredom, lack of purpose and lack of intellectual stimulation that traditional retirement offers. So if this is the case, why is there still such a one-dimensional approach to retirement from the financial services industry as a whole?

The focus has traditionally been on the financial side with little thought or emphasis being given to the emotional/psychological side of retirement. This has been largely driven by the financial services industry (insurance companies) and their focus on getting people to put money away (into their products) for retirement. If the stats are to be believed though then it has been hopelessly unsuccessful and very few (South Africans) will retire financially independent…

When the concept of retirement was first introduced (1930’s), the retirement age was older than the average life expectancy and anyone who did make it to retirement was not expected to live for more than 20-24 pay checks. These days, it is expected that many people will live for 20-30 years after retirement and some stats even suggest that some may be retired for almost half of their lives if we continue with the traditional approach to retiring at 60-65! Little wonder that few can afford it financially!41 Pot O Gold 10' x 10'

But what if we never stop working altogether? What if we just work differently or less? What if we continue working after we’ve “officially” retired? Could more of us then “afford” to retire? I recently met an 80+ year old doctor who was studying so that he could specialise further. Was he working because he had to? Nope; because he loves what he does! For him, work is not a means to an end (retirement), it is a way of life (a vocation or calling). While he can, he will always be earning – it might be less than it once was because he works fewer hours per day and fewer days per week, but in this scenario, the “huge pot at the end of the rainbow that he once needed” is no longer a necessity. Not only does he have longer to accumulate that pot, but he will also need to draw off it for a much shorter time period than someone who stopped working at 65!

It is also interesting to read that over 1/3 of male retirees in the US go back to some form of work within one year of retirement and over 2/3 of them take full-time jobs. Far too much emphasis is being placed on the financial aspect of retirement and not nearly enough is being given to the “other” aspects of retirement. Retirement is not a financial event, it is a life event and we need to plan accordingly!

That’s all for now…


*41% of people polled said retirement was the most difficult adjustment of their lives compared to 23% who said it was parenthood and 12% who said it was marriage.