‘Dye your hair, get a job!’

Several people more learned than I have recently written about the ‘myths of retirement’.

Myths such as:

‘Retirement is easy’
It’s just one great long weekend. For the vast majority of people, this is simply not true. We all need meaning and purpose in our lives – this does not end when we retire from a job. The retirement transition can be difficult and can result in depression. Many people enter the second phase of life (retirement) with the attitude that they will spend the rest of their lives relaxing on a beach somewhere or pursuing other leisure activities. Most of us discover within one to three years, that a steady diet of leisure and relaxation creates a pretty empty and shallow existence. Our rest needs to be balanced by activity; our relaxation needs to be balanced with purposeful activity.

‘Retirement is an event that occurs on the last day of your career.’
This is false. Retirement is a new phase of your life, quite unlike any previous stage of living. Few people step from the career phase of life to the retirement phase in a single action. The truth is that there will be a transition period of moving into a new lifestyle. The truth is that it will probably take a year or more for you to create your new retirement lifestyle.

But some of us are still mired in the past when it comes to planning for retirement.
This debate about what we do at the magical age of 60 or 65 has become a very important one in recent times.

Why is this?

  • manThere is no compulsory retirement age for Kiwis.
  • Despite the fact that people can receive the National Super at 65 many people continue to work in their careers well beyond that age.
  • We are living a lot longer than we used to – In the 1950’s men died at 67 and women at 71, now males reach 82 and females 86.
  • Others of us want to ‘downsize’ our jobs – work fewer hours and spend more time doing things we want to do or things we have never got around to doing.
  • Still, others want to launch a ‘post-career career’ – maybe setting up a small business, doing some voluntary work or a completely different job.
  • Grandparenting has become a much more important role for our generation. Our children have less time to themselves, balancing the needs of their work, bringing up a young family and themselves. So who do they call on more and more??
  • It is becoming an obvious economic and political reality that more and more skilled and experienced ‘baby boomers’ are needed to keep government and business moving and growing.

So if we retire at 60, take the cruise, play midweek bowls, we will then sit down and look at our spouse and say ‘well, what do I do now?’ The good news is that many of us can see the choices we have and are making them – doing the things we always wanted to do.

While this sounds like a very exciting time to be living – with such choices – unfortunately, there are people in our society who do not see it the same way.

I have heard from grey-haired friends who have extensive CV’s, get a lot of job interviews and never progress beyond that. I have even heard of one or two people who, after dying their hair, were a lot more successful.

But I am also buoyed by the stories I hear about:

  • Older employees being valued more for their experience and given opportunities such as more flexible working conditions so they can pursue some of their own interests
  • People starting new careers and more and more people over 60 seeing the world with fresh eyes and seeing and acting on the opportunities out there.

Ron Tustin

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