Retirement is changing, rarely the clean break and a life of leisure. People want more. Whilst some will continue in work, they want it on their terms. Others want to follow a new path, to focus on what is meaningful to them. No matter our age, we all will reach our 60s, and my articles should provide thoughtful reading.
Retirement is a major life transition, with as significant impact as starting school and leaving for university. But what playbook do we have to be successful?
For our parents, it was generally a clean break – from full time work to a life of leisure. People slowed down and seemed to age quite fast. They were seen by others as OAPs, without a voice. Why listen to the old person?
Now people in their 60s and considering retirement, want to have it their own way. They may leave work, travel, and then want to do something else, perhaps a completely different career, or a greater focus on unpaid activity. The people I work with want to make the rest of their life their best life, cognisant that there may be health problems ahead. Indeed, whilst people are living longer, it’s not necessarily in good health.
Is the retirement party with the gold clock, still a thing, and was it the right sort of rites of passage? I remember when I was working in an office at 16, looking out the window and seeing the retired manager walking to his car with his box of possessions. He’d got golf clubs as his present and was planning on taking up golf. Maybe he did that, and loved it. Or maybe he sat at home and thought is this it?
Now people have options. There are alternatives to the abrupt withdrawal as the main way of retiring, with the options of ‘unretirement’ when people return to work after retirement, on a full or part-time basis and ‘encore careers’ where people take on a ‘person driven job’ with a focus on meaning and social impact.
There is a diversity in people’s experience, and considerable variability in the way that retirement is defined. Some people will choose the ‘clean break’ and stop work entirely; others may move to part-time working possibly in a different type of work. Others may return to work after a break. Therefore, seeing retirement as a life transition is more in line with people’s experiences. Still more will have no choice, a lack of pension means they need to work into the distant future because they have to, for survival.
Receipt of a pension alone is not enough for all people to embrace the title of retired. For some individuals, retirement is the time when people declare themselves to have transitioned out of the labour force, are no longer employed full-time, and describe themselves as ‘retired’ this could be a long time into the future as they spend many years focusing on meaningful interests. Semi-retired covers a lot of how people transition on from full-time work.
One of the problems with a definition of retirement is that it is too broad a time span. It takes us from leaving work still active to the very end of life. We move from being the young-old (yolds?) to the old-old.
Whilst retirement is predictable, individuals experience it in different ways. For some it is negative, with a focus on regret and loss, others see it as a time of growth and development to focus on new activities, such as joining clubs or attending theatre and sporting events. Some see this as a sign of success, they have achieved their long-term goal, others focus more on their loss of status associated with their work identity.
I’ve spent the past few years looking deep into this topic for my doctoral research. As I approach my viva, a time to discuss my research with academics, and hopefully to be able to call myself Dr, time to share my research more widely.
Each article is going to ask a question to get you thinking. Whilst you can make notes for yourself, you can also share them here, and I’ll read and comment on everyone one.
- How do you define retirement?
- Do you have a plan, a blueprint for your later life?
At 64 ¼ I’m on this journey, and I’d love to share it with you.
This article was my first LinkedIn newsletter – read comments on their site.