As we live longer, healthier lives, there is increasing interest in whether traditional notions of retirement have any relevance anymore. Indeed, the question is being asked, is it time to retire retirement? Drawing on research undertaken by Merill Lynch, in this blog we explore some of the reasons why retirement is being re-imagined.
Working well past the traditional retirement age is not an entirely new phenomenon but it is an increasingly common one. More and more we are seeing stories in the media about people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s who continue to work, study or volunteer. And why not? Someone reaching the traditional retirement age of 65 is potentially looking at another 20+ years of good health and many who expected to enjoy a life of leisure end up feeling bored or restless.
The idea of retirement has been slowly withering on the vine as baby boomers re-envision later life as one with a sense of purpose. They want a more active, engaged experience and while it may involve a career “intermission”, which could be a year or more, it also increasingly involves re-engaging in work in either a part-time or full-time capacity, or through a new entrepreneurial venture. A proportion of older workers also transition into an encore career in a completely new field. Volunteering, a common source of engagement for retired Australians, remains in the mix for some. The research suggests that while some people in this group may have to continue working to survive, more people are motivated by non-financial reasons.
It seems that increasingly, people understand that keeping mentally active and maintaining social connection through work are actually fundamental to living longer, healthier lives. The research predicts the numbers will escalate over time, and this is supported by insights from pre-retirees (people in the 50+ age group) who say they expect to work well into ‘retirement’.
If the term retirement, which used to mean the end of work, is so imprecise, what then is an alternative definition. Among some of the suggestions are ‘rewirement’, encore life, next act or something as simple as just adding an ‘s’ to retirement, to denote that it means different things to different people or that we might have multiple retirements.
One potential advantage of re-defining retirement would be to reduce or eliminate the assumption that it is not worth investing in training or development of older workers (including upskilling) because they are approaching retirement. That assumption is often underpinned by the idea that people in this age group are no longer innovative, don’t like change and are less engaged in work because they are looking ahead to their life of leisure. The growing number of mature-age entrepreneurs in Australia and the growing body of research about older workers desires and aspirations to continue working in some capacity, should put these notions to bed.
By reimagining retirement as not retirement, actually creates the opportunity for business to have access to a much larger and wider range of talent, and should be something they would embrace, not overlook. This suggests evidence of a cultural lag, where some parts of the society, take a while to catch up with the changes being wrought in another part of the society. Hopefully, we will see that lag eliminated sooner rather than later.
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