CAREER MANAGEMENT How to Retire Gracefully – 30 questions to ask yourself

Though the prospect of not getting up early and going to work every day has its appeal, retirement brings different set of challenges such as the potential of less income and lack of meaningful activities to fill each day. Many individuals base their identity on their job and become used to the status and kudos they earned in the workplace. They are known, respected and acknowledged for their experience and contribution to the organisation.
While retirement can be challenging to individuals as it draws near, it can also pose significant problems for governments and society in general.
When Otto Von Bismarck introduced the concept of retirement and the retirement age of 65 to the world and specifically to the Prussian army in the late 1800s, life expectancy for most men was around 50 years of age. Two hundred years later, no matter where we live, we are living longer due to better health, better diets, breakthroughs in medical research, and the elimination of many diseases.
Estimates translate this into people living up to 100 days longer each year going forward. So, if life expectancy in country is 75 years of age today, in another 30 years or so life expectancy in that country will be 85 years of age. With men and women living well into their 80s, most people will not only reach retirement age, but will also live for many years in state of retirement.
For example, if someone leaves university to join the workforce at 21, works through to retire at 55 (which in some countries is the mandatory age for retiring) and dies at 89, they will have spent 34 years in the workforce, followed by 34 years of retirement.
By this calculation, people need to remain in the workforce for greater period of time than previous generations so they can accumulate enough savings to ensure quality retirement and avoid being dependent on welfare or other people for support.
An equally significant issue as funding retirement is later life planning. Research has shown that people who retire and do nothing have an average life expectancy of five to six years in retirement and not the potential 25-plus years indicated earlier. Retiring and doing nothing is not an option – planning for the next exciting phase of life is mandatory.
DBM strongly advises people to plan retirement at least five to 10 years in advance, and facilitates workshops and coaching for employers as part of their career management strategy. This could mean that 10 years before retirement, individuals develop transitional plan that bridges the gap between full-time work and stopping work altogether. This plan could incorporate activities where new interests – hobbies, sports, education, consulting, not-for-profit work and part-time paid work – provide balanced portfolio career that eases the transition and creates what is known today as ‘active’ retirement.
The plan also includes how individuals will manage financially – how much they need in savings and how to make the money last for number of years. The important value of this step is that it will almost certainly result in long and happy retirement period.
Retirement, however, is not just an issue for individuals. It is emerging as major challenge for governments around the world. Increased life expectancy places greater stress on healthcare services, housing, social welfare and services associated with retirement care.
At the heart of the retirement dilemma for governments is the fact that more people are leaving the workforce than entering it. The fact that there is no set retirement age is also concern, as people are choosing to either retire earlier or explore other employment options beyond full-time paid employment. This is due to constant and seemingly endless supply of school and university leavers joining the workforce creating pressure on employers to encourage older workers to leave their employment, voluntarily or involuntarily.
In contrast to the past 30 years, the trend of large and available pool of new people constantly joining the workforce is about to reverse. There will be more people leaving than joining unless there is willingness on the part of employers and employees to change the current concept of employment and retirement. Both sides of the employment spectrum will need to embrace greater flexibility in employment and break the intrinsic and direct link between seniority in age and seniority within the ranks of an organisation.
Statistics from the Retirement Commission show New Zealand’s population, like that of the rest of the developed world, is becoming increasingly older and healthier. In 1971 the median age was 26. In 2005 it was 35. And in 2020 the median age will be 40. This social transformation requires everyone to think differently about retirement and how they will live the later part of their lives.
In the absence of state legislation that dictates retirement age, it is important that employers help workers transition into retirement. Whilst New Zealanders are increasingly considering how they will save for retirement, they also need to consider what retirement will mean for them.
What will typical week be like in retirement? How will they sustain the level to which they have become accustomed? How will others’ opinions affect their decision to retire, and at what age they retire? Overall, it is important to assess one’s own personal readiness for retirement.
The stress of approaching retirement must be accounted for as well as consideration for how personal satisfaction, health and happiness can be maintained during this change in lifestyle direction. Being time poor can no longer be used as an excuse for not attending to one’s health.
It is important New Zealanders are educated on their financial options and whether or not they are prepared for retirement – and more importantly that they dictate when they will retire. New Zealanders must also include significant others in their plans and consult professional financial advisers about retirement options.
Research conducted by the New Zealand Retirement Commission shows New Zealanders perceive retirement age, whereby all paid activities will cease, to be between 65 to 69 years. Statistics from the Retirement Commission also show that people approaching retirement are clueing into the preparation that is requiredwith more than 70 percent saying they, or someone on their behalf, is saving for retirement. This is in comparison to only 56 percent in 2001.
Employees approaching retirement, who are part of the mature or baby-boomer generation, need to be aware of their value to an organisation. With their wealth of knowledge and practical experience they are an invaluable asset as mentor to the younger generations. Where generations now are expected to have between six to eight career transitions within one lifetime the previous generation displayed commitment to an organisation.
The days of retiring at 65 with gold watch, office farewell party and big cheque from employers have long gone. Retirement is not one-day, once-in-a-lifetime event.

• Andrea Stringfield is managing director, New Zealand, of DBM global human capital management firm providing transition services to private and public companies, not-for-profits and governments. [email protected]

1)Now there is no age for retirement how do decide what’s right for me?
2)Should my partner retire at the same time? Are we compatible or do we have different needs?
3)Can I afford to retire? How much money will I need to live on?
4)How far will my pension go?
5)What costs are there in retirement? Can I afford to ‘play’?
6)Will I have enough income to live in the style that I want to live?
7)Do I need to provide for anyone else?
8)What about inflation?
9)Will I outlive my resources?
10)Where do I go for advice?
11)What about health insurance? How much will that be?

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