Does work feature in your retirement plans?

Those of you who know me will be all too aware that I’m not a great fan of the word ‘retirement’…. mainly because the whole concept is now increasingly out of sync with modern reality for many of us. It’s still stuck with an identity hangover from our parent’s day, where retirement meant you left the world of work for good…  with a gold carriage clock tucked under your arm if you were lucky!!

As this life stage continues to evolve and change, the notion of ‘retirement’ as a one-time event that permanently divides work life from leisure is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Take me for example. At 67 I’m now officially eligible to call myself ‘retired’ and yet I still work. In fact, the thought of NOT working does not appeal to me AT ALL!  And why would it? I love what I do and get an enormous amount of fulfilment and satisfaction from it, so why would I choose to give it up?

Doing 'nothing' isn't all it's cracked up to be!

On the other hand, I also know people who have literally counted down the days until they retired, saying things like “I can’t wait for the day to come when I’ll be able to just kick back and do NOTHING. It’ll be like I’m on a permanent holiday!”

But for a good many, it turns out that a life of pure leisure isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be and instead left them feeling bored, aimless and yearning for a bit of challenge, purpose and fulfilment! 

Waking up in the morning with no particularly urgent place to go, and no particularly urgent thing to do, can rapidly lose its appeal once the honeymoon period’s over. 

And sadly, most of us have examples of friends who struggled to find an identity outside of the workplace, leading in some cases to periods of illness, anxiety and depression

So where do you sit on the work/retirement continuum?

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that a record 173,000 pensioners entered employment in the three months to June. It signals quite the U-turn after hundreds of thousands of people in their 50s and 60s left the workplace during the pandemic as lockdown forced many of them to reassess their priorities.

Unable to survive on their pensions, many Third Agers have no choice but to return to work as a way to offset financial stress. It’s not surprising considering increasing numbers of this age group are expected to bear the heaviest brunt of the soaring cost of living, inflation and rising energy bills swallowing up much of their £9,627 a year state pension.

But what about those who actively CHOOSE to continue working past ‘retirement’ age?

For this group – myself included – the payoff goes way beyond income. It’s about things like self-worth, mental stimulation, social interaction, making a difference, purpose and fulfilment… to name but a few!

BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to keep on working at the same pace or in the same way.

I no longer work 9 – 5, five days a week and I have a different work schedule for summer and winter, which affords me the work-life balance and flexibility I enjoy.

Indeed, flexibility is the word that crops up time and time again in my discussions with friends and clients alike.

The flexibility to…

  • choose our hours
  • dictate our pace
  • give up the long commutes
  • fit our work around other responsibilities
  • change course and do something different and personally meaningful
  • re-balance work with leisure
  • develop our own routines and structure
  • start an enterprise of our own
  • continue putting our experience to good use
  • create a mixed portfolio including things like part-time work, paid or unpaid consultancy and volunteering

What role will work play in your retirement?

In theory, we can choose to carry on till we decide otherwise, health permitting. Indeed, the numbers choosing to work on after their official retirement age have doubled to a record 1.19 million over the past ten years. The key word here is ‘choosing’ – choosing to do something you enjoy is very different to having to keep working out of financial necessity.

Modern retirement is all about making highly individual decisions and choices; there is no one-size-fits-all. But the idea of retiring as ‘not working’ needs to be reconfigured and updated to reflect our changing times.

What do you think: what role will work play in your retirement – will you carry on working and, if so, is that because you want to – or you have to?

If you would like to talk about this or any other aspect of your Third Age/retirement, a virtual coffee is the ideal option! It’s a chance for us to get together on the phone or zoom (your choice) for an informal, complimentary 30 minute chat. 

It’s perfect if you’re looking for some clarity and direction as well as getting any questions answered.

Look forward to speaking soon!