Retirement should be a stage in our lives that we look forward to. A time when we have the freedom to travel, study, take up new sports, develop other interests and do the things we’ve always dreamed about after a lifetime of work.
In just over two years time, the first ‘baby boomers’ (those born between 1945 and 1965) will be turning 65 and facing retirement. For this generation, retirement will mean something completely different to that of earlier generations who valued relaxation, pottering around in the garden and perhaps taking an overseas holiday. In 1950, life expectancy was 67 years for a man and 71 years for a woman, so retirement was generally a short reward for a long life spent working (often hard physical labour).
Today, machinery and technology have taken away much of the back-breaking work associated with farming, mining and manufacturing, and people are less likely to be worn out physically by age 65. Life expectancy continues to increase, with our fastest growing age group being aged 80 plus. So the issue has now become “how do we plan a life after work that might be 25-30 years long?”
There are two major problems: one is financial, the other is lifestyle.
Planning for life after work now requires more thought and more money than it did for previous generations, simply because we will live longer and our lifestyle expectations are much higher. Baby boomers are used to an active lifestyle. They want more than a holiday on the Gold Coast – they want to hike down the Grand Canyon or go on a bike tour of Tuscany.
New Zealand Superannuation which is around $426 a week for married couples and $277 for single people is designed as a financial ‘safety net’, not a living wage. If we want to pursue exciting activities once we finish work, we will need a lot more than what the government currently provides.
Typically, we focus on the financial aspects of our retirement. And while peace of mind that our nest egg will support us when we stop full-time work is important, so too is how we spend that nest egg and what we do with our spare time.
Australian research indicates that only 27 percent of retirees believe they have planned properly for their retirement, and most of that planning has been dealing with financial issues. Unfortunately, little thought has gone into retirement lifestyle. A few key areas to consider when planning your future include:
Health – Part of any lifestyle plan should include a clear strategy for staying active and healthy. Think about what type of regular exercise programme you can develop to keep you in good shape.
Family and relationships – Many people say that spending time with family and friends is important to them. However, when a partner finishes work, problems can be created if your loved one is at home all day, every day! If you have been the homemaker for many years and are used to your own space during work hours, it’s not always easy suddenly having your partner around all day.
Part-time work – A number of retirees will work past the age of 65; some because they want to, and others because they have to. Work gives us a sense of structure, identity and status, which can be lost when we finish full-time work. Doing some sort of work, even if it’s part-time voluntary work, can be great for mental stimulation and social interaction. For people who are workaholics, retirement can be a nightmare.
Hobbies and interests – Developing new interests or hobbies can make your retirement years both busy and fulfilling. It might be going to arts and crafts classes, tramping, coaching young athletes or learning to fish. Don’t lock yourself into just one activity. There’s more to life than bowls.
Intellectual growth – Do our brains stop working when we reach 65? Of course they don’t, so why not learn Italian before your next trip to Florence? Or think about doing some papers at university. You might not want to study for a full degree, but there are plenty of other interesting and challenging courses you can take.
Contribution to society – For many people, retirement is a time to give something back to society. Having developed skills and experience during their lifetimes, retirees can make an enormous contribution to society.
If you want a successful retirement, then you need to plan for it now – it won’t just happen. To develop a clear focus and vision for the future you need some goals and you need to understand how you will achieve them. For most people this means lifestyle planning as well as financial planning.
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