Rethinking Retirement

Retiring how I want means rethinking how I retire. I’ve grown up with certain presumptions about what people do when they retire, but rules for everything are changing. We change jobs according to the statistics between 12 and 15 times in our work lives, so why shouldn’t we change the way we retire?

Why is it especially important for me to plan my retirement in so much detail? Well as a parent with a child with additional needs I need to plan ahead. The longer I am around to support my daughter financially and emotionally the more opportunities I can help provide so that she can live an independent and happy life. But, and I don’t think it’s selfish, I want to enjoy my life as well. So it comes down to planning and, first off, I need to think about what I’m planning for. Once I know that then I can start to think how much I will need to make that plan happen.

When I’m 70 I want to remain fully active. When I’m 80 I want to adventure travel, maybe do a bungee jump. When I’m 90 I want to hop to Spain to escape the British winter. I’m not mad; I’m rethinking how my later life should be. In my head I’ve got these three phases of my retirement: early retirement; middle retirement; and final retirement.

Early Retirement might be around the 70 year mark when I start to draw down on my retirement fund – pension, superannuation, 401K, whatever you like to call it. This might also include a decade of part time work, not necessarily paid work, for we all need activity to keep our brains active and to give us a purpose for the day. Maybe in my early retirement I might give back a lot more to the community through charity work. Or maybe early retirement might become a period where I fulfil all my ambitions, like write that novel, learn to play guitar, or ride Route 66. Maybe I’ll be busy enjoying being grandparent. I would like to think of early retirement as a time when I am still in reasonable health. Fit enough to live a rewarding life. In short, while we might think of 70 as old, in the future it could well be regarded as the just near the end of middle age.

Middle Retirement might come around 80. The Octogenarian of the future might seem like the 60 year old of today. They might want to take life a little easier but they won’t want to give up all activity or part time work. Maybe I might cut back on my exercise regime a little, despite the future medical advances I’m hoping to benefit from. But I still want to be doing things like backpacking off the beaten track in India or some heart-stopping thrill experience like parachuting from a plane. I would reasonably expect to still take flights to Australia to visit friends.

Final Retirement might be defined and regarded as the full retirement of today. I may quit those last three hours of part time work on my 90th birthday. Maybe this is a time to look forward to doing nothing, and valuing time with my family. Maybe this is the period we will come to think of as old age. My 100th birthday might be spent in a futuristic care home, where androids help with personal care and so dignity is something that doesn’t have to lost quite as much as it today. But then again maybe I might will be active until the day I suddenly go to sleep. Who knows?

As we live longer, we may not retire in the same way as now. Certainly we’ll have to think about how we can afford a long 30 year tail-end to our lives, because it would need a healthy retirement fund to sustain anyone for that long. But for today let’s think positive, and think of retirement as something to be optimistic about. Let’s think of what retirement could become rather than what people think it should be. Retirement should become a lifestyle choice.