Traditional Retirement No Longer Exists

There is a recurrent theme in each month’s column. The more I learn about retirement, the less I understand what retirement really is. A recent survey by Adecco found that the goal of retiring to the beach is not what most people have in mind. In fact, only 25 per cent say they think they will have a traditional retirement. 41 percent say they will continue working, but will work fewer hours. And then there is 18 percent who say they will retire from their current profession to try new careers.

For the first time in history over half our people say they will be working in retirement. This causes us to reexamine what retirement even is. This survey was conducted by questioning people who are still working and having them project what their future plans will be. If 41 percent think they will continue working, but just cut back on their hours, and another 18 percent say they will start a new careers, what does this say about our traditional values of retiring from work and moving to a retirement community for a life of leisure?

Of course, employers may have something to say about people just cutting back on their hours, or starting a new career at age 65. As more and more companies downsize or restructure, it may be unrealistic to think that one can arbitrarily decide to work a schedule that fits their needs, or start a new career with another employer. Although there has been some concern of the so-called “brain drain” with so many baby boomers retiring, are we really so foolish to believe that the younger workers and our employers will really welcome us back in the workplace to dispense our sage old wisdom?

There is much talk about our current social security system and the inability to fund retirement for the many baby boomer’s who are embarking on retirement. Perhaps, the crisis is not as eminent as predicted, if more and more people plan on working later in life, and many of us may not want to stop working so we can live off a wholly inadequate social security check.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from work, business, etc, because of age.” I think you will agree with me when I say that this no longer defines what retirement will probably mean to most baby boomers in the future.

The definition of retirement is being rewritten each day, and will continue to evolve radically in the future. But one thing is certain, it need not be boring.

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