Why the reality of retirement today is far from a dream
Long, lazy lunches, rounds of golf, a spot of yoga and an endless stream of all expenses paid holidays.
Is this the kind of retirement you dream of?
Whilst many aspire to spend their third stage of life like this, the reality is, few can – or do. COVID aside, it’s just not possible.
Why? I hear you ask. I’ve worked hard all my life – what’s stopping me from splashing my cash and living the life I dreamed of now?
Lots of things… and take it from someone who knows.
In 2007 I was forced to stop and take a long hard look at my life. A routine procedure uncovered a bone tumour the size of an egg plant on my pelvis, and I was given just six months to live. Thankfully, it turned out to be benign, but the operations to remove it were complex and it took me six months to recover.
Semi-retirement was forced on me, and I filled my time dealing with my late father-in-law’s affairs and writing. Whilst this ‘work’ kept me occupied, it didn’t give me a buzz and as the days, months and years passed I realised it was slowly sapping my energy.
For me, semi-retirement was horrid. There was no joy in it whatsoever and I never want to go back there. Yes, I had free time, but it was filled with unnecessary activities just to keep busy. I wasn’t engaged socially or mentally – and engagement is something we all need.
Passion and purpose
When I talk about wealthy and successful people who refuse to retire it astonishes people – they just can’t get their heads around it. But I can. Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates could have retired years ago. They have wealth, accolades, and a place in the history books.
So why then, do they all continue to work? They work because it gives them purpose. It excites them and makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning. It keeps them youthful and energised. This is the third stage of life they dream of. In my mind, these people are doing something right, not wrong.
Living a life of purpose has other benefits too. I don’t want to dwell too much on the finances here, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that the vast majority of us will outlive our savings. The financial retirement we’ve all planned for will not become a reality.
Life expectancy has risen to 83 years in the US and UK, and it is expected to reach 100 in the not-too-distant future. This factor alone has effectively broken the retirement equation.
In his book What Retirees Want, Gerontologist Ken Dychtwald writes that “the average cost of retirement is now over $1,000,000 and that the average 60-year-old pre-retiree has saved only $135,000…This is a recipe for mass elder poverty.”
I’m not suggesting, for one minute, that we all continue to work as hard as we do now for the rest of our days. Or that we carry on doing jobs we hate until we’re asked to leave. Absolutely not. But consider this, by filling our days doing things that give us purpose and some financial reward we’re happier and healthier… and so are our savings. Left untouched for the time when we really need to tap into them.
It’s not just about the money…
There are other factors at play here too. In the twelve years I was semi-retired, my health suffered. You’d think the opposite would be true, but inactivity depletes our energy, and our energy is like a battery – if we don’t use it, we start to lose it. So, we must strive to be active, but active with spirit – wanting to, not because we have to.
The Irish Playwright, George Bernard Shaw said, “Men don’t quit because they get old, they get old because they quit”.
And if that’s not enough of an incentive, consider this…
A 2021 study of 12,825 adults over the age of 51, published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology showed that strong purpose in life is associated with healthier lifestyle behaviours and slower rates of progression of chronic illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, heart attacks and strokes.
When I talk about the reality of retirement today, many see it as a wake-up call, but others (and the vast majority I may add) are filled with fear. But fear is the one thing you should not feel and the way to avoid fear is to plan… and to plan with open eyes, with an in-depth knowledge of what’s ahead. That’s where I come in. I’ve used my experience to create a program to help people step into the third stage of their lives with their eyes wide open – ready to live with purpose, passion and prosperity.
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