Recently, I have been looking at the run-up to retirement, with ‘retirement’ meaning stopping work in the conventional sense.
While such an event may look like good news, I am discovering that, for many people, it can be a somewhat distressing concept to deal with. Looked forward to not with excited anticipation, but fear.
It is hard for people, perhaps especially for men, to admit to nervousness about retirement. It is supposed to be something you eagerly anticipate, not something you secretly dread. In my experience (admittedly limited) people in senior positions in their particular industries are particularly vulnerable.
They have a mental picture of themselves that can make it hard to let go and allow themselves to stop. Therefore it is good to see the increasing emergence of pre-retirement classes or seminars for staff immediately approaching retirement.
This service is increasingly provided as an employee benefit by more enlightened employers and can actively help staff think through what retirement will mean for them, in many cases creating a plan for later life, not just around money.
There is also scope for one-to-one retirement coaching to emerge, to help deal with the emotional journey outlined above.
For some, retirement looks rosy. Their pension and asset arrangements are sufficient for life, they have a wide range of interests to pursue, they and their partner are in good health and active, their mortgage is paid off and the children have long left home.
But I suspect this is increasingly an unattainable dream for many people, and this is why planning ahead is important, putting in place plans and strategies to cope.
Planning what happens to money is only one aspect of this process. It is important, but there are many other issues that will appear more significant to the individual. Some people I have encountered over the years simply have no idea how they will fill their days.
For example I have observed the changing dynamic between a couple as retirement comes.
The stereotypical breadwinner is suddenly at home all day, alert for any opportunity to ‘visit the shops’, for example. His or her partner becomes increasingly resentful, feeling clung to, or suffocated as part of a now retired couple.
There is a need for discussion, to really think through what a week in retirement typically looks like. This can be difficult, even painful.
It is no surprise that, against a generally declining divorce rate, the over-65s are the fastest increasing in divorce terms of any population cohort according to the Office for National Statistics.
But the same body also identifies the over-65s as the fastest increasing employment cohort, and this fact may provide some of the answer – consider not retiring, or at least not fully.
Research I have done through the Institute of Directors over the years has clearly indicated (admittedly among an entrepreneurial membership) a strong desire never to retire, or at the very most to only scale back activity, with eventual full retirement deferred until well into an individual’s 70s. This gives the retiree some kind of position within his or her industry and can provide valuable experience to any organisation willing to hire them.
Some take on non-executive roles, others act as consultants and others work on in a part-time capacity. As well as bringing in some extra income, it provides a focus and an excuse to go to work, even if that work is based in a home office at the bottom of the garden.
The need for careful thought and planning for later life remains, of course, and for many, the options will necessarily be limited. But for increasing numbers, the answer to the retirement conundrum may be not to retire at all.
Malcolm Small is the founder of the Retirement Income Alliance.