As ever, on the look-out in the media for retirement-related articles, I came across one on the BBC website Does living to 100 mean we’ll work for ever? There is a problem with articles about how we’ll pay for our retirement if we retire at 60 with 40 years of retirement. Quite a change from ye olden days when you retired at 65 and, if you were lucky, made it to 70, sometimes not even that depending on the nature of your job prior to your retirement. I dare say you didn’t spend too much time agonising (you didn’t have too much time) about how you were going to spend this time you didn’t have. A bit of gardening and a few pints down the pub would probably about take care of it. But 40 years that’s a different ball game. I said there was a problem and what I’ve just written isn’t it, it’s more a question of who is the article for? I don’t think it’s for people my age who probably don’t believe they’re going to live to anywhere near 100. Certainly I don’t but maybe that’s just me. Also I can’t quite see younger people worrying too much given the article states that, if you’re planning on retiring at 60 and living until you’re 100 you should, if I understood correctly, be saving 5 times more than you are if you’re saving anything at all. So don’t bother reading the article, it might be depressing if you took it seriously.*
I was, though, interested in other aspects of the article, Lynda Gratton, a psychologist and professor of management, said, and I quote, ‘it’s the end of retirement as we know it.’ That did make me sit up and take notice because, as my grandma used to say, misery loves company. In other words, and I realise I don’t sound like a very nice person when I write this, if I can’t get the enjoyment out of retirement that I feel I should, then it’s good that the whole business is falling apart for everybody else.
Wait a minute, you say, you can’t write that, you miserable old git. No, you’re right, I apologise and look at the article again to find something more positive. Ms Gratton goes on to say, ‘rather than the three traditional stages of life: education, work, retirement, … people (will) have to constantly retrain as they shift careers and focus.’ I like the idea of changing careers, it’s what I did when I retrained as a psychologist when I was about 35 and, in some way, how I like to think of my retirement. She also talks about a longer career meaning more opportunity to ‘take a gap year’, a couple of years off to look after children or elderly parents. Hmm, not so sure about this but doing what we did, living and working in different countries without worrying about the impact on your career progression, or even writing the book, you have in you, etc. this I like. This is all sounding much more positive, but there may be a catch, something along the lines of – the more attractive, fulfilling we make our careers – it might be, only might mind you, that it makes leaving it all behind and retiring, even more difficult. Whoops slipped back into the negative again. Go back to article.
Ms Gratton goes on even further, to say, what people need is ‘a soft landing carrier to retirement’ which she interprets as older people working part-time or in less hands-on mentoring roles. I agree with this in theory, although if she thinks part-time work and mentoring are the answer I would say it’s clear she’s never been in the situation herself. I tried the full-time to part-time route, it does cushion the blow but it doesn’t remove it and I’m not sure either young people or ‘old’ people want to be, or want to, mentor. It’s nearly right but not quite, and I think this applies whether we retire at 60 or 75 or whatever. It’s not enough to put all your eggs in the ‘hang on to the past in some form’ basket. We need to have a plan about what we are going to do, not what we are leaving behind.
I know I keep banging on about finding a new identity to replace and even be better than the old one (your work one), but I still think I’m right. So alongside the part-time work, as above, we should be developing some other ‘life area’. I’m not suggesting this is an original thought by the way, just one worth repeating. I don’t know what the something else is, obviously it will vary from person to person. I keep calling it the missing link, but I will just share one of those strange coincidences of life that might, for some of us, point the way to that something else. As I was writing this I had one eye on my phone looking at incoming emails and one of these was from the website, Coursera which I’ve referred to before in these blogs. The website offers on-line courses (I’m currently, slowly trying to complete the music theory course I mentioned a few blogs back). Their headline today was Find a Specialization. I liked this concept, not entirely sure why but I think it’s something to do with its importance, its attractiveness to me, its solidity, its mysteriousness and potential, its making you special. I don’t know, but I am going to spend a bit of time considering what my ‘specialisation’ might be.
This is assuming, of course, we really are going to live a minimum of another 20 years when we retire as opposed to pegging out in a couple of years which brings me back to the original subject of this blog – retiring and living to 100. I hear the words of my late mother, not the most positive person in the world admittedly, every visit in her later years that we made she would say – they say people are going to live to 100, well God help them, I say. Though I hate to admit it she may have had a point. Living longer is not per se to be desired but it would more probably be a good thing, if we had a specialisation. Just a thought for retirement.
*NB. I wrote this blog under the influence of a ‘heavy’ cold (donated to me by Mrs Summerhouse) and so in a not-well, drug-induced haze. Don’t worry I’m not turning into Lord Byron but I share this with you perhaps to explain the somewhat negative and definitely garbled state of the blog. The drug was only Day Nurse but it did relate to another aspect of the above article about increasing health problems for older people who live longer and it mentioned increasing rates of dementia in Japan as the population ages. And on that cheery note I’ll leave it and have a little nap. You can do this when you’re retired but not too often.