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Is It Time To Ditch Our Traditional Views Of Retirement?

Is It Time To Ditch Our Traditional Views Of Retirement?

By Susan Williams

A while back I read an interesting article where Carlos Slim Helu proposed an idea that we should move to working 3 days a week and rather than retire in our 50’s or 60’s we should actually work longer until we are in our 70’s.

I thought that this was actually an interesting idea.

It reminded me of a conversation that my husband and I had with a Dentist a number of years back when we were away on a family holiday.

We were chatting about what we did when we were back at home and he told us how he had made a conscious decision to only work 3 or 4 days a week so that he could spend time with his family. To offset his financial long term needs he planned on working well into his 70’s (or at least until he was unable to work any longer).

Whether it’s this idea or something else I think we have reached a point where we need to really rethink our views and expectations of traditional retirement.

Given our extended life longevity and the benefits of staying mentally active and engaged, maybe working longer is not such a bad idea.

Now before you begin to shout at me through your screens let me try and explain what I’m thinking.

Let’s be honest – the idea of retirement (and who can forget that famous marketing rally cry of “freedom 55”) has been drummed into our heads since we were younger. Our parents retired, our parent’s parents retired – it was an idea that we grew up with.

But times have changed.

We are now living longer. 

In Canada we now have a life expectancy of 81.7 – that is up from around 60 in 1927  when the Canadian Government passed the act for our first Old Age Pension Plan – a difference of 21.7 years.

We are not all in a financial position to retire. 

According to a report published by McKinsey & Company titled Are Canadians Ready For Retirement?, they stated that approximately a quarter of Canadians are not financially prepared.

Research is emerging that claims retirement can actually be bad for your health

Initially the researchers discovered that there is a short term benefit when you retire but shortly after there is an increase in depression and physical health issues.

So this is what I was thinking.

Yes, the idea of a three day work week may be viable and worth considering for the current workforce however when I talk to friends who are nearing retirement, so many of them can’t wait to get the extended time to do some of the things that they have always wanted to do and this is their biggest motivator for retirement.

Travel, spending time with their families, focusing on their hobbies are all some examples of the things that are at the top of their lists.

Maybe what we could do is plan in our careers to take the time away from work to do these things.

Actually plan for sabbaticals within our career lives. These sabbaticals would allow us to take some extended time to do the things that we have wanted to do – whatever our interests were.

After this time away from our jobs, we then rejoin the workforce.

Depending on where we are in our careers, we could return possibly to the same type of position – or possibly not.

We may want to get a job with reduced hours, or possibly pursue a new passion that interests us or maybe go back to school and learn some new skills to be able to do something else.

The job itself is not so concerning – it could be in the non-profit sector, starting our own business, mentoring others or volunteering with different organizations – something that actually contributes to keeping us engaged and really interested in staying connected and working past the traditional retirement age.

I know that all of this is easier to say than do and there would have to be some major restructuring within organizations and developing supporting programs to implement something like this.

But to help keep 29% of our Canadian population engaged and active – maybe this is one investment that might yield great returns!

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.