Building a happy retirement
The conversation so often heard about retirement focuses on its many financial challenges. With people living longer and less government support available, careful financial planning for these valuable years can’t be understated. For some, choosing to work longer to boost their savings will help achieve greater long-term financial certainty.
But your financial wellbeing shouldn’t be your only consideration. Any planning for a rewarding retirement should also consider meaning and purpose. Remember that this is going to be a multidecade period of your life.
Viewing retirement as being a time of endless opportunity is the first step, says retirement expert David Kennedy. And if you’re looking to start a business but think you’re too old – think again: experience, networks and resilience are just three valuable qualities you can bring to the entrepreneurial world, writes Danielle McCarthy.
Psychologist Tim Sharp, author of Live Happier, Live Longer: Your Guide to Positive Ageing and Making the Most of Life, is an expert on positive ageing. Sharp is a believer in the idea that happiness can increase with age, provided you understand some of the proven inputs to your health and wellbeing, and provided you are willing to put effort into the right places. So, where should you focus?
“Firstly, in planning – determining and defining exactly what a ‘happy retirement’ would look like for you – and then clarifying exactly what you need to do to make that a reality in your life,” he says.
While acknowledging that everyone is unique, Sharp goes on to list the most common inputs to a happier and more fulfilling experience in the years following traditional employment:
- Ensure there is meaning and purpose in your life outside of work.
- Be physically fit and healthy.
- Think optimistically about the future and the ageing process.
- Develop and foster good quality relationships and connectedness within key communities.
- Have fun!
If these things are missing, older people may experience depression, says Sharp. “As well as all the usual causes of and contributors to depression, there are also some especially concerning ones for older people, none more worrying than isolation and loneliness. Just as good quality relationships are vital for our health and happiness, a lack of these is increasingly being viewed as one of the major health issues for our future with an ageing population.
“The good news is that as individuals, families and communities, we can recognise this and work together to do something about it,” says Sharp.
As part of the research effort for this book, I sought a range of views by speaking to retirement coaches, workplace experts, academics, business owners, athletes, psychologists, actuaries and finance experts.
One of the recurring themes during these interactions was a growing urgency to fundamentally reinvent retirement with a definition that better serves you, as an existing or soon-to-be-retiree, and society more broadly.
Over the years, Sharp has given this topic plenty of thought. In many ways, he was ahead of his time when, in 2014, he proposed a framework referred to as ‘protirement’. In his book, he provides a positive vision for how the chronology of retirement might better play out to be a more satisfying and fulfilling transition.
“In protirement, people plan for, and conceptualise, a positive transition gradually, from full-time work to a ‘portfolio’ of employment, voluntary, social and recreational activities. I’ve no doubt this approach will become increasingly popular and, in fact, the norm,” he says.
Sharp says that while it’s important to prepare financially for retirement (or protirement), you must also prepare mentally and emotionally for growing older. “I don’t think most prepare very effectively in these areas at all … Even if many don’t do this as well as some would like, almost everyone is doing at least something in the financial domain … You can have all the money you like. Yet if you’re sick and tired and unhappy and lonely, then no amount of dollars in the bank will make for a happy retirement.”
The reinvention of retirement thinking requires planning, research and motivation to move towards a new reality.
So, how can you ensure a happy, fulfilling retirement? By ensuring you have something to retire to, rather than something to retire from.
This is an edited extract from End of the Retirement Age: Embracing the Pursuit of Meaning, Purpose and Prosperity 2017 © by David Kennedy. Available at endoftheretirementage.com and via Amazon, Booktopia, and Angus & Robertson.
This article first appeared on oversixty.com.au
Let’s start a business!
Experience, networks and resilience are just three valuable qualities you can bring to the entrepreneurial world, writes Danielle McCarthy.
Think you’re too old to start a business? Think again. The 55+ age bracket is the fastest growing demographic for launching new businesses and proves that age is no barrier to entrepreneurship. Retirement provides a wonderful opportunity to pursue your passion on your own terms and earn an income in the process.
According to Megan Giles, a retirement transition expert, establishing a new business can help realise a genuine sense of purpose in retirement. There are a number of motivators for starting a business after stepping away from a ‘real’ career. It might be that you developed a specific or highly desirable skill set during your career and don’t want your skills to lose currency. It might be that you have a hobby and are excited to pursue it with passion, or that you are an empty nester with more time on your hands and want to do something meaningful with your days. Whatever your motivation, why not give it a go? Remember that there is nothing wrong with making money by serving and delivering great value to others.
One of the strongest points of difference that retirees have to offer is the ability to identify with, and respond to, the needs of a fast-growing consumer demographic – the Baby Boomers themselves. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Stats NZ, at least 15 per cent of the Australia population were 65 or older in 2017, which accounts for 3.4 million people – and at least 14 per cent of the New Zealand population was 65 years or older in 2013, almost double what it was in 1981. Baby Boomers constitute a significant part of the consumer market and are inclined to do business with other Baby Boomers because they ‘get’ them. They think to themselves, you’ve been where I’ve been and you understand what I need.
Key actions to take when starting a business in retirement
- Do Market Research For the greatest chance of success it is important to ensure you are solving a problem in a marketplace. Who is your ideal client? Can you describe them – what they like doing, how they spend their time, and what is important to them? Do you know someone who fits this description? Chat to them and find out if what you want to offer will appeal to them. Test and refine. Find some more people to speak with. Test and refine again.
- Stop and Reflect Take a moment to stop and reflect on your strengths, your proudest moments, the challenges you have overcome and what you are truly passionate about. This will provide a positive foundation on which to build your business.
- Plan Identify the problem or opportunity and assess if you have the right skills to respond. If there are any gaps consider if you need to bring in some expertise, be that coaching, outsourcing or upskilling. Determine how much money you are willing to outlay, how many items/sessions you need to sell to break even (and better yet earn a profit) and then make that one of your goals.
- Set Ground Rules Make the distinction between work and personal time. Remember, retirement is about lifestyle – you don’t want your business to become all-consuming. Set these expectations early and hold yourself to account.
The Baby Boomers have always been the ones to break the rules and to challenge the social norms. Why should that be any different in retirement?
This article first appeared on oversixty.com.au.