Thursday, November 6, 2008

Retire From Retirement

John McCain is 72 and that did not stop him from running for the next Presidential Election. Why didn't he think that he is too old?

I have often heard laments from friends and co-workers that they are too old to do something new or different. Their ages vary from as young as 30s to 50s. Such ideas are quite strange to me but I can somewhat understand what makes them say that.

Blame it on the traditional concept of retirement. Ask anyone and most likely he will tell you that retirement is the time you stop employment completely. There is nothing wrong with stopping employment totally. The problems lies with what you do after retirement. Many do not even have a clue.

There are those who retire and spend their days sitting and resting around. They soon find themselves out of touch with the outside world and that makes them lose their confidence. Feeling lousy, they try to stay home more often and they spiral deeper and deeper into a pin-hole world. It is sad to see such able bodies waste away like that.

We should stop using the term retirement altogether. It is probably more meaningful to describe the type of engagement we are in at every stage of our lives than to simply say "I am working" or "I have retired".

One could say, "I am with a bank helping to promote their financial products" or "I help at the homes on a part time basis and I play tennis competitively". None of those indicate if you are gainfully employed or otherwise. Rather, they describe your 'usefulness'.

One of the pitfalls about life after retirement is the lost of 'purpose' or the 'sense of usefulness'. Over time, such non-fulfillment can be detrimental to one's well being.

In a recent
job fairs for over-40s by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, many job seekers who are way above 40s were there and some of these are retirees. Some intend to work for the money but many just want to be engaged and continue to feel useful.

Singapore is the world’s second most rapidly aging society, after Japan. What it means is that there will be more 'old' people in the population demography. From the economic stand point, if workers continue to retire at 55, the younger and fewer workers will have to bear the heavier tax burden. That would make Singapore unattractive.

With national average lifespan increasing to above 70s, retiring and starting to do nothing at 55 is ridiculous. Assuming we live up to 75 years of age, this is how we would have spent our days:

0-5 : Getting ready for formal education (5 years; 7%)

6-15 : Formative years (10 years; 13%)

16-25 : Learning to be a useful adult (10 years; 13%)

26-55 : Contribute to workforce (30 years; 40%)

56-75 : Doing nothing! (20 years: 27%)

We spend 1/3 of our lives learning to be useful so as to get ready to enter the workforce and another 1/3 being useful (hopefully). For the rest of 1/3, we gradually undo the 'usefulness' and rewind ourselves back into the initial 'useless' state. I call that an extravagant waste of resources!

There should be no such thing as 'retiring' at a particular age. Instead, there should be 'rewiring' at any time so as to continue to stay relevant.

Gerontologists (people who study about aging and its problems) predict that average human lifespan will continue to go up. Baby-boomers, individuals born between 1946 and 1964, represent the bulk of the group gradually touching the traditional retirement age in the coming decades. Over 1/3 of this group is expected to live well into their 80s or beyond, especially women and the more educated.

We are going through an era of fast aging nation and fast changing environment. There is a pressing need to rethink the relevance of 'retirement'. The sooner we embrace the idea of 'rewire', the easier we move ourselves from one phase of our lives to another.

So far, I am merely talking about staying useful. The harsher reality about retirement is financial shock, either through the lacking of planning or a false sense of security. Many retire only to face a rude awakening and are left with insufficient time to react.

Retirement planning, whatever that means, starts from the first day of work and never ends. It is another long story.

Meanwhile, start rewiring.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog, I love the graphics! Retirement has become tricky, no doubt. So many boomers are having to delay their retirement beyond age 65 due to the current state of the economy! It's unfortunate.

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