Retirement trends have lessons for our own retirement

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‘Twenty years ago, retirement was still a fixed point in time—you fully retired and went on a cruise to begin a life of leisure for your vision of retirement. It’s very different now.’

That’s how Catherine Collinson describes retirement in a Next Avenue interview.

Collinson has been surveying workers and employers about retirement for almost 20 years. More recently she has surveyed 16,000 people across 15 countries worldwide. Her work focuses on finances for retirement.

The biggest change in retirement now is ‘a time of life that brings you the freedom to continue working and have time for leisure, for your family, for volunteering, for pursuing hobbies and for travel.’

Understanding your financial position is important

One area she targets as a problem is that those heading for retirement don’t know their retirement savings needs. The simple use of online retirement calculators to get those estimates would help.

But, ‘only about 1 in 10 workers use them’.

She thinks there are several reasons for this: Some are afraid of what they’ll find out; some fear it’s too complicated; and it may take 30 minutes to complete and people are busy.

‘It’s easy to procrastinate.’ Whatever the reason.

Boomers and Gen Xers and losing sleep

I lose sleep over Gen X more than any other generation,’ says Collinson. ‘The Gen X savings rate suggests they’re not saving enough in the critical years of their careers, in their 40s and early 50s.’

The problem for them is, ‘The clock is ticking.’

On boomers, her research finds the expected, some are doing well, but others are vulnerable.

‘Is there a retirement crisis?’ she asks. Her response highlights a reality: ‘It’s a crisis if it’s happening to you or someone in your household.’

Optimism and pessimism

Collinson is optimistic about the future because she finds so many workers where the ‘vision of retirement is changing and evolving to a new chapter of life to include work and leisure.’ And their retirement is being seen as a time for income and healthy ageing.

The pessimism hits when she sees how poorly those planning for retirement are estimating the finances they need—and for staying healthy. Both are important.

Working in the retirement years

While she remains optimistic that the job market will expand for older workers, ‘The biggest challenge is employers retiring outdated notions of ageing and ageism and recognising people’s full potential at all ages, including 60s, 70s, 80s and older.’

The evidence is that some employers already see retirees as potential workers. A tight labour market will help that. ‘In some ways, market conditions will necessitate change.’

Personally . . .

Collinson says she doesn’t see herself fully retiring: ‘I love what I do and I hope my employer loves me’.

But when the time comes, she says, ‘I’m excited about the new avenues ahead. I see it as a chapter of personal growth with more time for my family and friends and, ideally, not setting my alarm every morning.’

And that sounds like an ideal way for anyone to live their retirement.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Finances, Planning, Working

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