Retire or work?

by | Mar 22, 2019 | Quora answers

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‘Do you plan to retire or work until you are no longer able to?’

We will continue our flexible work pattern as we grow older
but on our own terms.
Whether we retire or work is less clear cut.

Do I plan to retire or work till I drop? It’s a very topical question at the moment. Half a century ago the matter would not have arisen. You worked until 60 or 65, then retired.

‘Retire or work’ is also a very binary question and less easy to answer. Today, the boundary between retirement and work is less rigid. In fact, the barriers between work and the rest of your life are much less well defined today.

Flexible working and portfolio lives

Flexible working is now common. For instance, you may take Monday off while working the following Saturday. Equally, weekends are less clear cut than they used to be. Moreover, the days of joining a firm and staying until retirement are gone. As a result, you probably already take a more fluid approach to work and life.  Portfolio lives are common. You work in a conventional position for three or four days a week, taking the others off. These can be used to build your own business or to donate your energy to those less fortunate than you.

Perhaps in the past, you have taken sabbaticals and used the time to travel or for personal development.

Work is governed by unsympathetic work practices, financial pressure and always-on digital communications. As a result, the work-life balance has shifted to work. However, it is arguable that the pendulum is swinging back as workers became disillusioned with the resulting rat race.

I point this out to illustrate how our ‘working lives‘ are already more flexible. You will probably continue this pattern as you grow older. The difference is that you will do so on your own terms. You will elect not to be bound by the dictats of others. So arguably, the question of whether to retire or work is also less clear cut.

Retirement redefined

Further, we are redefining retirement. We are the cutting-edge architects of Retirement 2.0, keen to do it differently because we have different aspirations and concerns.

  • We will probably live for much longer; if you are 65 now, you can reasonably expect to live to 85 or longer.
  • After the boom years of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the ‘00s recession and the 2008 financial crisis hit hard, and our pensions may not seem too rosy.
  • We may be feeling responsible for the state of the planet and economy, and want to make amends.
  • We are worried about the impact of retirement on our home life, fearful of becoming bored and purposeless without the meaning, spiritual nourishment and satisfaction that work provided.
  • Saying farewell to clients, colleagues and your work community will be an emotional strain (I know, and I’ve seen other in tears at the prospect).

In my case, I confess to having already ‘retired’ once, and probably will do so a few times more before I die. My first retirement freed me from the shackles of substantial compliance and bowing to a rule book that I felt held little relevance for what I did. I escaped that and now divide my time between building a new coaching and training business and working pro bono for a charity involved in the education sector.

I made my decision in light of two key considerations. One relates to money, the other to my aspirations.

Money and aspirations

Today, I am in my mid-60s. I have reached here in reasonably good financial shape (possibly more by luck than judgement given the mess I made of my early financial life).

However, others are not so fortunate. This is probably one reason why people are working longer and retiring later. According to the Economist, ‘In the mid-1980s, 25% of American men aged 65-69 worked; today, nearly 40% do. The situation is the same for younger men. In 1994, 53% of 60- to 64-year-olds worked; now 63% do. American women are working longer too, and similar upticks have been witnessed in Japan and other parts of western Europe.’ (The Economist Explains: why people are working longer. The Economist 11 June 2018).

My aspirations also drive my retire or work decision. I learnt a lot about people and money in my working life. I formulated a new way of dealing with personal finance. This positions money as a means to an end, not an end in itself. As a financial planner, I was only able to work with clients one-to-one. Now I can spread my vision to a global audience.  As a result, I now spend much of my time coaching, mentoring, writing and training.

Retire or work

So, yes I have ‘retired’ in the sense that I am less at the whim of regulators and clients. However, I am privileged to be in a position where I can help and guide others through the maze of life and money. I can spend more time writing. I have one book, Right Money, Right Place, Right Time under my belt. I have just contributed a chapter on retirement to a new book, Retire Inspire. I am hard at work on a second book, a study of the role of money in our lives.

I also devote much of my time to my family and to the charities with which I am involved. All in all, it’s a good life, fulfilled and meaningful. I am content and I plan to stay that way as long as possible.

Photo by David Siglin on Unsplash

David Siglin

This post has been adapted from Jeremy Deedes’ original answer to a question on asked by a Quora member.
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