Retirement Prime Time

Elder couple playing golf

By Joyce Wayne

The prime time for retirement is changing. It once was 65 years of age, but as people live longer and some face more financial roadblocks to leaving work, the new retirement age is moving closer to 75. Retirement is also taking fascinating new shapes. Even if you leave your long-term profession in your fifties or sixties, more are choosing to stay in the workforce, many on a part-time basis. Others are finding original ways to remain occupied by contributing to society.

Retirement is a great time to explore activities that you’ve pushed to the side in order to make a living, support your family, pay down your mortgage, and help your kids attend college or university. A formal retirement can be the best time to become one of “the unretired,” those who are actively engaged in new pursuits, sometimes for financial reasons and other times for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Retirement Reinvention: Find Joy in Retirement

In her new book, “Retirement Reinvention: Make Your Next Act Your Best Act,” Robin Ryan, who PBS describes as “the most knowledgeable career expert in the nation today”, presents more than 200 suggestions on how to find joy in retirement, how to make new friends and social connections, and how to discover meaningful ways to give back. In a review of the book, writes, “Robin Ryan opens our hearts and minds to a world of possibility. This is a superb, must-read guide for baby boomers who want nothing less than the best for their next act.”

Finding the path to a successful retirement

The tried-and-true myths of retiring at 65 and disconnecting from the world are coming to a close. Most of us wish to stay highly involved in both social and professional activities, begin a new career, or explore a new hobby that will provide us with immense satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment as we age.

In my case, I believe deciding to retire was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not that I wasn’t terrified to wave goodbye at 62, to the college where I taught for 25 years, a bi-weekly paycheque, and the reality that I would no longer be growing my pension. (The longer you contribute to a pension, the larger the payout when you retire.) Could I manage on my work pension and government pensions was the question. Some family and friends advised me to stay on, but I chose to leave. Since I was 25, I’ve worked full-time, first in book publishing and journalism and then in education. When I turned 60, I became eager to start writing once again. Yet, I was single, with one child in university. I owned my house, but carried a line of credit on it.

What terrified me the most was that I hadn’t written much since I began teaching. Entering the publishing world after a lengthy hiatus frightened me, as did disconnecting from the college where many of my friends worked. During the summer before I retired, I recall sitting at my desk in the little cottage I rented expressly to write, staring out the window and worrying, “What if I can’t make this work?”

But I did make it work. It didn’t happen overnight, but since retiring I’ve published two novels, with a third book of essays I’ve edited coming out later this month. I’ve also written close to 200 blogs over a ten-year span for Home Equity Bank, an employer that has sustained my retirement and helped me describe different paths to a successful retirement. 

Now that more of us are staying socially, physically, and intellectually active as we age, it’s becoming common to find alternate routes to part-time employment, often doing the things we always wished to do, but couldn’t, due to financial obligations. I prefer to call us “the unretired.”  Unretirement can be the best time of our lives. Children are launched, we own our homes that are now worth much more than they were when we purchased them, and years of experience, some good and some not-so-good have taught us what we excel at, how we like to spend our time and who we like to spend it with. It’s sad to say, but that puts us way ahead of Millennials facing an unreliable job market, where traditional careers are fast disappearing, and solid pensions are a thing of the past.

Retirement myths and realities: insights from Robin Ryan

In chapter one of career consultant Robin Ryan’s book, “Make a Plan: Don’t Become A Failed Retiree!” she writes: “The all-important question when retiring is: What is your life going to look like?” Next, she describes four retirement myths:

Myth 1: Retirement Means the end of work.

Reality: Over seven in ten pre-retirees want to work in retirement. This includes volunteer and paid jobs.

Myth 2: Retirement is a time of decline.

Reality: A new generation of working retirees is pioneering a more engaged and active retirement. A Merrill Lynch study finds 72 percent of people over the age of 50 want to work in retirement.

Myth 3: People primarily work in retirement because they need the money.

Reality: Research reveals that some work primarily for the money; others are motivated by critical non-financial reasons.

Myth 4: New career ambitions are for young people.

Reality: Working retirees are three times more likely than pre-retirees to be entrepreneurs.

Today, baby boomers are finding original methods to mix enjoyable work and leisure, making life rewarding, happy, and worth living. I began working on a new collection of essays by eight different authors last October. Seven of the contributors are older than I am; only one is a few years younger. The book is about a man who passed away at 92; he remained active and involved throughout his long, productive life. 

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