The Retirement Myth

The Retirement Myth

There are myths a plenty in the world, some date back many thousands of years and certainly as a children they make excellent reading.

Among more modern myths is the notion that after a lifetime of work a happy sun drenched retirement awaits us, provided we have the money of course. That myth is usually created by advertising, whether for a pension savings vehicle or maybe a travel company serving those of a certain age.

We can all conjure up images of the things we most desire and frankly that is a good thing. However, for our imaginings to become a reality we have to do something about it and yet most people seem happy to sleepwalk into retirement, even those who have been successful on the back of setting and achieving goals throughout their lives. This odd behaviour stems from our acceptance that life has a few simple stages to it, birth, childhood, including education, adulthood with career and retirement in old age followed by death. Just looking at this is enough to depress anyone.

Life is actually far simpler, firstly we are born, grow older and eventually die. Everything in between is a man made concept that often does us all a significant disservice.

Let us break some of this down, firstly we need to understand that regardless of the age we are now everyone on the planet ages at the same rate. There are after all only 24 hours in everyday; think of life as a bus journey, we get on the bus, some people were already on it and others get on after us, one day our stop will arrive. Our age should not define how we enjoy the bus trip.

Education, so much of what we have come to understand about learning focuses on going to school, subsequent education either in universities or on the job career based education, for many the process of learning slows as we age and then stops altogether. This is particularly true of those no longer in full time work who have moved into “retirement”, yet we can see around us people who got on the bus earlier than we did who have continued to learn as the bus progresses, it is no coincidence these people also appear healthier and happier than those who do not continue to learn.

Career and employment are not nor should they be exclusive to those between the ages of 21 and 65. In the UK over recent years there have been many instances of ageism making the headlines especially in the broadcast media. Although we also see it elsewhere. We need to challenge our thinking here too, whilst it is wrong to say someone should no longer hold a particular role due to their age it is also wrong that anyone be entitled to remain in a role because it is wrong to discriminate because of age. I have come across plenty of people who are frankly incompetent or no longer as competent as they once were who are not in the first flush of youth, equally we will often come across a young person struggling with what they are doing. The younger person tends to be given some slack, with remarks such as “oh they’re just learning”. Well some of these people will never be competent at whatever it is they are learning, just as a 75 year old is not incompetent because of age. If we debunk the myth of set stages in life’s journey, we might find we can learn how to get roles we love and enjoy, the result being we become more productive for longer, happier and the organisation we work for or set up are more effective.

The career “thing” also needs a major rehash. Like it or not the world has changed substantially since our parents and grandparents told us to find a job with a pension. Their advice might have made sense 40 years ago, a time when previous generations were still heavily impacted by their experiences of the war years and more particularly the tough period between the two world wars. Today this thinking makes no sense. Quite aside from the demise of many company sponsored pension schemes the businesses themselves are not surviving in the same form

long enough for them to be in a position to do what we once thought. Certainly, there may be many big corporate names around that have been with us for many decades and in some cases more than a century, but few are doing what they once did. The pace with which they have to change and adapt is accelerating, this process has only got one future, faster and more dynamic change. We need to change just as dynamically. This is great news as it will allow more and more people to have a multi-faceted work life. That same work life will require constant learning, continuing to learn will become a habit and like all good habits remain with us for life thus helping us remain as active and healthy as possible as that bus starts to wind its way up the steep hill. Surely it is far better to enjoy the ride than to be miserable that your destination is closer than it was yesterday, imagine the view from that hill as you ride up it? Life wherever we are on the bus has much to offer.

So, what of “retirement”? Aside from this being a 19th century creation with no place in the 21st it seems to have become a hinge point in our lives a little like our 18th birthday, viewed as a 16 year old the desire to get there was so strong, suddenly we can go into the pub legally, vote so we too can help get the country into trouble ( I will stay off politics I promise) along with our parents. Parent who would tell us not to wish our lives away, only to do the same when they reach their mid- fifties. Whilst for some people retirement is a blessed relief from a job they hate, for others it is a difficult time where they face a loss of status, meaning and purpose.  If we don’t retire this latter becomes easier, but what of the former?  The answer lies in gaining a better sense of our own later life desires and needs. Not retiring does not mean we should carry on working as we did when we were starting out, the pace might kill us, moreover we should create time to do other things and enjoy this part of the bus ride. Those in “retirement” who say it is the best and happiest times of their lives have often avoided just stopping. They have tended to transition into a new life, one without the shock of one day being someone and the next an ex- someone. This shock awaits the job hater too, as the desire to move away from the life they have to another is so powerful in their minds that they frequently spend little or no time considering what to do with their lives. All focus on retirement for both these groups has been on saving into a pension scheme to enable retirement and little or no time has been focussed on what retirement actually means for them.  Taking time to plan early and develop a future for ourselves is invaluable. A future that should include remaining physically active, engaged in the world around us and lifelong learning.

It is time to dich the myths and embrace reality. At Pro-Vision Lifestyles we run The R Word workshop. The workshop takes attendees through a series of exercises designed to get you thinking and planning for the future, for the things you want to do. With a further one to one or couples based program people can expect to come away equipped to meet the exciting opportunities and challenges life has to offer.

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