Why it is time to rethink retirement

Mike Middleton

Mike Middleton

The concept of retirement dates back to 19th Century Germany, when it was conceived as a response to youth unemployment.

Depressingly, thinking around the subject has barely progressed since.

We still tend to think of retirement in largely financial terms, which for many, will not lead to happiness. 

Just as retirement’s past is found in a different country, its future is equally foreign and unknown. Fresh thinking is required.

For the first time since the 1930s, people in the UK are having to wait beyond their 65th birthday before they can claim their state pension.

As the pension age rises, many face growing uncertainty over how to manage increased longevity. So support in making conscious choices on how we want to live becomes ever more important.

This is not scaremongering. The retirement crisis is real in both financial and wellbeing terms.

Many retiring now will face another 30 years of life – how we choose to spend it has a large impact on whether these years are a blessing or a curse.

The key to happiness and wellbeing in retirement are the same as in earlier life: remain physically active, continue to learn, have a sense of purpose, and build and maintain strong social networks. 

Perhaps it is this lack of comprehension that stops retirement from being the adventure it should be.

Studies have shown that retirement without a plan increases your risk of depression by up to 40 per cent.

It needn’t be this way. People could be using this period of their life to make new friends, visit family, dedicate time to previously ignored hobbies, learn new skills, and lead a stimulating life after decades of hard work.

It should be exciting and liberating.

These upsides of retirement are regularly forgotten.

We tend to view retirement through a prism of negativity that focuses on money.

Fulfilment in later life is about much more than just money. Days are still 24-hours long and with, potentially, many years ahead there is a lot of time to fill, and no time to waste.

Some new activities are time bound, and many waste the first few years of retirement working out what they really want to do, and sometimes by then it is too late.

Overall life expectancy is rising faster than healthy life expectancy and the disability-free life years at age 65 in England is 9.9 years, according to the Office for National Statistics, 2018.

Something needs to change in how we recognise, plan for and manage this stage of our life.

A fundamental change of retirement preparation mindset is required.

Instead of thinking, “I need to save towards some arbitrary, unrealistic lump sum, and then hoard it until I die”, people need to think about and plan how they want to spend their later years.