A New Retirement for our modern age.

You might have been the CEO of a multinational, or a teacher who impacted the lives of thousands of children, an entrepreneur who created employment for hundreds of people or a loyal employee who made a point of providing superior service to colleagues and customers – and now “retirement“ is telling you that you no longer have anything of value to add. “Step aside ‘granddad’, let the whizz kids through!”

We’ve been having the wrong conversation about retirement.

Our conversation has been about the money and how we are going to sit back and enjoy our retirement years – but there is so much more we should be talking about.

First, we need to define our purpose in this, our 3rd age of our life. What contribution will we make, what legacy do we want to leave, how do we want to be remembered?

Second, we need to design our retirement to meet that purpose – from where we live, to how we spend our time. Do we want to travel, study, start a new venture? How do we stay fit and healthy, what lifestyle behaviours do we need to change or adopt? And if our Pension is insufficient, how do we fund the things we want to do?

So retirement is no longer sitting back and watching the world roll by – it is about creating a life-style that makes a difference and brings us joy and fulfilment.

How is our retirement going to be different to that of our parents?

Retirement has evolved – until the early 1800s there was no concept of retirement. You worked until you dropped or until you were too weak to be useful. Then you died.

With the Industrial revolution came the idea of pensioning off the older employees to create opportunities for younger ones to move up the ladder. If one is cynical, it also got rid of less productive older people. They then had a few years of “settling back”. Then they died.

Since the 1970s our parents went into retirement. They were funded by generous pension funds, had enjoyed a life of more income than expenditure and they lived for 15 or more years post-retirement. For them the dreams of travel to exotic places, leisure time to enjoy their grandchildren and following their hobbies, was a reality. And if you couldn’t afford all of that, it was understood that you would sit in the sun and enjoy your twilight years. Then you died.

The fourth age of retirement has just begun. The Baby-Boomers are starting to retire – (2011 was the first year of Boomer retirement) – we are the generation that created the world the way we now find it – both good and bad. We have been a goal orientated, driven, take-no-prisoners generation and, with modern medicines and treatments we are likely to live ‘till 90!

So what does this New Retirement look like?

The most significant change is an internal one –to create a life of purpose. If you live for only 5 years post-retirement, golf every day is a very attractive option. If you live for 25 years post-retirement, golf isn’t going to sustain you. So the question is  – “What is going to get me out of bed every day and what is going to fill those hours before I get back into bed?”

Related to this is another question – “How do I add value? One way is to keep on working. Another is to be of service. Depending on your circumstances this could be paid or unpaid. For some, payment might come through consulting, for others, through a hobby or skill that has developed over the years. For those who don’t need payment, their value may come through volunteering or charity work. Already, retirees add Billions to world economies. And for the rich, there is philanthropy.

What will be my legacy?

That legacy can be tangible, in the form of a trust or a foundation. It can be in the form of support for others and the creation of a better life for one or for many. Or it can be intangible – and therein lies our greatest value – to demonstrate a different way of being in the world.

In the world we have created, there is poverty, greed, corruption, starvation, slavery and every kind of human misery. There is climate change, pollution, resource depletion and waste. Family is under threat with absentee fathers, ill disciplined youth, drug abuse and violence. All this, in the name of growth and increased consumption – driven by our Ego! To be better than the Joneses, to have the latest, the best, the most.

But for our generation, our need for Ego-pimping is over – if it ain’t pimped now it’s never going to be. We’ve made our mark, demonstrated that we can make things happen, so we don’t have to prove anything.

We have a different role to play. In Aboriginal society the Elders hold the wisdom of the tribe, they are the mediators and its moral compass and they carry the power of ‘blessing’. It isn’t that they “do” things, they simply hold the energy of the tribe by who they are Being.

So who do our modern-day Elders have to be to halt the madness and turn things around? At one level, we need to sit at the side of the next generation of “movers and shakers” – we need to hold the question “Just because we are clever enough to do something, should we – is that the best way?”

Then at the micro level, if each one of us gave our fullest attention to our grandchildren, if each one of us listened to the needs of a single mother trying to bring up her children, if each one of us used our connections and influence to bring awareness to our politicians and business leaders, if each one of us held our leaders accountable for their actions –  and we gave them our blessing, then we are modern Elders and we can bring hope to our communities.

So the big question is “how do I Be that?”

That is the conversation we need to be having about retirement!

Alan Maguire September 2013

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