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Retirement is dead, long live the new retirement

Retirement is dead, long live the new retirement

by Michelle McGagh Jul 07, 2017 at 13:48


My dad can’t wait to retire. He’s counting down the seven years until he hits age 66 and he can collect his £155 a week.

He’s been working as a welder since he was 15 and is looking forward to a break, maybe doing some odd jobs here and there, but mostly having some time to do what he likes without the stress and physical exertion of his job.

His idea of retirement follows that of my granddad, and probably my great granddad, but just one generational shift and all that has changed. I don’t think that’s how my later life will pan out and I don’t think the idea of retirement as my dad knows it can survive.

The more I talk to my peers about what they want to do with their lives, their finances, how they think their old age will pan out, the more I know that traditional retirement is over.

A job for life is a thing of the past, and so are the days you settled into a career and worked your way up, securing a house on the way (house price gains have seen to that), only to reach retirement and be given your pocket watch.

This idea is seen as old fashioned and people want more flexibility in their career and their lives. If they’re going to be working for decades - especially when there is so much flux over retirement ages - then why not do something that makes you happy?

I know an increasing number of people who are retraining for often lower paid jobs than the ones they have, but jobs that will make them happy, including a friend who has become a yoga teacher and another who is going to have a go at floristry.

These people are professionals who can’t see themselves slogging it out in the office 9-to-5 until they drop dead over their keyboards. They may earn less in their new careers but at least they won’t mind going to work everyday and that’s key if the duration of our working lives is increasing.

So the first stage in the ‘great retirement overhaul’ is assessing what you want to do with your life, and choosing to do something you enjoy, because you’re going to be doing it for a hell of a long time.

The second stage I think will come in the form of ‘mini retirements’. Instead of hitting 65 (or more like 75) and leaving the office for the last time having worked tirelessly for decades, work will be more flexible and fluid.

If we can’t afford to retire properly and fund 20 years-plus worth of cruises then we’re going to have to take our enjoyment when we can.

Most of my friends don’t think they’ll retire, purely for the fact that they won’t save enough to live a decent later life. Instead I can see sabbaticals becoming much more important.

If you can save enough to take a year off to travel the world, write a book, or retrain for a new role, then why wouldn’t you?

Maybe my generation will have a year off each decade because we won’t get a prolonged retirement anyway and we’re certainly not here to work til we drop: work to live, not live to work.

It may seem selfish and even immature to older generations who were taught to knuckle down, stick at a job, and look forward to retirement, like my dad is.

But career progression is different now, state benefits are changing, and technological advancement means some people could still do their jobs from a desert island somewhere (albeit an island with wi-fi).

Times have changed, are still changing, and retirement in the traditional sense of the word needs to change too.

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Comments  (20)

  • Jim Thompson: 

    Do you think it's the large corporations which are responsible for this situation, Michelle? Maybe if companies looked after their employees things would be different. Politics, stabbing in the back, box ticking managers, short term gains at the expense of uncertainty, brown-nosers being promoted, job related stress. It's no wonder people are looking at retirement as the new nirvana.

    14:54 on 07 July 2017

  • Micawber: 

    1. Anything you do eight hours a day becomes work.

    2. Wait till your joints start to creak, then wonder who will employ seventy year olds...

    After a "job for life" labouring as a welder, your Dad has earned his retirement.

    15:42 on 07 July 2017

  • PaulSh: 

    Since the abolition of compulsory retirement many people are wanting to work longer, but companies have seen that coming and the redundancy rates for older workers are rising rapidly.

    That said, sometimes a good redundancy package is just what you need to be able to retire a little earlier than you would have been able to otherwise.

    18:18 on 07 July 2017

  • JohnnyM: 

    Good ideas, but perhaps typical of younger people who think they can go on working for ever in good health. Yes, get yourself doing something you (hope you will) enjoy, but only if you're already secure, and then there's the problem of Artificial Intelligence and technological change, and Globalisation. More likely retirement will have to be at 50, because no-one will be able to employ you.

    Today's problems and thinking need to be more futuristically focused, because technological change - not to mention culural upheaval - is having dramatic effects on work and lifestyles in a matter of a couple of years, not over 50 years like over the previous 300 years. Where is the leadership? It is urgently necessary.

    08:28 on 08 July 2017

  • J Thomas: 

    Your friends are in for a rude awakening if they believe self employment will be more fulfilling. Self employment is what you aspire to retire 'from', not 'to'.

    That aside, the great elephant in the room is the fact there is not enough demand to keep all the population working full time; indeed with the rapid advance of AI and robotics even part time work will be in short supply in the years ahead.

    The future seems to be the majority of workers working for themselves part time, with just about enough work to cover their own needs.

    And the hard fact is a poor man/woman won't give you a job.

    10:59 on 08 July 2017

  • John Griffiths: 

    I agree that there is a new concept of retirement - I began my own business at age 54 (mostly due to family circumstances) and still work part time. As an engineer rather than a welder or technician there is not the physical aspect of work involved.

    It is important to have a range of things to do in the period you call "retirement "- it is very unhealthy to go from 5 days a week heavy activity to doing nothing - have a plan and do some useful and enjoyable things - that may include work but not necessarily.

    12:26 on 08 July 2017

  • Michael Tatnell: 

    Not everyone is employed by a government, local authority or large corporation. Many are self-employed, whether truly or whether on zero hours contracts or some other unsatisfactory arrangement. What sort of pension will they have? They are the ones who will never be able to retire.

    13:21 on 08 July 2017

  • steven fieldfare: 

    Flexibility is not the problem.

    Welding matters. Yoga and flower arranging does not.

    Happiness cannot be achieved with an increasingly unproductive economy.

    16:12 on 08 July 2017

  • Michael Tatnell: 

    I suspect that the very wealthy will become more wealthy and even more unproductive.

    My German friend (of 50 years) also has concerns about the increasing gap between the wealthy and those at the bottom of the pile.

    16:19 on 08 July 2017

  • steven fieldfare: 

    For Michael Tatnell

    I agree that the increasing gap in income between top and bottom is probably the most worrying contemporary economic problem, threatening social stability.

    I do not agree that the very wealthy are necessarily unproductive: many productively earned their present wealth in first instance and some continue to employ that wealth to drive innovation or for social purpose.

    But your German friend has, perhaps, more leeway to reflect. My understanding is that a German worker is 1.36 times more productive than his British counterpart; more welding less yoga, and apparently resulting in more towels on Mediterranean deckchairs, if that is a happiness measure.

    16:37 on 08 July 2017

  • David 111: 

    Typical approach of the younger generations. Take plenty of time off (one year in ten apparently), spend like there's no tomorrow and assume that someone else will pick up the pieces when you get old.

    19:13 on 08 July 2017

  • quesera: 

    Michelle, this is a good subject for discussion although I don’t think you have the answers yet. Your sense that the older generation is ‘old fashioned’ and young people are more flexible is too easy a cliche.

    The challenge boils down to finding a way, or ways, to live your life in some meaningful (enjoyable) way. And taking responsibility for financing it until you check out. There are many ways of doing this but some of them are feckless.

    I am financially OK now in my 60s and I work for free doing physical work that benefits others. I’ve always dreamed of being a welder and might explore that.

    08:11 on 09 July 2017

  • PaulSh: 

    To those harping on about welding versus flower arranging and yoga, it's important to note that of those three, it's flower arranging and yoga that can't be done easily by a machine!

    As someone who until recently was working fairly near the bleeding edge of IT, it's sometimes difficult to explain to other people the impact that AI and AR (augmented reality) are going to have on many, many things. It will mean the almost total de-skilling of a large range of jobs, which will basically turn them into "Mcjobs" with zero hours contracts at minimum wage.

    And lest Miss McGagh should feel too comfortable, journalism is well within scope of AI, especially after Google's announcement of its $800,000 payment to the UK Press Association to develop more "robo-journalist" software.

    15:25 on 09 July 2017

  • steven fieldfare: 

    For PaulSh

    Welding and flower arranging were code for productive and unproductive work.

    The problem of automation replacing skilled jobs has been voiced often before, but never happened as advertised.

    What does seem to occur is that skill levels move upmarket, leaving behind those that fail to upskill or cannot do so. For example, demand in AI and AR design and development increases but often cannot be filled. Crie de Couer from employers is need to allow highly skilled immigrants to come in post Brexit.

    Mcjobs in service industries may be consequent outfall, but surely only for so long as we continue to avoid reskilling into new ways of producing stuff and cosset into ever different ways of giving each other high priced haircuts. After all, it would seem daft to keep bringing in vast amounts of consumer goods from afar, and at high cost in national treasure, if automation, and those who serve it, can produce efficiently at home. If it cannot, what otherwise is AI and AR for?

    In the interim, I am surprised only that focus on driverless cars seems to be more than on unmanned cargo ships plying standard trade routes.

    17:43 on 09 July 2017

  • HUFC: 

    Although not all of us may need it, increasing life expectancy will result in more pensioners requiring care in one form or another at some point. Where is that cost going to be met, & who will step forward to fill the jobs?

    10:28 on 10 July 2017

  • Graham Barlow: 

    In my profession I retired from active service at 58 yrs. I took my annuity after a spell at a local job which was nearly voluntary service at age 60. I then got the full Serps at 65 plus the usual state pension.In addition I had been building an Isa to the full amount , which I invested myself on a self invest platform. This alone concentrating on dividend income generates all the cash I need as it is all tax free.If people were to concentrate more over a sustained period in their highest earnings period they could all achieve what I did.

    My Son went into business when he was just 25yrs. I thought he would go broke. He has not only put two children through private School and top Universities, but now employs 40 staff and is retiring gracefully from the full time effort he put in. He will continue as CEO, but with two general managers running the day to day business, which is ever thriving. He is in his 50's and now has time, money to relax or retire full time. Why don't they stop whining and get on with something worthwhile?

    12:33 on 10 July 2017

  • G Robinson: 

    I think for many, what is described is not the future it is now. Retiring overnight to a life of leisure is the exception amongst those that I know and certainly not what I am planning.

    The real 'future' is one where the state pension is increasingly means tested I fear. People will work until they drop.

    13:14 on 18 July 2017

  • Michael Tatnell: 

    Yes, people will have to work until they drop, apart from the very rich, who control the present Government.

    13:31 on 18 July 2017

  • JohnnyM: 

    Perhaps the people need to seize back POWER. If we all write to our MPs and INSTRUCT them that we will not tolerate this claptrap, and that they will have THEIR Pension stripped away from them if they don't fix it, then you will see a change - even if that means a dreaded Trotskyist Corbyn Govt. Sacre bleu!

    14:12 on 18 July 2017

  • Michael Tatnell: 

    Sacré rouge!

    16:25 on 18 July 2017

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