The concept of retirement is undergoing a metamorphosis. Demographic, societal, and workplace trends have all converged to offer a stage of life that is much more fluid and flexible than what most of us previously imagined. In fact, retirement has become a matter of personal definition.
Here are some of the important trends and attitudes that influence perceptions of retirement and how to prepare for it. This information comes from an excellent resource called What Is “Retirement”?, an extensive report based on a 2019 survey conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. It explores the meaning of retirement and examines the attitudes and behaviors of all three generations currently represented in the workforce:
Since the turn of the last century, improved nutrition and advances in medicine and healthcare have added 30 years to our average life expectancy. Without question, this is a remarkable achievement, but one that also requires each of us to think differently about life at midlife and beyond and how we choose to live our lives.
“People have the potential to live longer than any other time in history. This gift of extra time requires that we fundamentally redefine retirement and our life journeys leading up to it.”
“The retirement landscape is ever-evolving as a result of increases in longevity, the dynamic nature of the workforce and employment trends, the transformation of employer-sponsored retirement benefits, and potential reforms to Social Security benefits.”
The Role of “Work”
Not only are concepts of old age changing, but individuals are increasingly rejecting the notion that retirement is synonymous with leisure. That’s because retirement has come to mean emancipation—freedom to do the kind of work (paid or unpaid) they find most meaningful.
Survey results indicated that workers are looking forward to an active phase in life that includes continued work and time for leisure activities including travel, spending more time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, and volunteer work. As a result, many envision a flexible transition into retirement that differs from prior generations when retirement was marked by an abrupt stop to work.
Although all three generations expressed a positive vision of retirement, they also communicated concerns related to financial security and declining health. In addition, despite the fact that a majority of the respondents expect to extend their work lives beyond age 65, few are adequately preparing by focusing on their health and keeping their job skills up-to-date.
In addition, workers of all ages are increasingly expected to self-fund a greater portion of their retirement income as well as manage their own investments and associated risks. Nonetheless, across generations there is a concern about building a large enough retirement nest egg.
Not surprisingly, the authors of the What is “Retirement”? study concluded:
Workers must take greater action in saving, investing, financially planning - and protecting their health - to successfully transform their visions of retirement into reality.
What You Can Do
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