The financial crash of 2008 was the best thing that happened to thinking around retirement. Although it virtually halved almost everyone’s personal retirement savings at the time it also shone a very clear spotlight on people’s fragile concept of retirement and security. No longer was it a given that you save while you work in preparation your retirement years. I am guilty as anyone for this folly. When I entered the workforce in the 1990s I happily put money away in retirement savings plans and other financial instruments that would give me a nest egg when I retire. Unfortunately for me, my returns on mutual funds etc turned out be less than 3% over 15 years (less than inflation) and this definitely did not take into account an epic event like the 2008 crash that wiped out half of my real savings at the time.
Now there were very good reasons for pensions and retirement savings programs that were created 50+ years ago. The typical economy was production related where factories needed people and manual labor to crank out their goods. Physical labor is tiring and does take a toll on the physical health of people so the idyllic beaches of retirement made sense. But as we enter the 2nd decade of the 21rst century the economy has radically shifted to one of information, internet and robotics. It is no longer physical labor that drives jobs but mental effort through creativity, design and social relations.
Another radical unknown 50 years ago was the rapid increase in lifespan that humans would enjoy through better nutrition, technology and environmental conditions. We have added one year of lifespan every 5 years since the 1950s. People are living longer and retiring at age 55 or mandatory retirement for government employees at 65 just doesn’t make sense. A total of 20+ years has been added to our life and there is no definition for this new category of life after 55. Some have called it “encore living” where retirees are looking for a different blend and pallet in their daily life. Maybe they would work part time one day, volunteering the next and working on their business the rest of the week.
Like the young people entering the workforce today looking for organizations that allow for Gap years and sabbaticals, seniors are also experiencing a new way of living and giving after retiring.
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