Dr Jon Glass is the first to admit that he’s the type of person who fills his life with activities. So when, a few years ago in his early to mid 60s, he retired from a 30-year executive career he soon realised a twilight career was in order.
“I decided to set up a business helping people who were fully retired or semi-retired think through all the issues that come up in that context,” says Glass, now founder of retirement coaching consultancy 64 Plus.
David Kennedy says older Australians could enhance their lives if they embarked on a meaningful combination of work and play as they age. Photo: Supplied
While retirement coaching isn’t yet widely recognised, Glass believes it should be, given that retirement is one of life’s major life transitions.
“Retirement is a massive opportunity. It’s good to get someone to help you think through all the possible paths it could take,” he says.
While Glass emphasises that retirement looks different for each individual, he knows he’s not alone in one regard. Search Google for retirement images and you don’t get the full story.
“You see a whole lot of images of grey-haired people on the beach at sunset, having a drink. Terrific, but I don’t think that’s retirement. I call that a holiday,” he says.
It’s likely that David Kennedy would agree. The author of End of The Retirement Age believes that a combination of work and play (rather than all play no work) is becoming more common among Australians in their late fifties, sixties and seventies.
While Glass has created his own job, Kennedy says most employers are missing out by failing to act on the fact that the healthiest ever crop of ageing Australians are keen to work, at least part-time into the traditional retirement period.
“There is a disappointing mismatch between the number of people over 55 who are willing and able to work in some capacity, and the number of opportunities available. We are poorer as a society because of it,” he says.
Kennedy sees retirement as a transition rather than a set point in time.
He says if employers embraced the fact that many of their older employees would happily continue working one or two days a week, they could capitalise on their expertise, corporate knowledge and mentoring capabilities.
While some Australians work longer purely for financial reasons, that’s not the case for everyone.
“For [some] people, the workplace provides a lot more than a pay cheque. It provides a source of meaning and gives them structure, routine and social relationships,” Kennedy says.
They’re all reasons why “phased retirements” are becoming increasingly common. Workforce participation rates for 55-64 year olds rose from 43 per cent in the early 2000s to 64 per cent in 2014. For the next bracket up (65-69 year olds) it shifted from 10 to 12 per cent.
“It’s been partly driven by financial reasons, but it’s also [about] the idea that 65 is not as old as it once was,” says Kennedy.
So, putting finances to one side, at what age should we start thinking about how retirement might look?
The answer depends in part on whether you are happy with your current work, however, Kennedy says that most people in their fifties start to give retirement serious thought.
It also comes up when employees in this age bracket are made redundant.
“You’ll often see people in their fifties use that as a time to question the direction of the rest of their career,” he says.
“When they look for a new role [which takes over 16 months once you’re over 55] they question whether they will go into the same field, or whether it’s the trigger for a new career direction.”