Over the past decade, the nature of work has changed significantly. The emergence of an eCommerce based business model together with the explosion in the Gig Economy, have changed our perceptions of how work is organised.

We can also be certain there are further transformative changes pending, as the full implications of artificial intelligence, robotics and big data work their way through our future economy and reshape the jobs market, as we know it.

Redefining Retirement

As the nature of work evolves, the way we define retirement is morphing along with it. Back in the good old days of our parent’s generation, the word retirement brought to mind images of gentile retirement homes, gardening, ladies with walking frames and bingo nights.

Dad would spend most of his time down at the local RSL, playing golf or pottering in his shed, while Mum would devote her time to cooking, gardening or volunteering with local charities.

Today increasingly, retirement is about achieving financial independence early in one’s career and channelling your creative energy into pursuing your passions, be they business ownership, fine dining, travel, or more sophisticated investment approaches.

This outdated concept of retirement is a huge problem, both individually and as an advanced economy. This view of retirement was formed almost exclusively by looking at what the majority of retired people had done historically, rather understanding what they are increasingly looking to do today in their retirement, let alone what retirees may be focused on in future years.

Yes, the majority of retired people just happen to be 65+ year-olds who have just finished a long and arduous fulltime career exceeding some 45 years! Yes, some of these retirees experience some form of health issues.

These retired byproducts of the system are spat out, burn out from 40+ years of repetitive, un-engaging work. Few of them evidence any desire to learn new skills, take up new interests or include a dash of spontaneity into their lives. To add to this universal picture of patients expecting to see one last sunset in God’s waiting room, this image of retirement first emerged when our average lifespan was significantly shorter than it is today.

Wave Goodbye To Slow And Sedentary

While the clear majority of retirees are currently aged 65 years old or older and the media continuing to default to file images of prominently featuring golf club memberships and bingo nights when it comes to discussing retirees, it is little wonder people continue to confuse retirement with slowing down one’s pace of life and becoming increasingly sedentary.

However 70 becomes the new 60, this generation of retirees together with a younger cohort of retirees, are looking mix it up and do things differently. Far from idling the day away in their La-Z-Boy recliners binge-watching Netflix and drinking all day, retirement is being transformed into a genuinely exciting phase of one’s life where access to emerging opportunity becomes the defining characteristic rather than it is by rest and relaxation, both seemingly guaranteed to send a retiree to an early grave.

Our brave new world of retirement is increasingly anchored on the enduring trinity of time, money and energy. So,

  1. When you’re a child you have time and energy, but no money;
  2. When you’re of working age, you have money and energy, but no time and
  3. When you approach retirement age, you have time and money but limited energy.

Tragically, most people never reach the position of being able to savour the possibilities that come with having enough time, energy and money simultaneously to be able to achieve what they want in life.

Striving for early retirement is simply striving to enjoy all three attributes together at the same time. Surely that is a concept and an objective absolutely everyone can agree on!

Amusingly enough, if you are young, your new form of retirement will almost inevitably require additional hard work and additional preparation on your part!

It is a healthy mindset and in keeping with our basic human natures to desire to be productive and contribute to society. Some of the worst weekends or days off we experience are those where nothing gets done.

Retirement: The New Normal

So it is important for your mental health to remain active and productive. Staying productive is another, more sophisticated way of implying “doing some work”.

However, as the nature of work generally is changing, so too is that of the new post-retirement careers many retirees:

  • No being stuck in long commutes during peak hour traffic
  • No having to deal with co-workers and clients
  • Limited paperwork and bureaucracy
  • No repetitive, boring and un-stimulating work
  • No having to force yourself to work when you have other things you would rather be doing.

We are talking about the type of work you would do even if pay weren’t involved. Work like volunteering, exercising, cooking or managing your online shop front. Perhaps you have a hobby like restoring antiques or propagating rare plants. Perhaps your work involves writing freelance, photography or interior decorticating. Maybe you enjoy coaching kids sports or teaching children how to swim.

Retiring To An Independent Second Career

Whatever it is, your retirement can be done and enjoyed to the full when you do not have to worry about wringing every last dollar out of your efforts just to support yourself and your family.

Many are finding the reality of ageing and retirement to be very different from what they envisaged it would be. Retirement can make people feel old if they are not out doing something constructive and being physically active.

Increasingly, this new generation of retirees are discovering people in the community who are actually older than themselves, or younger yet more vulnerable and disadvantaged, who can benefit from the experience and life skills acquired in former careers to do things to assist them.

Without the rich experience of years devoted to a busy, multi-tasking career, the prospect of a second career is more problematic. Many new retirees of all ages are reinvesting their skills accumulated over a lifetime to redefine their purpose often in local communities.

So, retirement is no longer an inflexion point where we cease to do paid work but the point where we attain financial independence and redefine work as pursuing our passions.

Final Observation

Our careers don’t automatically end just because we cease to be dependent financially on an employer for our financial security. Increasingly, traditional views of retirement are being swept away. Working after technically “retiring” offers many financial and psychological benefits. If your new retirement career includes paid work, you can extend your retirement savings even further, create an emergency fund or continue building your asset base in smart tax-approved retirement strategies. Moreover, the “new” retirement helps you stay mentally active and enables you to harness your accumulated skills or build new ones to remain a productive member of society.