A new retirement mindset?
As I talked with my feisty and committedly non-retiring friend Cathy this morning it dawned on me that I’ve been experiencing a “new” pattern of thinking about retirement that I hadn’t noticed as a pattern before.
I talk to a lot of people each week. And because of my special interest in retirement lifestyle issues and concerns, a lot of people I talk with are in that ‘thinking about retirement’ zone. I’ve been aware for some time that I’ve been surprised at how many people I talk with say that they are planning to retire …and then they talk about taking 6 months to a year to themselves to enjoy the luxury of sleeping late, staying up late, fishing whenever they want to, travelling for longer periods than 2 weeks, etc. After the 6-month hiatus they then plan to begin looking for work …nothing too strenuous, just a nice little job that brings in a few bucks and keeps them occupied and connected with people.
And that’s what I believe is the ‘new retirement mindset’ that is developing amazingly quickly amongst people who are within 5 years of official retirement. Large numbers of people have become clear that they want to end whatever kind of work it is that they have been engaged in; they want to have some time to themselves; and then they want to re-engage work but at a slower pace, with fewer demands but doing something that will allow them to feel productive and connected to the larger world.
To me that means that there is a huge groundswell developing that is still using the language of “retirement” to describe a phenomenon that we’ve never seen before. It actually may be well beyond a groundswell: this may be a social tsunami in the making. A recent report in my local paper reported that Investor’s Group recently polled working Canadians and discovered that 58% of us plan to do some sort of paid work in retirement. That is a huge shift from existing retirees where only 23% of them did some paid work in retirement.
Now the report also talks about the fact that those of us still working are carrying much higher debt loads than earlier generations which may be driving the desire/need to continue to work at something. But I also believe based on my many conversations with people that continuing to feel useful and socially connected is also a huge factor, independent of financial need.
One area that I’m interested in seeing explored is the dance that exists between aging, retirement, feeling useful, being socially connected and healthy aging. I know that in the aging literature there is clear evidence that maintaining social networks is important to long-term quality of living. I think I’m going to start to do much more investigation into research being conducted into the value of meaningful work to maintaining long-term health. And if you know of any useful studies in this area, I’d love to hear from you.
This posting has convinced me, once again, that we are currently struggling with a lack of adequate language to describe the experiences people are having of what was once a fairly generic experience: retirement. So far the kind of terms that have been used such as “non-retirement” (for those who are cruising from one career into another) and “un-retirement” (for those who take the hiatus before moving into other types of work) don’t seem to resonate with many people. I continue to be excited to see what we will create as the language that will appeal to people!