Working Longer? The Choice is Yours


Editor’s Letter 
by Pat den Boer

It’s not surprising that as the leading edge of the baby boom generation reaches its late 50s, retirement has become a major preoccupation — especially as we approach that time of year when financial institutions begin their RRSP marketing campaigns.

Clever ads encourage us to believe that if we invest wisely, by the time we’re in our 50s we’ll be able to spend the rest of our lives on a sandy beach in the Caribbean, travelling Europe, or playing golf — all without a care in the world.

What we see in reality is that there is growing uncertainty about retirement. How and when it will happen and in what form.Achieving the dreams that are painted in the ads we read may be further from the average boomer’s idea of retirement than the experts and the pollsters realize.“Freedom 55” was the slogan coined by one company and is now the satire of some pre-boomers who admit retirement will be closer to “Freedom 85.”

There is also a growing trend for continuing to work. Studies of pre-retirees report that large numbers of baby boomers expect to work in retirement — in some instances as high as 70 per cent of those surveyed.Current statistics show that roughly 25 to 30 per cent of retirees are in fact working either voluntarily or for need.

We now know that as the baby boom generation retires, fewer workers will be available to support the growth of the economy and produce the goods and services needed by Canadians.To offset this, governments have looked at increasing the age of eligibility for Canada Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan — a move that would undoubtedly hit hardest at lower-income elders who must rely on these programs for their major source of income.

In the book Growing Older, Working Longer the authors site a federal government research project that is looking at policies that might change the way people combine work, leisure, care giving, and education over a lifetime instead of emphasizing only the policies are needed once they reach age 65. The goal is to promote “life course flexibility,”thus giving older people more choice in planning their old age. The problem that policy makers have already identified, of course, is that older adults will not do this voluntarily and so the cycle continues.

The vital question remains: do you see work as an important element in your retirement lifestyle? Perhaps you are already retired or you are thinking about it.Work can bring us many wonderful benefits.When individuals retire, there is often a sense of loss.This stems from the fact that retirees often leave behind friends, colleagues, challenges, status, a sense of accomplishment, and more.

When people are asked,“What are you going to do when you retire?” there are a couple of classic responses like “I’m going to do what I want, when I want” or “I’m going to do nothing for at least the first year.” These responses reflect the view that retirement should not involve commitments, especially the kind that working requires.These individuals just don’t want to be tied down.

Leaving these classic responses aside, however, it is amazing how many people say,“I’m going to retire and go to work.”Why? Retirement used to mean NOT working any more.Retirementusedtomeanlivingalifeofleisure.Well, welcome to the new retirement. In this millennium, people are going to design retirement just the way they want it to be…and for some, this will include working for income.

Working for income can be a very positive force in our lives and it is, therefore, important to understand how work benefits us before leaving it behind.The individuals who decide to work in retirement do so because they realize that it does have a positive impact on their lives.

The bottom line? Do what suits you, not what the ads tell you to do. So please — read on and enjoy the articles we have in this issue. It’s full of information you can use to plan your life — and act on your dreams. n

pat55Patricia den Boer