Retirement: an endangered species


In a few years, the term "retirement" as we know it will no longer be used. This prognosis from Barry LaValley, president of the Retirement Lifestyle Center consulting firm, is the result of his many years of lifestyle planning in North America. According to him, the new generation of retirees is breaking with the tradition of its elders. It is building a new style, increasingly further away from a traditional retirement. Businesses would do well to pay attention to this transformation, which greatly concerns them.

Are the baby boomers transforming retirement?

The trend is not new—for 15 years now, turning 65 is no longer automatically synonymous with leaving the workforce. But the large number of future retirees is changing the picture; boomers currently account for 40% of Canadian households, and 70% of them plan to continue working during retirement.

The first wave of departures has already begun, and it is clear that this generation of 50- to 60-somethings has a very different vision and needs than its predecessors. Travelling, part-time work, and consulting—the possibilities are numerous, but so are the constraints: supporting children and parents, market-linked financial insecurity, cost of current projects, debt, etc.

Dr. Richard Johnson, the renowned U.S. expert, estimates that in one generation the current concept of "retirement" will be outdated. For example, instead of "retirement," the Japanese refer to "second life." Retirement is no longer about doing nothing, but on the contrary, doing more things for oneself, taking advantage of the time gained from a decrease in family responsibilities.

What is this "second life" like?

The Woodstock generation is far from wanting to withdraw from the world. The baby boomers are used to pushing their limits, seeking personal fulfillment and fighting for their dreams. They don't intend to stop their lives when they stop working.

Many of them choose to continue working, while profiting from this new phase in their lives for greater flexibility. Consulting and part-time work are increasingly common. This type of arrangement suits everyone—workers have more flexibility and employers pay fewer benefits.

Nowadays, a successful retirement generally means satisfying, balanced work, along with quality leisure time and opportunities for personal accomplishment.

How does one plan for this new type of retirement?

Planning and information are critical. I meet way too many young, disillusioned retirees, who thought retirement would be like a 30-year-long weekend, but who instead find themselves idle, depressed and sometimes even short of money.

The planning function must change. It is all too often limited to forecasting financial resources, but should involve defining a lifestyle, considering a variety of parameters—health, family, projects, habits, finances, etc. "Lifestyle planning" is more appropriate than "retirement planning."

What do you recommend to human resource professionals?

Hang on to your older workers! It is in the interest of companies to align themselves with the initiatives of baby boomers. With the looming shortage of talent, their presence in the workforce is essential. Despite this, I continue to see age discrimination.

Be open to new forms of work and provide boomers with the flexibility they want. The best is to propose a variety of options, to jointly define a mutually agreeable tailored solution.

Finally, it's a good idea to inform employees in time to help them make logical choices. In the U.S., a company was recently found guilty of not having provided its employees with basic retirement information, a decision whose repercussions could very well spread to Canada.

For more information:
The Retirement Lifestyle Center

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