The concept of retirement is changing as more older people stay in the workforce for longer, whether by choice or financial necessity.  Since the GFC there has been a 60% increase in the number of people over 60 in the Australian workforce, according to ABS figures. There are now more than one million workers aged 60+, which is 300,000 more than there were 6 years ago.

Many people lost much of their super savings during the Global Financial Crisis, and now need to work longer to build up their retirement nest-egg.  It's more common to have adult children living at home for longer, or still have a large mortgage to pay off thanks to increases in the cost of housing in recent years. Some may be in a second or third marriage and need to support young children as the traditional age based life stages of earlier generations change.

And most importantly, as people lead more active, healthier and much longer lives with increases in life expectancy, they simply need more savings to support their later years in comfort.  Talk of changes to the age pension eligibility create insecurity about the future, so people are much more inclined to stay in employment for longer to save for their old age. Not to mention that today's baby boomer generation has much higher expectations about the sort of lifestyle they will enjoy in their later years, so the cost of maintaining that comfortable retirement has risen exponentially.

Older seniors tend to be more frugal, and most of the older generation paid off their house many years ago and watched it rise in value, and have modest expectations about lifestyle, and housing. Meanwhile their baby boomer generation children are busy changing our understanding of retirement just as they transformed society at every other life stage during their development.  They are seeking more luxurious resort style living, in larger homes with space to entertain and enjoy life, and the opportunity to travel and socialise.

Ongoing part time work is fast becoming the norm, as government policy encourages people to work for longer, access transition to retirement pensions using their super to top up their income but contimue to accumulate savings, as the pension age increases.  So downsizing closer to the city with easy access to employment has become more popular.

And for those who opt out of paid work, a continued search for meaning and structure often leads to an encore career as a volunteer.  While enjoying one long holiday during retirement may sound nice, the reality may not measure up to expectation.

Many older workers are the first to be laid off during redundancy rounds - and despite the need and want to continue working, age discrimination is common.  So  they find themselves having to re-train, find new employment or perhaps start their own business.

It's commonly said that "60 is the new 40", so our understanding - and prejudices - about what it means to be an older person need to change.  Most people don't view themselves as old, and feel about 12 years younger than their actual age.  So unhelpful and patronising stereotyping which treats anyone over 50 as if they were 90 needs to go!

Links to some interesting articles on these issues:

"More Seniorpreneurs Please" The Age 2/4/14
"Why Baby Boomers Are Not Ready To Retire" - World Economic Forum Blog 8/4/14






[Acknowledgement: The images are Wilcox cartoons published in the Sydney Morning Herald.]