Whose Finishing Line is it?

Are you working towards a false finish, a time imposed by someone else? So many of us are. That is to say working towards a retirement age that is created by someone other than ourselves, whether that is an employer or the state or just accepted convention. This is a ridiculous state of affairs, but one that is very common.

When I was younger my elders both immediate family and others marvelled at the capacity of someone to have retired long before the accepted norm of retirement, which at that time was usually age 65 for men and often age 60 for women. Over time as this notion of success seemed to permeate everyone’s thinking so the age adjusted to 60 for all. Failure on the other hand was seen as having to work beyond that age.

I bet if you stand back for a moment and reflect on this as a definition of success or failure in life and that this was measured against a yardstick imposed by others you will see just how silly the system is and the thinking that goes with it.

However silly thinking does not end here as the objective to have an earlier age took hold so some countries introduced even younger ages for State pensions availability. Now along with the UK Government these states are rapidly trying to move the age back up the scale. The cause of this is of course is the inability of the State to pay for pensions for people who might live longer in their retirement than they actually worked, not too mention the shrinking numbers of workers to pay the taxes that fuel the pensions.

The whole issue of pension plans in whatever their form has become central to the mindset of millions of people around the developed world. The power of the pension has been such that it has completely obscured what is arguably far more important, namely what are you going to do with yourself past the age you stop work? Growing numbers of people are beginning to recognise that the age they should stop work is not necessarily the one that others think should apply and more importantly that their future should not be about sitting around doing nothing, or for that matter playing golf. There is only so much of both you can actually do.

As evidence begins to become overwhelming that retirement as we have come to understand it is bad for our health so many more people will seek either to work longer or ensure they continue to have purpose in their lives beyond ceasing work. Sadly, many will continue in work because they don’t know what else to do. Some may be obliged to for financial reasons, this of course could apply to everyone, after all if the finish line was moved forward in time very many people who’s resources would enable financial security at age 65 would fall short if they tried to stop at say age 50. With life expectancy stretching and retirement health improving, what is the point in retiring early? If we use the early State pension schemes as a guide (ie. Life expectancy beyond retirement age) then we could argue State pensions should not begin until the earliest age of 75, maybe even 80 years of age.

Society has become obsessed with the finish line and a pension. Their obsession should be their lives, freedom of choice and how to make those choices. The R Word workshop addresses that very issue.