What does ‘Retirement’ really mean?

There is no right or wrong way to feel about getting older, just as there is no right or wrong way to feel about how we spend our time. As long as we are happy and not hurting anyone else, what does it matter?

So then why is it that the idea of ‘retirement’ can be so divisive?

What image comes to mind when you hear the ‘R’ word?

Many of us yearn for the day when we can throw away the alarm clock forever and spend our time any way we want. We look forward to that final day at work when we can announce our exit from the rat race, and hang up our boots.

Others of us despair at the thought of never having a set of tasks to accomplish throughout our day. The idea of retirement brings us out in a cold sweat. We may start to question our identity and even our worth.

Some of us may have even discovered a happy middle ground, with plans that involve a fairly structured, but different, routine.

Whatever your reaction to the concept, there are certain realistic factors that come into play, like the state of your health and your expectations. The over-riding reality is money. Having enough of it, or not, making it work for you, or not, trying to stretch it out, or not.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to look at what you can do about money in a way that makes sense.

It is no secret that retirees from all over the ‘Western World’ turn their (sexy) greying heads to countries in Asia, Latin America or even Eastern Europe in search of a cheaper, but still rewarding, lifestyle.

From Mexico to Malaysia and Georgia, you will find expatriate financial refugees enjoying their later years for a fraction of the cost they would expect to pay ‘at home’. Many countries not only offer a vastly more affordable cost of living, but sun. To aching arthritic bones, this can indeed be a blessing. Stretching your money this way has become a tried-and-true path, although not without its drawbacks.

For those who wish to stay closer to family in familiar circumstances, the issue of money can take on even greater challenges. If you have done it correctly, you can keep on keeping on just the way you like it, no change. But, if your income no longer matches your desired lifestyle, a world of hurt may await you.

Those for whom ‘working towards retirement’ was always part of the plan will find it easier than those who suddenly wake up one day and realise that they are suddenly in the later scenes of life with a day’s worth of cash in hand.

Did you know that the retirement age in Libya is 70, and that the average lifespan of a Libyan male is 72? That, right there, bears some consideration.

In 2060, one in four Americans will be over the age of 65.

With a baby boomer turning 65 every 8 seconds somewhere in the world, it is interesting to note that the official retirement age world wide is anywhere between 59 and 70.

But what does retirement actually mean?

We all know that, due to incredible advances in the field of medicine, being 65 in 2021 is not the same as being 65 in the 1920’s.

Living to 100 used to be considered a freakish thing to do, which is why the Queen of England would send you a card. Nowadays there are over 13,000 people officially recognised as being over 100 years old in the UK alone, and those are just the ones we know. Even the Queen’s husband should get a ‘Good grief you are seriously old’ card this year. Poor Liz’s 94-year-old signing hand must be nearly dropping off!

If you retire at 65, and you live to 95, that’s 30 years of ignoring the alarm clock and counting your pennies. This is why many over 55’s see retirement as a second bite of the apple, or cherry, if they are so inclined.

When one retires to open a little shop, starts selling handicrafts or start tutoring or consulting or whatever, that isn’t really retirement now, is it?

Whether economic reality means you need a part time job, or you choose to keep working, the fact that your mind and body can manage being a ‘productive member of society’ surely means you have the right to do it.

Does retirement mean you stop everything? Should you stop doing everything?

Scientists and Doctors say absolutely not. Human beings have evolved to move about and stay engaged. Back in caveman days, being unable to look after yourself in terms of food and shelter was a very dire situation indeed.

Being the slowest in the herd never was an advantage.

True, studies show that over 65s in the UK watch an average of 4 hours of television a day and they also take 34% of all the prescription drugs, but to be fair, every age group watches a fair amount of tele, and 66% of prescription drugs are being taken by other people, so describing over 65s as sedentary doped up drug fiends is bit rich. Many retirees discover that the freedom to choose their timetable gives them a whole new outlook on life.

Hands up if you have ever heard someone proclaim that, had they only focussed on – insert sport, artistic pursuit or creative endeavour here- when they were younger, they would have gone pro.

Is 70 too old to become a Golf Champion? Nah.

It’s probably too old to start a new family…but then there are plenty of blokes who will prove you wrong on that count, too.

Viva le difference.

Perhaps the word retirement itself needs to step away from the lexicon? Perhaps we need a better word. In the days when retirement and expiration were closely related, it had a sort of unwritten rule of understanding attached to it, but these days, being retired can mean anything you want it to. You may have stepped back from one area of focus to expand on another, you may have started something new, or decided to increase your knowledge, you may be taking a rest in anticipation of the next big adventure. There are literally thousands and thousands of ways to be retired, but, without doubt, what it doesn’t mean is that you have stopped living. 

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