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Appreciating the view of the retirement landscape

Remember the good old days of retirement?

When you spent your entire working life at one office, factory or corporation?

And at the point diaries, appointments and deadlines suddenly melted away, you were invariably, and non-ironically, given the gift of a clock, collapsed into a deck chair, did every DIY task humanly possible and spent the rest of your defined benefit-backed days in the garden shed?

Thought not.

That’s because nostalgia can be a seductive liar and the reality for most was very different to this cardboard cut-out caricature (with apologies to those whose shed is, only now, just how they like it).

I’m not for a moment claiming that the era of a guaranteed income in retirement was worthy of only wistful reflection on times gone by. The defined benefit scheme provides for millions of pensioners and underpins our industry now and, for at least, the next 30 years.

It’s more the mindset that I question.

For all those happy to spend what used to be termed their twilight years tutting at the telly or pruning the privet, there were a good many more who missed the working life that had made this time possible.

The implicit deal struck was that, in return for your pension benefits, you had hung up your hat, together with your briefcase/spirit level/kitchen knives. After all, 65 was old. Time for a little thumb-twiddling and dog-walking but little else.

Now in my seventh decade, our company is testament to the change in attitude to work in later life.

As the economy has shifted and working patterns have evolved, so has retirement.

There’s a noticeable trend in the 50’s-and-over taking control of their working lives in their latter decades that’s, well, a world away from the fondly-misremembered golden age of grandparenting.

My colleague, Steve Butler, is energetically commentating on this trend and urging employers to take note of how workmates not only have no intention of retiring but are adjusting how they will continue to earn, strive - and contribute - into their 60s and even 70s.

Incidentally, we’re one of the employers who have taken note.

Aside from pensions, we’re developing a new model which will enable those in senior professional service roles to continue their career long after the time their existing employer forces them to call it a day.

But back to the time when you are planning to step back. Part of that is looking carefully at what your options are. Clearly, financial planning is an important factor but equally critical is the mindset that this is the third age, a new beginning. And while the end may be nearer, good health and a positive attitude keep it further at bay.

So if you’re already mentally fitting yourself for slippers, others are re-training, re-tooling and reviving plans to start their own business, change careers or finally tackle that long-cherished project. And it’s an enlightened attitude to this stage of their lives that’s responsible.

Social and economic changes have moved the dial on what we think we could be doing, rather than accepting the prevailing attitude that it means doing less. There does appear to be an emerging acceptance that much more is possible - and feasible - than it was before.

In part, this stems from the fragmented nature of our once homogenised pensions infrastructure and I also accept that not everyone has a choice, nor desire, to continue working.

But amid the uncertainty there is opportunity for looking at a familiar landscape from a different perspective. If decades of experience give you one thing, it’s being able to appreciate an unexpected view.

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As the economy has shifted and working patterns have evolved, so has retirement.

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After 40 years of experience in the pensions world, I'm sharing my insights.