Longevity — the changing face of retirement

LONGEVITY refers to the length of time a person lives, while life expectancy is an estimate of the number of years a person expects to live, based on the statistical average of a population. Lifespan, meanwhile, describes the maximum age to which a person can potentially live. The lifespan of humans is 122 years.

This column has addressed the topic of longevity several times, however today longevity is quite topical because of the changing face of retirement. With the working population living longer some persons plan to retire early in order to pursue their life’s passion and other interests, while others want to work beyond the normal retirement age because of financial need or boredom.

Traditionally, retirement was viewed as a time of cessation from work. Many employees looked forward to a stress-free retirement environment after working for many years. The retirement landscape is, however, changing. Medical and technological developments, in addition to lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise, have impacted life expectancy, resulting in people living longer than in the past. Retirees will have to grapple with the prospect of a lengthy retirement and the attendant longevity risk. The likelihood of retirees outliving their money is a serious concern for an ageing population. It therefore means that a bigger retirement nest egg will be needed to sustain a longer stay in retirement.

I was invited by a human resource practitioner to address employees who are 10 years from retirement. It was quite a proactive step by this professional who has taken note that employees should be prepared to spend a long time in retirement. Too often some organisations delay retirement seminars for their staff until close to retirement. This can cause undue stress as some employees become scared of retiring due to the financial hurdles that must be negotiated for a life of comfort and ease in retirement.

A few years ago I arrived for a retirement presentation at a private sector company. Only a few staff were in attendance. The human resource representative said that some dreaded attending the presentation because they were near retiring. There are employees who believe they are running out of time as retirement is literally at their doorsteps. Having worked hard for years, employees would love to experience a retirement filled with happiness and contentment instead of approaching the next chapter of their lives with much trepidation.

Retirement planning is seeing a new dawn. Individuals saving for retirement should consider the likelihood of spending two decades or more in retirement. More persons will delay retirement by remaining in the workforce or transitioning to new jobs or business interests. Mentorship, consultancy, and part-time employment will be a new norm for some retirees. Becoming gainfully employed in retirement will not only keep retirees actively engaged, but they will also make meaningful contributions to society while increasing savings and investment for a longer time.

Outliving your money in retirement can be traumatic as social programmes and assistance from family members may not be forthcoming or enough. The new retirees want to ensure that they can enjoy travel, their hobbies, or leisure with the confidence that retirement is not the end of the road, but a redirection — a brand new chapter with pages of adventure.

A new survey by the Harris Poll in the United States revealed some interesting insights. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said that the most important things to pass on to their heirs or loved ones are “values and life lessons”, and 22 per cent of respondents saw “financial assets and or real estate” as the most important legacy. Wisdom is necessary to preserve financial or other tangible inheritance. Sixty-six per cent of those polled see retirement as “a new chapter in life”, with only six per cent viewing retirement as a time to wind down. Interestingly, just 16 per cent viewed retirement as a time of “relaxation and rest”. It’s not surprising that 59 per cent of retirees and pre-retirees expressed the desire to work during retirement.

Longevity has implications for individuals as well as governments, but the opportunities presented by people living longer in Jamaica and globally can help with national development and economic growth. More than 95 per cent of the persons surveyed by the Harris Poll believe it’s important for them to remain inquisitive and keep learning new things. The majority of the interviewees believe that it’s more important to feel useful than to feel youthful.

Longevity has a greater appeal for older adults than the word ageing. It’s important for leaders of all industries and governments to understand this new paradigm. Ageing suggests slowing down while longevity is seen as a new lease on life. Having seniors engaged in productive endeavours will not only enhance a country’s economic outlook but also encourage the financial security and stability of the nation’s elderly citizens.

Grace G McLean is a financial advisor and retirement specialist at BPM Financial Limited. Contact her at
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