The blog

Why retirement is old news

I’m never really sure why retirement is portrayed as the dream scenario. True, many of the people peddling the retirement dream are those with a vested interest (such as pension advisers or financial advisers) but it’s still a widespread myth. Retirement has traditionally been presented as the inevitable end to our working lives. Until recently, that is. More and more business owners are looking for an alternative to the norm – a way to scale back, rather than stop working completely.

Let’s look at the following two questions:

1.   Is retirement really that enjoyable for most people?

2.  Why put off doing all the things you enjoy until retirement?

So, is retirement really all it’s cracked up to be? As business owners, we often love certain aspects of running a business and dislike other aspects – or find some elements far more challenging than others, shall we say. But the truth is, we need a certain amount of challenge in our lives and, unlikely as it may seem, many people miss the challenge of work after they’ve retired. Then there’s the social and wellbeing benefits of going to work; according to a recent report, retired people are 40% less likely to describe themselves as in very good or excellent health than working people of the same age. Retirement also increases the risk of depression by 40%.

Then there’s the financial cost of retirement. The assumption that we’ll need less money when we retire is puzzling – surely, with all the extra free time, we’re likely to spend more money. With an ageing population, and the accompanying strain on state pensions, we need to put more and more money aside for ‘retirement’. As such, maintaining a financial interest in your business makes more sense than ever.

But, for me, the main issue with retirement is the notion that we can put off the things we love until we have more time. Whether it’s travelling, learning a new skill, or simply spending more time with loved ones, often we struggle to find enough time during our working lives and put it off until retirement. Wouldn’t it be better to free up more time for those things by scaling back a bit at work, and working to an older age instead? That way, we have more time for the things we love now, we have a more sustainable work/life balance, and we don’t have to set an arbitrary end date to our working lives.

Many years ago, I asked a client at what point he was planning to retire. He answered, ‘I don’t ever want to retire.’ His reason was simply that he enjoyed running a business – why would he want to stop? The idea really stuck with me. If you enjoy what you do for a living, why should you step down because you have reached a certain birthday? If you don’t love what you do, consider whether you can change your role in the business to one that you’d be happier in – perhaps by handing over certain responsibilities to others and focusing on the aspects of running a business that you most enjoy.

I’ll leave you with one final thought: have you ever noticed that often the people who can afford to retire, don’t – but those that can’t afford to, do? Consider older business people or entrepreneurs in the public eye that you admire. Can you imagine them setting an artificial end date on their working lives? In most cases, I bet the answer is no. For many business owners, the mood is changing and it’s time to look at alternatives to traditional retirement.

This post is based on an extract of my book Do More of What You Love: The New Approach to Business Succession Planning, out now.

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