How Not To Retire

By The New Zealand Herald, Feb. 3, 2017

Election years are always interesting because the topic of retirement age comes to the fore. We all have a vested interest in who receives what and when. When I think about the retirement age, I often recall a conversation with a client who employed a “re-potting strategy” throughout his life. While he would be at retirement age now, I doubt he has considered retiring.

His strategy has been to “re-pot” every 7-8 years. He retires one aspect of his life and embarks enthusiastically on a different path. For him, re-potting involved making a significant change in his life to refresh and gain a new perspective. His re-potting journey before I met him had extended to a new country, a new career, new friends and associates, a new wife and a new house. He had plenty of ideas to pursue in the years ahead to ensure sufficient re-potting opportunities to keep him interested and interesting.

He was about as far away from the traditional idea of retirement as I could imagine. But, as we are all living longer, retirement for many will simply be a change of some aspects of life but not others. The traditional approach to retirement is relatively straightforward. You save and invest as much as you can for as long as you can, starting as early as possible to accumulate enough retirement savings so you don’t need to work anymore.

For those who can’t save enough, the Government pension provides a retirement safety net. For everyone else, the more and faster they save, the earlier they can retire and the more leisure time can be enjoyed. At retirement, work ends and leisure begins…or so the theory goes.

However, a growing body of research finds the traditional retirement journey is less and less common. Fewer people actually want a retirement of all leisure and no work. Retirement is regarded as boring for many!

Apparently only half of today’s retirees (in the US) state they never intend to work again and only 30 per cent of pre-retirees intend to give up work indefinitely in retirement. Instead, whether it’s part-time work or starting a business, an encore career or some other path, retirement is less about not working at all and more about finding a different kind of engagement. Re-potting, you might call it.

Retirement for some might be semi-retirement, with a period of working part-time and potentially continuing to earn. For others, it might be a series of “temporary retirements” or sabbaticals in between periods of work. The significance of these changes is that it might not take nearly as much to retire as commonly assumed.

Some retirement lifestyles might simply need some savings to provide a buffer for the transitions between work. Some people might be able to retire earlier with a small pot of retirement savings, since that pot will be replenished at odd intervals with earnings from part-time or periodic employment.

If we’re not all going to retire according to the modelling – and I’ve never bought the concept that suddenly golf courses and cruise boats are going to be teeming with retirees – then the argument about the retirement age becomes easier.

A retirement age band, offering flexibility to those who wish to retire earlier and later, could be palatable for many. But it is election year, so who knows how the debate will unfold?

To Your Successful Retirement!

Michael Ginsberg, JD, CFP® 

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