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Redefining Retirement Concepts

Increasingly, there is also pressure to redefine the concept of retirement. The traditional notion of ceasing work in your early to mid-sixties and embarking on a life of leisure is outdated, given both financial and life expectancy realities. But, more importantly, for many a successful traditional retirement is likely to result in a less than fulfilling, less than happy third phase of life. The apparent joys of being able to both finance and experience endless leisure are more the creation of finance and travel marketers than the reality for many retirees. Outdated ideas around retirement have resulted in us for a major reality adjustment. We are saving for what might be a 30 plus year journey with absolutely no idea where that journey may go and no road map. While this may sound appealing may end unhappiness! We contrast this against the “old retirement question” of “How will I invest my money so I can retire comfortably?” with what he considers should be the “new retirement question” of “How will I invest myself and my time, as well as my money”. Most 65 year olds can expect to live to 85 It is common knowledge that life expectancies have been on a long term upward trend in Australia.

Over the past 25 years (approximately a generation) to June 2011, life expectancy has increased about 7.2 years from 72.7 to 79.9. But the chart doesn’t reveal what has happened to life expectancies for those at the traditional retirement age of 65. To capture this, the chart below shows the percentages of 65 year old males and females expected to live at least another 20 years ( 85) over the period 1881-2012: [if !supportLineBreakNewLine]

It reveals that of those aged 65 in 2011, 49% of males and 64% of females were expected to live at least to age 85. The comparable figures for those aged 65 in 1986 (i.e. a generation ago) were 26% and 46% for males and females, respectively. In terms of actual numbers of people, these percentages implied an expectancy of about 17,000 males and 32,000 females living at least another 20 years in 1986, compared with 50,000 males and 67,000 females in 2011. Approximately, almost three times as many men and about twice as many women are expected to live at least 20 years beyond age 65 in 2011 compared with 1986. So, retirement at 65 in 2011 means that a 20 year plus retirement period will be a reality for many more people than it was a generation ago. Managing the “money” and “life” risks of longer lives How you view the risks of this massive demographic change depends on whether you take a “money” or “life” focus. Those with an eye on the “money” (including financial advisers and most retirement commentators) are typically concerned about the implications of such things as: increased longevity; inflation; investment returns and investment return volatility for the increasing amount of wealth you must accumulate to support a traditional retirement.

However, alternative observations with a focus on “life”, indicate the major risks are such things as: Death; Divorce; Disability; Domestic discord; Drunkenness and Dire boredom. No amount of money may be sufficient to offset the negative impact on a long retirement should these “life” risks materialise. We argue is that both “money” and “life” risks can be largely managed by recreating the concept of retirement.


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