Retirement – are you prepared?

A recent YouGov survey, carried out as part of a partnership between the Centre for Ageing Better and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation showed 1 in 5 adults who retired in the past 5 years have found it to be a difficult transition.   The issues people were concerned about included money, feeling bored, missing social interactions at work, losing purpose and being lonely.

Yet despite these fairly fundamental concerns, the survey showed that most retirees had done little to plan for this major life change, with over half revealing they didn’t seek any prior help or guidance.

Even if you were so inclined as to think about ‘bigger picture’ planning for retirement, a quick Google search will show plenty of websites telling you all about sensible financial planning, but nothing much beyond that.

The concept of retirement is undoubtedly changing, and is very different to that experienced by previous generations. For many it is no longer the gold watch at 60 or 65, followed by a gentle retreat into the twilight years accompanied by a mug of cocoa and slippers by the fire. Even though they have reached the conventional age of retirement, many will be compelled to carry on working through necessity or because they want to.


There is also a new breed of retiree – those individuals who have had enough of climbing the corporate career ladder, and so choose to take early retirement, but who have no intention of retiring in the conventional sense, even if finances permit this course of action. Using their professional skills, many choose to start their own businesses that provide the flexibility to pursue other interests, whilst doing away with the travails of the daily commute, management responsibilities and all those other burdens of corporate life.

And of course many don’t want to give up on full time work. They want to do something meaningful, but are not sure how to go about it, how best to utilise the skills and experience they have built up in their professional life.

Work isn’t the only consideration. Many people have ambitions they want to achieve, a bucket list of activities they want to enjoy, and have the energy and curiosity about the world to pursue them. Travel, volunteering, charity work, studying, learning new skills – the list of possibilities is endless. But planning these activities can seem daunting and it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if up until now the focus has been on your professional life. Many people have simply not given much serious thought to any of this.

Then there are the intangible issues – are you ready mentally? How do you look back on your career? How will you approach the lack of structure and social interaction or indeed the lack of mental stimulation and status that work brought you? For many, their sense of ‘self’ is so intimately entwined with their business persona that they cannot imagine a life without their job. The shock realisation of an empty diary and no plans beyond maybe a celebratory holiday can prove to be a very rude awakening!

Impending retirement can be a time of mixed emotions too – retrospection, pride, anxiety, joy, apprehension, excitement, trepidation. Acknowledging these emotions and channelling them positively, so that retirement is approached with a positive attitude mental attitude, will be crucial in establishing a plan that will work.

Reflecting on the experiences of those I have dealt with reveals that the options people choose to pursue are as many and diverse as the individuals themselves. For example, one has opted for a life of full time travel, another has embraced new learning and involvement with altruistic projects; one is running a consultancy business part time despite being well past conventional retirement age, another has chosen to use the business skills acquired in non-executive director roles; another has a new found passion for tending their allotment! My observation though is that each had a clear sense of purpose, a willingness to be flexible and an open-minded approach to new experiences and opportunities.

In my experience, those who treat this next phase of life, and plan accordingly, as they would any aspect of their career, are far more likely to make a success of it. I would highly recommend starting to think about your options a good 2 years before you plan to retire – that way you give yourself plenty of time to get comfortable with the changes on the horizon. Talk to any significant others in your life too – your retirement won’t just affect you! And planning ahead enables you to maintain control of the situation. Some businesses offer retirement planning courses, so it is worth seeking out what is on offer in your business. If this service is not on offer internally, I would recommend looking at what else might be available to you. Seeking help – either internally or externally – may make all the difference to how you approach this new – and exciting – phase of life.

Liz Watt is Managing Director of recruitment business Beament Leslie Thomas. She is an Executive Coach, with a particular interest in retirement planning and she runs a retirement coaching programme. bltcoaching1@gmail.com