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Is it time for a break or are managers happy to delay retirement?

Rhian Morgan

Are managers more likely to take early retirement because they have a comfortable nest egg? Or does the recession mean they are having to work later to enjoy a better quality of life? Rhian Morgan reports

Stuck on an overcrowded train or in a traffic jam, facing a long, tiring day, and then the dreaded commute once again, do you dream of retiring, indulging your hobbies and having more ‘me’ time. Or do many professionals think they can get the best of both worlds – a stimulating work life and a boost in finances, by staying in a job they love – or, alternatively, avoiding the commute, without fear of redundancy, by setting up their own business? 

Looking at the stats, and getting feedback from others, it seems the latter is the most popular choice.  A TUC survey shows that the number of people working past retirement age has almost tripled over the past 15 years, with 258,000 women and 338,000 men still working at the age of 65 or over, against 93,000 and 112,000 in 1998. Now it is illegal (at least technically) for people to retire in their 60s, those with the energy and ambition to fulfil their dreams are increasingly turning hobbies or a stimulating career into a new business and have no plans to retire any time soon. 

Then there are those who simply can’t afford to retire, the Government pension being barely adequate to meet the bills, let alone allow them to live in the type of lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. The economy has also been a large factor in forcing people to stay on far longer than they expected.  A recent Saga survey shows that more people are postponing retirement due to financial reasons. Other factors include unexpected redundancy, inadequate income following a divorce, or the need to care for an aging relative. 

The figures bear this out. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) state that almost a third of people (31.3%) who remained in employment after their State Pension Age (SPA) were classified as self-employed in 2012. Plus it tends to be the managerial classes who are choosing to stay on in their careers, maybe because their vocation is their passion.
David Woodward, a sprightly 67-year-old managing director from Norwich, certainly agrees. While working as a fire officer, he set up his own business when he wasn’t on shift duty, realising his expertise was transferable.  He retired at 55 to run his business, briefly taking on a partner four years later. He eventually bought the Tas Valley Fire (UK) Ltd fire protection company, where he undertakes risk and building assessments. 

On why he decided to continue working, David said: “I wake up every morning and thoroughly enjoy it. If I don’t want to work one day, I don’t have to, or I can work weekends if I choose. “Being the sole owner enables me to live the life I want, with all the trappings. 
“It’s interesting, and keeps my brain alert, while expanding the skills I had already attained in the fire service. I couldn’t see the point of having all this knowledge and expertise and not using it while the demand is there, it’s a no-brainer. Plus I like the independence it affords me.
“A lot of my former colleagues chose to work in consultancy, or developed their hobbies into new businesses, after retiring from the fire industry. Sometimes it’s for financial reasons or just because they want to keep their brains ticking over.”

Dr Ros Altman, director of Saga, agrees, stating: “Many people want to work beyond retirement age, saying it keeps their mind alert and they want to ensure continued income in later life.”

Maybe we need to rethink our definition of retirement as well. Between 2010 and 2030, it is predicted by the ONS that there will be a 50% increase in people aged 65 and over, to 15.5 million. People are living longer, with professionals in particular usually living healthy lifestyles. Instead of thinking of grandparents settling down with a pipe and slippers, we need to appreciate that the stereotype is out of date. Britain lags behind in this sort of thinking, with Europe already on board with plenty of initiatives to help the older workforce.

That doesn’t mean it’s all work and no play. In fact, according to the ONS, two-thirds of over-65s work part-time, keeping their career alive while also enjoying some well-deserved time for themselves.

Elaine Pattinson, a 62-year-old computer science lecturer, agrees: “I won’t retire, as such. I plan on setting up my own consultancy business, where I can turn my passion into a part-time business. I don’t feel ready for retirement as I’m still active and have lots to offer. Yet it will be nice to also have some more time for myself, my husband, and family.”

Commenting on discussions from Saga’s Rethinking Retirement seminar, chief executive of TAEN, the Age and Employment Network, said: “Employers adopting a positive attitude can be extremely beneficial. Many people want to continue working and earning in some way. Part work and part retirement makes an awful lot of sense.”


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