Define your next chapter

As the Baby Boomers hit retirement age, they’re realising that perhaps they can’t afford to retire, or, more often, they simply don’t want to – they have too much energy, and too much to contribute. Happily, the world of work is changing, offering more opportunities for contract work, volunteering, sabbaticals, virtual offices (enabling work from any place at any time) and many other new scenarios – scenarios that suit the highly skilled and experienced person who wants to work, but on their own terms. This story illustrates some of these new scenarios and shows how to plan for a different and more exiting second career.

The baby boomer generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – is entering what was previously referred to as the ‘retirement age’ .The first boomers turned 60 in 2006, and for many people between 50 and 60, the question is increasingly pressing: I’m not old, I don’t feel like a pensioner, but what comes next?

Many do not want to retire. They have watched their parents walk through retirement, lacking purpose and slowly dying while still living.

And then again, many simply cannot afford to. Though a small percentage has prepared financially, been spared any financial disasters, and saved conscientiously, many more have changed jobs, been retrenched, downsized and lost their dreams along the way. Rarely did any imagine or plan for being single or in second marriages.

Ironically, many in this generation are helping their children plan their first phase of life after school. The questions their children are wrestling with are very close to the hearts of the parents, too. What do you want to do with your life? What industry would you like to work in? Who do you want to marry? Where do you want to live?

For the parents, as for their children, finances – though not the only factor – can make an enormous difference to the choices available. And there’s a clue in there for those who would like to keep on working, as well as those who have no choice: if you can see your next stage more as a career change than retirement, it may engage you to see the big picture, and deal with the broad range of factors affecting your future.

Take John Perlman, the well-known SABC presenter who made this change in 2007. After leaving the SABC, he decided to follow his lifelong dream of finding work around his passion for soccer. He started an organisation called Dreamfields ( www.dreamfieldsproject.org ) which has helped thousands of rural children own their first pair of soccer boots. Dreamfields has organised team events, and has built more than 12 sports fields.

The world of work in the 21st century holds many possibilities. For baby boomers, the new model has less to do with a rocking chair and a view, than with a wonderful cycle between periods of work and leisure. This holds major implications for work and home, as well as for recreation, marriage, family, healthcare, housing and the economy. The notion of swopping full-time work for full-time leisure has gone.

John, aged 60, is another excellent case. When he retired as a lawyer, he went back to Pretoria University, and is studying visual communication and English literature. He also qualified as a spinning instructor and gives classes three times a week. He loves mountain biking and gets out on his bike as often as possible to stay fit and enjoy the countryside. He says he feels lucky he made provision for his retirement, which is why he is now able to enjoy many new adventures.

We need to prepare for it if we are to enjoy our retirement. Planning and understanding our changing world is critical, or we will miss the opportunities that present themselves. Someone who knows this is Tina James, an IT executive in Pretoria. Her passion is ballroom dancing, and she is in the planning phase of a national roll-out of an organisation called Dancing Divas – dance and movement classes for mature women.

Planning and thinking through the next phase before you leave your formal work environment helps enormously to ensure long term success. New business ventures take time to get started. Some useful milestones to consider are:

  • Between the ages of about 45 and 50, we need to assess, and start asking questions to help us discover the road ahead.
  • We then need to re-look at the picture every five years to ensure that the plan is still on track, and going in the right direction. The world is changing at such a rate that we cannot assume that plans do not need to be readdressed or tweaked along the way.

Some of the questions to look at are:

  1. What does my investment portfolio look like? Do I have enough?
  2. What is my passion and purpose?
  3. What kind of work would I like to include in my portfolio?
  4. What is my new role at home – or what will it be?
  5. What risk cover do I need for this stage of my life?

There are many answers to these questions, and the dynamics will be different for every individual or couple. Working closely with a financial adviser who understands the journey will ensure that this navigation runs more smoothly.

The world is offering more opportunities for contract work, volunteering, sabbaticals, virtual offices (enabling work from any place at any time) and many other new scenarios. We need to build these into our plans for the future. We need to look at our own personal growth, at how we can give back to society and how we integrate opportunities for work with our passions.

The challenge is to start planning now to ensure success.