New Retirement Thinking – what next?

Summit TV speaks to Lynda Smith from the “Refirement” Network about the socially useful and exciting things the baby boomer generation is going to be doing in the retirement years they’re now rapidly approaching

GIULIETTA TALEVI: Welcome to New Retirement Thinking. This is the second in our “now you’ve retired” focus. In the Summit TV studio is retirement coach Lynda Smith who runs a company called the Refirement Network. Lynda, the baby boomer generation is rapidly approaching retirement – but this generation is very different to their parents, and I imagine this is going to change what it means to be retired as a result – is that where your company comes in?

LYNDA SMITH: Absolutely. The baby boomer generation has changed every aspect and every life stage as they’ve moved through it – and we have no doubt they’re going to change this one as they head towards it as well.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: What are the principal challenges this generation faces as retirees?

LYNDA SMITH: I think the main difference that’s going to be very different from their parents is that technology and medical science has changed so much that the length of time they’re going to be in retirement will be much longer than previous generations.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: How do they cope with that? If you’ve retired 30 to 40 years ago you’ve got to have something to do with your time…

LYNDA SMITH: Absolutely. Bowls and golf are not going to make it for 30 or 40 years – you’re going to be extremely bored and depressed – and more than that on the money side that won’t last 30 or 40 years. So no matter how much you were good at putting away the money that could also be a challenge in the future.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: Last week on New Retirement Thinking we talked about how to plan for your retirement – but I would imagine there has to be a shift in terms of what your financial planner needs to be looking at before you retire in order to help cope with the fact that you will presumably be in retirement a lot longer than your parents were….

LYNDA SMITH: The shift I think to life planning and wealth planning definitely need to run parallel, and are as important as one another – because you can have all the money in the world and still be depressed. Then it won’t help. Life planning and finding the things that will make you happy and bring out things for the people around you – where you can make a difference and leave a legacy – those are the things that will become very important because of the time limit on your hands.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: You describe yourself as a retirement coach – what would a typical session or a conference with you entail?

LYNDA SMITH: Basically what we try to look at is first to try and identify that specific person’s profile. We have two online profiling tools that can be used for the 15 success factors – which look more at the internal factors of that person. The other one is a life options profile that looks at the options that are available. Literally you’ve got to work with the person to understand what they’re passionate about, what their interests are, where their hobbies lie, what skills they have – and then to try and unlock things that may be buried from when they were children. They may have been in a career with responsibilities – but maybe not doing something they love. Now they have the opportunity to have a second career.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: I’d imagine that’s quite difficult for a lot of people who spent their entire working lives doing one thing. They might have had a hobby when they were 20 but they’re retiring at 60 or 65 and that’s long gone – how do they dig into themselves and into their past and find what they might like to do with their retirement years?

LYNDA SMITH: You need to ask them questions and try and discover what the things are that they may be passionate about, what do they like reading about? In some cases they have to rediscover what those things are because they’ve buried them so deep. In the sessions where you chat to them you’re able to help them to unlock that. Again this is like anything that’s psychologically embedded in you – only you can decide that. I can only help to unlock those questions. Basically there are books and programmes that we use – and worksheets. We run courses and we run conferences. I’m also running cafes where we sit and chat through some of the trends and the questions – that in itself and sitting with a group of other people makes them identify that they’re not alone.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: Do you think that’s an issue? I’d imagine it’s quite a difficult thing for a person to rediscover in themselves what they might want to do with the next few years of their lives…

LYNDA SMITH: Absolutely, and especially for a lot of people who have been in one career for 40 years in a very structured environment. They may have fantastic skills, but the structure of their environment actually aided them to be successful – and they feel like they can’t do that without the structure around them. So it’s identifying new ways of doing things without that structure as well – and being resilient. Resilience is going to be a huge necessary skill in the future.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: You talked about skills. I think that’s an important aspect, and especially in a country like South Africa where skilled people have to retire having hit a certain age – but they’ve got skills the country needs. How do you bring those skills back into the workplace as a retiree – how do you develop a structure around bringing those skills back to the community?

LYNDA SMITH: I think for me the name of my company being Refirement Network is just that – for me it’s important to get people to “refire” and identify what their skills and their passions are. As you’ve said in a country like South Africa we really need the skills at this time – there is a national skills shortage and there’s a global skills shortage. Engineers of 75 at this stage are being brought back, and they don’t have to come back into the pressure of the work that they had in their previous career – but being able to impart those skills to young engineers as mentors. Mentoring is a huge opportunity for people who have skills in accounting and in mathematics – maybe even to go back and be a teacher in a classroom. Maybe you were in IBM as an engineer and have science as a background – to go and teach the applications of that in a classroom for a few hours a week could make a huge difference in the education sector.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: Are you involved in mentoring programmes – are there mentoring programmes out there?

LYNDA SMITH: Yes, I am involved with some. I’m trying to build an association of networks around me of companies looking for skills, companies doing mentoring, and non-profit organisations and community development operations looking for those skills. You may have the money and not need the income – but you certainly need a reason to get up in the morning.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: What about people who might not have the money? They either have skills they’ve developed – or they’d like to develop a skill that can see them part-time through the rest of their retirement – what is your advice to those people?

LYNDA SMITH: I think there’s two. Many become entrepreneurs using those skills – and building their own business – so there’s again a lot of opportunities and networks around helping 50 plus entrepreneurs start up new businesses. That’s the one side. The other is the skills database I have – so as people knock on my door and connect with me asking for specific skills I’m able to connect them with people out there who have those skills. There’s going to be a lot of people who are going to have to continue to work and earn an income to sustain them into the future.

GIULIETTA TALEVI: Absolutely. What is the website people can visit for the company that you run?