Retirement or retrenchment can be a body-blow for any active, engaged working person. The former is often not wanted, and the latter is seldom expected. By asking the right questions and looking at the options, one can turn this negative into a positive, and create a fresh new world of opportunity. This article examines how looking into the past can forge a future. We also look at how work can be structured to allow for better quality of life.

Retirement and retrenchment are emotional and life-changing events, especially when not desired, or unexpected. But being able to see these challenges as opportunities can motivate us to look at alternatives.

This is the time when going back into the past can possibly help us forge a new future. At age 50+ it may seem odd to go back to your childhood to look at what fuelled your passion then. But this could be exactly where you need to go reclaim your dreams. The world has a way of submerging our personal talents and passions so deep that we may now have to do a fair amount of soul-searching to uncover what is there. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible…

*Bonnie has been an IT technician throughout her work life but has always had the desire to write a novel. Now that she has been retrenched, she has the time and space to do so. She has signed up for a 10-week writing course.

*Mike, through his work in the insurance industry, has helped many clients build their financial lives. He has enjoyed the time where, through deep conversations with them, he has helped them create a secure, purpose-filled future. Now that he has retired, he has decided to add life-coaching to his skills set to enable him to do more of this kind of work.

*James worked as an accountant for Transnet. As a boy he loved trains, and as a high school pupil he discovered a love of history. With retirement in sight he has planned a portfolio of interests for this new phase. He hopes to qualify as a tour guide and lead historic walking trips through the city as well as acting as the manager on the steam train route every Friday in Cullinan.

Each of us needs to assess whether we want – or need – to continue working in some form after hitting the official retirement age. But just a thought: research indicates that those who continue to live active working lives after retirement age, stay healthier for longer. A longer working life also has a positive financial effect, as you are able to delay the time at which you need to depend on your pension and retirement benefits. This allows these benefits to last longer down the line. It is also critical at this crossroads to preserve whatever savings you have. A conversation with your financial adviser will help you to ensure clarity on what your best options will be.

Option outlook

Before making a choice you will need to decide:

  • Whether you want to continue in your existing line of work, or whether you want to branch out in this new phase of your life
  • Do you want to pursue a dream or passion, or are you looking to fill an immediate need?
  • Do you want to stay close to your home and family or travel the world?
  • How much time and involvement do you want in your family’s life?
  • And, of course, how much money do you need?

Your answers will help you decide your priorities and, armed with these guidelines, you will be better able to come to a decision to help you move forward.

You will also need to consider:

  • The amount of time you would like to devote to work . You may also be kept busy through learning or acquiring new skills or knowledge; volunteer work; family and leisure time.
  • The structure and variety of your ideal work arrangement . Would you prefer to work in a predictable arrangement or variable episodic bursts? This could be three mornings a week, for instance, or full-time work for three months before being off for three months.
  • Your economic reality and the role that finances need to play in your life. Remember that the longer you are able to engage in some form of work-for-pay, the later you will need to tap into your retirement savings.
  • The degree of challenge and difficulty you are willing to take on . Your decision to take on difficult and challenging tasks will probably need to be accompanied by a commitment to learning new skills in the years ahead.
  • The level of responsibility you are willing to take on .
  • The risk cover you will still need during.

Ways of working

There are loads of alternatives when considering where and how you want to work in your retirement years:

  • Continue working in your field of experience for an extended period of time, possibly negotiating more preferable terms of employment such as flexi-time, part-time or contract options.
  • Branch out into a whole new field you want to pursue, which might require additional studying or learning in order to qualify for these new positions.
  • Boldly start your own business. This could be risky, but very rewarding. Ensure you do not dig too deep into your investments to fund this, as you do not have time on your side to make back the possible losses. It would be wise to work closely with your financial adviser.
  • Leave the corporate world to use your skills to add value to a non-profit or non-governmental organisation working for a cause that is close to your heart.
  • Volunteering and giving of your time, skills and experience freely in order to make a difference.

It is when we reach major crossroads in life that we are also given the gift of choice. We can choose to forge ahead with a positive attitude, to look at it as a chance to grasp at new opportunities and to mould a life of meaning and significance. What a bonus to be able to say at the end of a life well-lived: I am fully used up!