By Charlene Van Onselen
Retirement brings with it many new challenges and fears to be faced. The spending power of money is lessening requiring larger sums to maintain a middle market lifestyle, there are more taxes and levies to be paid than our parents did and we live in a global village where no border is closed. This open border status has resulted in South Africa allowing the manufacturing layer which creates jobs and beneficiated goods for sale and/or export to become thin; whilst boosting this layer in other countries, for example China. Our crime rate and types of crime have also impacted on our agrarian sector with many farmers moving north into Africa where they are welcomed, reducing our ability to feed ourselves as a nation. These two sectors are key foundational pillars of our economy.
No economy can function purely as a knowledge and service economy. The supporting sectors of manufacturing and agriculture are part of the sustainability required to allow for urban areas to focus on service. Migration into the major cities South Africa, Johannesburg and Cape Town, is being experienced whilst the rural areas are becoming emptier and other smaller cities are losing their population to the large cities. This provides a glut of skills available in certain areas of the country.
South Africa has a mixed group of retirees; those who are educated and prosperous against those who are semi- or uneducated and poor. This speaks to an income range that does not always allow for medical care or ease of mobility (travel). The percentage of aged in South Africa is on the increase nearly matching the same percentage of under 14’s. As such, we, as a country, are being faced the prospect of dependants growing amongst the aged. The majority of aged have not provided sufficiently for their retirement.
Retirement has come to mean different things to different people. Retirement is not about sitting in a rocking chair; it is about having time to do the fun things which were always put off for another day, and finding purpose and meaning through both family engagement and economic contribution on a limited time scale per week.
The role of the Retiree is an important once in South Africa. No longer can this group sit back and allow the current economic stalwarts to make the country work. There is a need for different skills and thinking as economies change how they function, as what we know as money (our legal tender) changes and the social foundations are being shaken. Economic stalwarts are primarily focused on the corporate demands. What is needed is a group of Retirees who have the discipline, intelligence, know-how and follow-through ability to help drive change within the social structures of our youth (aged 0-25). The skill-sets needed are those which helped to rebuild the economy after WWII; well not exactly but definitely similar in approach and thinking to find strong, robust solutions that will help build the new world in which we live; too much has changed. Economies are running on debt, individuals are living off debt, money is speculative and demand prices driven away from the ground economy of households and corporates.
Retirees have multiple resources at hand: their know-how, skills, capability, intellect, experience, wisdom, time, discipline and self control. Most powerful of all is their wisdom and ability to build anew. The question is not if, but rather how and when do we break this nonsensical notion of Retirees not offering economical value in order to bring this wealth back into our economy to regenerate it?