Perfect retirement not a birthright, it needs work

THE ultimate luxury is to be able to look back on a full and creative working life with no regrets. To reflect with a sense of having made a difference and with the energised anticipation of being able to spend more disposable time on the things that have been awaiting your application for years.

While most of us have such a goal, it is not necessarily accessible unless there has been considerable forward planning. It requires us to focus on our vocation rather than our career. We owe ourselves this indulgence. We need to consider our options and revisit them frequently without the blind optimism that these things will pan out just fine, with a bit of luck. As golfer Gary Player once said: “The more I practice the luckier I get”.

Planning and then executing that plan successfully is the very foundation of a happy retirement. All the best strategists have a fall back or alternative – just in case the preferred option fails.

This preparation requires us to face realities and to respond accordingly. There is no escaping the fact that if you are in your 50s you need to make provision for the time your job will end. If you are fortunate you will be able to control the timing of this scenario. Often, however, the decision will be forced upon you.

Equip yourself so that you are able to view your retired status with a positive frame of mind and with your self-esteem intact. Internalise the view that there are new challenges beckoning and that you will be flexible in embracing change.

We all know that we need creative leisure in our disposable time. The demands of the workplace often so limit our response to fun that we forget to maintain the correct balance. A preoccupation with the bottom line and the daily rigours of work mitigate against this.

Success at work should not be achieved at the expense of our health, relationships or any of the other building blocks to happiness. Whether it’s because retirement is inflicted on you or whether it is your own choice, you should always have a goal, and some alternatives, that can flourish within your overarching purpose.

Decide which aspects of your life are important to you and nurture them. The privilege of good health cannot be taken for granted. If you have good health revel in it and do all that you can to maintain it. There will be times when the option does not exist – reduce the odds whenever you can.

When choosing responses to the challenges of retirement you may need to make some critical decisions. It is vital that you do not procrastinate. Many people who are in busy and demanding jobs don’t make time to consider their future, and the older one gets the more critical it becomes. Consider the matter very carefully, as the wrong decision at this age may not allow much recovery time.

We all wish for the luxury of choice, flexibility, financial security and the bolster to self-esteem. Ideally our decisions should allow for as many of these as is reasonable in the face of the realities of our situation.

Your attitude and the circumstances around the cessation of work become critical. If you feel injured or carry unresolved baggage there will need to be a recovery period.

If this is the case, limit the self pity. You don’t have the time to waste on being negative when there is so much that a positive attitude allows us to consider.

There are pursuits that captivate. Establish the structures that will allow you to embrace them. If your future has been planned carefully and you have identified a clear purpose you are more likely to hit retirement at your chosen pace.

After all, a full life away from work is often what you have been striving for, so enjoy.

p Tim Ford was the general manager of people and

organisational development

at BankWest from 1990 to 2001. He now runs his own consultancy, People Innovations, in Nedlands. Contact him at

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