Retirement – a dream life or a dreaded outcome?

Retirement – a dream life or a dreaded outcome?

Vanessa Stoykov

Australia’s attitude to retirement is antiquated and unrealistic. To create the retirement we all want and deserve, we need to fundamentally rethink the way we approach retirement.

It’s funny, because as someone who is now in their 40s, I often think of retirement as something I will do when I no longer have the capacity to contribute to my work. I believe being part of Generation X means our expectations and capacity to plan for the retirement phase of our lives is quite different than baby boomers.

In fact I can, as can many of my friends, see myself working well into my 70s – not because I have to, but because I cannot imagine not doing what I love.

The rise of the internet and jobs that are not so manual labour-based means that many of today’s workers will be able to continue long after 65.

So what does that mean for our retirement savings? How much will we need when we may well live to 100 and work till we are 80?

The current system is not taking into account the increase in life-span and the changing nature of our workforce. Current calculations are still being used for age 65.

While there has been noise from the government on raising the retirement age, no one side of government has been brave enough to come out and say what we all know is coming – we will be living longer on average, and we won’t be able to finish work so early.

When I imagine retirement I think of things I would like to do with my family – like holidays and being able to give our children a head-start. This means I am not only looking at what I need to live on until the end of my days, but rather the experiences I would like to have with my family and the life I want to be living.

This changes the conversation considerably when talking about retirement. All too often we think it is way down the track and something to think about when we head towards 60.

But the process of imagining what life will be like, and clearly defining the life we want to live cannot be left to chance. Without a clear vision and a plan to achieve that vision, we won’t be living the life we want.

Getting people to paint the life they want, the experiences they want to have and then costing that is surely right at the heart of the more boring term ‘retirement planning’.

Financial advisers should be experts at getting people to express the life they want to live. And if you don’t want to use an adviser, you should take the time to really think about the life you want and how much that could really cost.

It does not have to be a laborious or boring exercise. You could use a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas with your family – or create a vision board with pictures from a magazine. It all starts with getting your vision for the life you want down on paper – and working back from that with the numbers it might take to get you there.

Australians have long had a love affair with property – and home ownership is without a doubt most people’s biggest asset, outside of their super.

But we may find a future where the tax breaks of super outweigh buying property – and all we have to do to get people to engage with their super is to get them to paint the life they want to live, and work backwards

The words super, retirement and planning are all passive and pretty boring. The words vision, dream-life and fulfilling your bucket list are much more up most people’s alleys. Surely, the way financial advisers and the average person look at retirement could do with a refresh?

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