Retirement is dead: long live full time living

by Natalie Yan-Chatonsky, Co-Founder, Full Time Lives

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Cognizant's 'Future of Money: Fast vs Slow Money' Snapshot Lunch to business leaders, technologists and innovators about how the traditional image of retirement is no longer relevant to Baby-boomers and Generation X. 

When people think of retirement, they often conjure up a mixed bag of images, some of them contradictory, including freedom, leisure time, golf, gardening, and travel - right through to poverty and dying a slow death.

Our qualitative research, based on over one hundred one-on-one interviews with people at various stages of transitioning from full time careers to full retirement, has led us to two typical archetypes. These archetypes deal with this phase of life very differently: 

  1. 'Dave Paul', a retiree in his 60s who was in the same career all his life and was well regarded by his colleagues. He was elated to have more time to be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour once he retired. Once time had passed, Dave faced despair as he lost his self-esteem and purpose and faced a great deal of loneliness.
  2. 'Jane Smith' on the other hand is very conscious of planning her for her needs ahead of time. She has many coping mechanisms, including a vast network of friends and many activities that help her maintain her physical, emotional and social health. 

We all need to change our mindset to deal with the new reality of what happens when we hit retirement age. We are fitter and living longer, which means we have to set ourselves up better for the next phase in our lives. Not only do we need to maintain high levels of vitality and accumulate enough wealth to live the lifestyles we aspire to, but we can't neglect the two most important factors of Full Time Living later in life: purpose and connections.

As business and technology leaders, we also need to look at the ageing population with a greater sense of responsibility and opportunity than ever before: 

  • These are our valued, experienced staff who have great wisdom to impart.
  • They're also our customers - an oft overlooked, highly valuable target market with great potential. We need to look beyond their functional needs, and account for their emotional and social needs as well, when it comes to enhancing or developing products and services for them.

Here are three outstanding examples where businesses are holistically addressing the needs of this very important segment:

  1. Quest Worldwide Consulting is very proud of its Elders. They play a significant role in sharing their extensive client and business knowledge with existing and future staff. They also perform critical business functions like screening new candidates to ensure a good fit with the culture of the business and attending important client pitches.
  2. Singtel, the largest listed company in Singapore, recognises the importance of workforce diversity. This includes how a multi-generational workforce fosters innovative thinking to tackle business challenges through different perspectives. Singtel has a number of award-winning programs for its experienced staff to continuing learning (and so keep growing) in their existing roles, or to help them cope with change as they switch jobs. The initiatives align with the Singapore government's goal to ensure its citizens retire well beyond traditional retirement age and continue to lead fulfilling lives connected with their communities.
  3. Aspire Planning  is a group of financial planners that offers its clients a program that ensures that they have thought about their life vision before they plan the financial details. This ensures there is a higher quality of financial planning advice that is tailored to the life needs of their clients, resulting in many business benefits including higher customer satisfaction and greater referrals.

We are all part of the fabric of our ageing community, so we all have a role to play in taking charge of leading a well-lived life, especially later in life when there are more choices.

Equally, as business, product and technology leaders, we have a duty to consider the changing needs of this group of people, our staff and our customers. As they transition through one of life's big changes, our support and assistance could make the difference between a harrowing and depressing or rewarding and fulfilling start to a new phase in life.  

Let's all celebrate the wealth of wisdom and richness of our diverse community. 

Related links:

- Cognizant Snapshot Lunch Video