The New 'Retirementality'
In the history of mankind, retirement is a relatively new phenomenon, says Mitch Anthony, author of The New Retirementality. Mandatory retirement appeared for the first time in 1885 in Germany, when the average German worker earned a living doing manual labor and lived to be 45 years old. That's no longer the world we live in, so it's no wonder that full retirement at age 65 doesn't work for many people.
"The idea of institutional retirement made sense in that environment because people were treated like pieces of machinery, and people at age 65 couldn't produce what a 22-year-old could," says Anthony, a popular speaker and trainer in the financial industry who lives in Minnesota. "We have been hanging onto that concept, but it no longer makes sense because most of us no longer trade our physical capacity for a paycheck. We trade our intellectual capacity and our relational capacity for a paycheck."
That means many workers are at the top of their game when they reach their sixties, with greater knowledge and broader relationship networks than ever before, Anthony says. While the word "retirement" literally means to withdraw from the working world, that's no longer what most people want to do. Nor should they, Anthony says. Maintaining some form of work as part of your life, even if it's volunteer work, can make the second half more interesting and enjoyable.
As more older workers realize they still have plenty to contribute, more of them are continuing to work in some capacity, Anthony says. For instance, a 2009 Rand Corp. study showed that within a year of retiring, most workers will return to some type of part-time work. At least 50 percent of retirees will follow a nontraditional path of partial retirement or un-retirement, because they still need intellectual and social stimulation, they feel a loss of identity, or they find that a leisure-only life doesn't make them happy, Anthony says.
Anthony shares the three pillars of the new retirement mentality:
1. Vision. The people who retire most successfully are those who "retire to something, not from something," he says. Before you embark on retirement -- or un-retirement -- determine what you want that stage of life to look like. Maybe you want to start a business, volunteer for a cause, spend more time with children or grandchildren, go back to school or travel. Start designing your retirement life early so you'll know what to expect and how to plan for it. "It takes most people two to four times to get [retirement] right," Anthony says.
2. Balance. For generations, society has viewed life as either all work or all play, but it doesn't have to be one or the other. "It won't make you happy to do nothing but leisure," Anthony says. "The best retirement is a balance between leisure, work, family and community."
Anthony recommends what he calls the "Vitamin Cs" of successful aging. They include:
- Connectivity, or staying connected to the people and things you love
- Challenge, both physical and intellectual
- Curiosity, because, "The day you stop wanting to learn, you stop growing, and the day you stop growing, you start dying," Anthony says.
- Charity, because giving of yourself and your time is continually rewarding
- Creativity, because "age has little to do with creative pursuits," Anthony says. "Look at all the artists, musicians and writers accomplishing great things well beyond the traditional retirement age."
"We are designed for some kind of work. Age has nothing to do with it," Anthony says. "I define work as an activity that brings value to others and meaning to me. At what age do you want to stop doing that? It's not going to happen locked behind the gate in a gated retirement community, talking to people just like me. Instead, find a way to do things you love, even if you're doing them without getting paid.
"When you love what you do and you're good at it, why would you quit?"
Read more: Reading List: Re-Imagining Retirement