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Edition 120 – Retirement is an Outdated Notion

I’ve long held the belief that retirement is an outdated notion. In Australia, in 1900, the average Australian male retired at age 65 and died at age 66. In 2018, there appears to be this predilection for retiring earlier, even though we are living longer. Some people are now contemplating 30 years in retirement – almost as long as they spent in the workforce.

Last week, I was pleased to see that one person in our region has smashed to smithereens the whole concept of early retirement.

Malaysia’s new Prime Minister is Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Whilst he’s new, he’s also a former Prime Minister, someone who retired from the top job almost 15 years ago. The extraordinary thing is that he’s just been voted in at Malaysia’s national elections at the age of 92, leading to the first ever change in government in Malaysia’s independent history.

However, he’s not alone. Warren Buffett, the astute US investor, is still chairman and CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate at the age of 87. Also 87, Rupert Murdoch continues to serve as the Executive Chairman of News Corporation and 21st Century Fox.

Over the years, whenever someone has spoken with me about their intention to retire, I always ask what they’re going to do in retirement. I’m usually presented with the standard replies:

  1. Travel.
  2. Golf.
  3. Riding motorbikes.
  4. More time for reading.
  5. Play bowls.
  6. Learn how to home brew.

Now, whilst that sounds all fine and dandy, I have one problem with it. They’re all activities. In my opinion, they are not the things that are going to sustain you in your retirement years and that’s for one reason only.

None of them actually serves a purpose.

When someone is employed, they are serving a purpose. When you own and operate a family business, you’re serving a purpose. The purpose may be to:

  1. Build a better widget.
  2. Deliver a better service.
  3. Invent a new product.
  4. Operate at the pinnacle of your profession.
  5. Mentor new employees.
  6. Build profit to build wealth for your family.
  7. Engage in philanthropic endeavours.

So, for someone to go from a life of purpose, to a life of activities, might suit some, but I don’t actually see how it will be healthy for them in retirement.

Whilst for some people there is a longing for retirement, most of these people have nothing to retire to. They’re going from a life of purpose to a life of no purpose. Their identity as a CEO, mentor, business owner, wise counsel or whatever it is pre-retirement will invariably evaporate upon retirement. Is that healthy?

For those of you that want to know, I’m more than happy to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve just turned 50. I’m entering a golden age in my life and my career. I see myself working for at least another 20 years – not because I have to, but because I want to.

I love the work I do. I love spending time with my family business clients and helping them through their various challenges. I love guiding them as their businesses evolve. Each day is new and exciting. Sure, there are days that are challenging and a drag, but even those days are filled with purpose and fulfilment. To me, that is what living life, at all stages of it, is all about.

Stick around – the fun has just started!

This Week’s Tip

“If you’re over 50 and are starting to think about retirement, I challenge you to consider not what activities you will undertake in retirement, but what purpose your retirement years will serve.”