The Business of Retirement: Stage 1 – Realisation

I remember when I was young thinking how old my parents were and how I could never imagine getting to their age. Now here I am, older than they were at the time.

Like many people I had my life planned out – go to school, go to University, get a job to make money to buy a house, get married, have kids, make more money because you have kids! Most people have a variation on this theme. The biggest revelation I’ve had in recent times was on the deck of a rolling ship in the middle of the Pacific with my wife, where my mind wasn’t clouded with work or kids.

The realisation was this – I’ve spent my life in the “1st Stage” of planning. This is the stage of believing that, in the unlikely event I got as old as my parents (through a little boys eyes), that I’d need to have a house and be comfortable and have done all the things I mentioned above. This is the stage most of us are stuck in, we still see retirement as a thing in the future mists – you know it’s there and coming one day but it’ll happen when it happens. Here’s the good news – look around any skyline in any big, first-world city and it will be crowned with buildings with the logos of a variety of Insurance Companies. Insurance Companies don’t have big buildings just to advertise on, they have big buildings because they make a lot of money. They make a lot of money because people are living (and paying premiums) longer. The good news is that you’ll probably get to retirement age. The bad news is that, like most of us, I haven’t really planned for what is, for a lot of people, a very long “2nd Stage” of life – the one after retirement.

I’m not dictating what “retirement” looks like for anyone else but simply for me it’s a stage when you don’t have to work or you have the option not to work. For some people it is forced upon them but for a lot of people it’s stage when you simply accept that you won’t have to go to work all day. Right now most people just accept it’s around 65-years-old when the Government Retirement income kicks in. And therein lies the problem – you cannot just “accept” that you’ll retire at 65, you have to plan for it and probably plan to live a damn long time after it.

We live in a time of “user-pays” and I work on the assumption that they will be no support from the Government when it comes time for me to retire. Most things we do in the “1st Stage” of life we map out – we say we want a car in 6 months so we save for one, we want to own a home in a year so we build up our deposit. With all this in mind, on a Cruise Ship in the middle of the ocean, I made a decision – I picked a specific date for when I am retiring (in a form that worked for me). This means I’m accountable and I’ve got a goal to work towards. It also means the mystical thing we sometimes think about, the time after retirement, is top of mind and is something that I think about right now because I’m probably going to spend a hell of a lot of time there.

I know how much planning went in to that revelatory 15 day Cruise across the Pacific so I figure I owe it to myself to put a bit of planning into a trip that could last 40 years. The good thing is that mapping things out for “Stage 2” is a more selfish pursuit as I’m doing it for me and not for everybody else like I had to for “Stage 1”.
Preparing for the “2nd Stage” is obviously key and I’ll share how I’m doing it, have done it so far and see it panning out, next issue.