Retire? That’s a discussion for others… isn’t it?

For years I talked to companies that did not see any reason to think about the changing nature of retirement. Anyone with relatives over 85 (the fastest growing demographic in the USA) caught on fast, though.

What happens when our life-spans are commonly passing 80 years but our work-lives are barely half that? And our systems are geared for early retirement with a few years of play, then simply disappearing?

The times, they are a-changin’

A century ago, we worked until we died or became disabled.  The Depression and WWII gave us Social Security and pensions. Starting in the 1970s, a “golden age” of retirement was supported by personal savings plus defined pension plans plus Social Security – at least for those in large companies or government.

Now we have folks fearing they will never be able to retire – while many losing their jobs in this recession are involuntarily doing so.

Our society, meanwhile, has done little to address our longer lifespan and the impact on work, life, health, or communities. If you’ve dealt with ill or isolated elders, you realize this.  And the current budget crunch at every level of government is hitting those services which do exist.

Personal capacity building

Have you actually thought much about retirement? Do you, like many, intend to get around to thinking about it … sometime? Do you love your work so that you fool yourself into believing that you will never retire?  That your circumstances will never change?

Retirement has both financial and personal aspects. Many of us don’t plan for either.

Most importantly, do some personal ‘what-if’ planning

Studies show that women are still more likely than men to be care-givers. And this may mean that you will, as I have, end up caring for several older relatives in their last years. Dealing with the medical, emotional, and physical issues is not easy. All these and others related to aging family take far more time and energy than you expect–even if you could afford good help.

And it hits your business directly, often disastrously.

Many married women find that they retire before they plan to, due to the needs of a spouse.  The most common predictor of early retirement for men is job loss or illness. For married women? The disability or illness of their husband.

Retirement as a business owner

Retirement and disability issues are all the more difficult if you are a business owner. Whether you stockpile larger emergency funds, buy key-man insurance, or take other steps; you need to discuss what might happen with your family, your partners, and other advisors – and plan!

For those of us fully invested in our work, planning the personal side is even harder than the financial.  Yet it is critical too.  Think of all you gain from your work.  How will you replace those positives – respect, recognition, creativity, whatever – when you retire?

If you plan to work forever, what will you do if you cannot?

Got employees?

Offering simple retirement options will be attractive in hiring and retaining staff. Your benefits broker can show you a wide range of retirement savings options and employee assistance programs to support the emotional or care-giving aspects.

But you also need to think about what you plan to do when a valued employee suddenly is confronting elder care issues or an ill spouse. You may not have to comply with specific laws, if you are small enough, but you will find it hard to decide what you should do in the heat of the moment.

Do It Now!

Put a little time on your calendar in the next 2 weeks and think about the retirement related issues you face personally and in your business.  List the advisors you have who can help.  Get this on your planning horizon now and make your life easier tomorrow.

Or you too can be the woman I know whose newly retired husband actually alphabetized everything in the kitchen and told her how she should do the house cleaning more efficiently…

… while she coped with his mother’s dementia.

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