I can describe my career over the past 34 years as an illustrious one. it started off in 1979 with a job as an audit trainee immediately after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree from the University of Nairobi, and went on through various jobs in and out of Kenya, in private as well as public sector, with my last posting being the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Commercial Bank Group from where I retired on 31st December, 2012. During this period, I earned more qualifications, awards and decorations for distinguished service.
I spent the four months between January and April 2013 with my legs up on the stool in my house, bonding with my family, running around with my four year old granddaughter, and reading daily newspapers front to back as if I was preparing for a major examination, traveling up and down between Nairobi and my Village in Western Kenya and seeking out friends. I found myself getting involved in lots of diverse engagements......giving talks here and there, being asked to write opinion pieces, being invited to Boards of Companies as non executive director, and having to answer the question...Martin, what are you doing these days, each time I met the large constituency of people who knew me. And when I responded that I had retired, I got that look of disbelief, with people's asking..surely, how can you just sit around doing nothing?
So on 1st May 2013, I was invited, and joined Deloitte East Africa, a leading Big 4 professional services firm as a Partner and Senior Advisor, Financial Services Industry. This is a really exciting role, and which draws on my over 3 decades working experience to add value to FSI clients and the firm as a whole, giving a client perspective to what the firm does.
In this light article, with sections adapted from other authors, I reflect on the subject of retirement, and how one can best prepare for it. The formal retirement age in the public sector in Kenya is now 60 years. Generally, the set retirement age in the public and private sector ranges between 55 and 65, with voluntary retirement from age 50 in many organizations. This is tied to pension rules as well. In the West, this age is much higher, and some of my friends overseas therefore did not understand how I could retire even before hitting age 60!
Retirement has been long considered as the end of active life and beginning of old age. Now, since we live longer and are generally healthier, more and more people see retirement as a great opportunity to do new things and find more meaning in their lives.
Retirement experts have defined it in two ways; the first definition is practical; the second focuses on the emotional demands of retirement.
On the practical level, retirement is the career change you make when you are no longer required to work full time and you have some freedom to choose the life that you want to live in the second half of your life. Retirement is a career change because it has all the practical hallmarks of a career change, such as the need for planning, the need to learn about your own strengths and priorities, the need for networking, the change in income, the need to try out new things, and the choice of a new direction. To have a thriving retirement, you need to be doing something that you believe in and that feels important to you.
On the emotional level, retirement is a process of letting go, followed by renewal - just like a career change. The emotions you feel upon retiring are those you might feel when you start a journey to a strange country you have never visited before. You can feel scared, uncertain, and confused, but then exhilarating when you become accustomed to the new territory. The emotional transition of retirement takes from six to more than eighteen months, and the more you know about making the transition the better off you become
According to Dr. Nancy Schlossberg, in her book Retire Smart: Retire Happy, (published by The American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2004) the transitional journey to retirement has three stages:
- Moving Out/Letting Go
- Moving Through/Searching and
- Moving In/Creating a New life
For many people, the Moving Out stage is actually the time to grieve and let go of the old life. The Moving Through stage is the time to suspend decision-making and try out new things. The Moving In stage is the time to reinvest in new activities. This transition is a process during which you have to be very patient, understand the complex changes, and make no long-term commitments for a while. I have known people in the grieving stage who did not accept that time had come to move on, and who therefore kept coming back to their work place each morning after retirement, just to be with their colleagues of 40 years!
WHY DO PEOPLE RETIRE?
People retire for many different reasons.
- Health issues - They may no longer want or be able to work because of injury or ill health.
- Nature of the work -Workers in physically demanding jobs are more likely to retire earlier than others.
- Personal demands - They may have responsibilities outside of work, such as caring for family members.
- Leisure - They may want more time to play and travel, hobbies, sport and family
- Community interests - They may want more time for volunteer work.
- Retrenchment or dismissal - They may be forced to leave work
A worker's financial situation, their assets, savings and dependents, often determine whether or not they can retire. If you are thinking of retiring, you should seek financial advice, or alternatively you ought to have had a long term plan on how to meet future financial obligations and sustainable livelihood.
WHAT DO PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY RETIRE?
Some people eagerly await retirement. They seek early retirement. They like the idea that they no longer will have to rise early and get to the office, shop or factory.
Others fear retirement. They fear they will miss the company of colleagues at work, the routine, the sense of achievement – and the income that comes from it. They are trying to extend their time in a job.
Both groups face the same problems when they do decide to retire, or when their employment is terminated for them. They have to find ways of spending the time agreeably and usefully, within the budgets that their pension permits, assuming they had pension plans, which is another MUST in today's world. There seem to be four broad approaches.
Some choose to travel and visit to the full extent that their budgets allow.
Some take up a new leisure activity, such as new sports, religious groupings, join a book circle etc.
Some seek surrogate work. They often end up doing something similar to what they did when in full time employment. Sometimes they are paid modestly, sometimes they do it for free for a charity or local association.
Some do very little. They end up occupying themselves with the daily chores, and lots of TV, newspaper reading and the like.
For most people, the key to a happy and fulfilling retirement is simple: staying busy. So some people take up full-time roles again, in most cases, different from what they did previously. Unfortunately, when planning for retirement, a lot of people focus only on finances, and fail to think about, or plan for, how they will spend their time.
Why worry about retirement activities now, when retirement is years, or even decades, away? I used to think this way, through my 20s, 30s and even 40s! Put bluntly, people who count on developing new interests and involvements after 60 often don't. And that makes for a bored, depressed old age.
Start Planning Now
My experience now tells me that it's never too early to plan for what you will do in your golden years. To start, take a few minutes to write down the things you expect to be actively involved in. Don't count solo activities such as reading, watching TV, or jogging. While fine in themselves, they are not likely to keep you energized and interested for long. Be as specific as you can. For example, if you plan to participate in charitable activities, think through what specifically this will be, whom will you work with and what will you do?
Keep in mind that participating in just a few activities won't keep you interested in life and interesting to others. So if your list consists of travel, adult education courses, and golf, you'll need to do more planning. Here are some other activities to consider -- and how to plan for them.
Many people who enjoy the bustle and creativity of the workplace find that working part-time after retirement offers the best opportunity to stay busily involved in life. And, of course, working a few extra years can go a long way toward helping solve money problems.
You must plan ahead if you hope to establish a new career, turn a hobby into a business. or find a part-time job that's more challenging.. Investigate whether you'll need more education, experience, or skills in order to execute your plans. Then, take the time before you retire to develop the tools you'll need. Keep the balance right between your full time job and planning for the future, lest your employer accelerate your retirement.
For example, if you'd like to convert your passion for gardening into a landscaping business, you may need to take courses in marketing and accounting, learn how and where to buy wholesale plants, and begin developing a customer base. This may mean doing more than socializing on your free weekends and making some short-term financial sacrifices.
This is not a very well developed concept in Africa. in the West, many older people gain satisfaction from an active involvement with good causes. Here's why:
- A chance to do interesting work. Many nonprofits are involved in work that is fascinating. If you check around, you'll find an organization that piques your interest or passion.
- A way to add meaning to life. Knowing that you are doing good and needed work can make your life feel more meaningful. Working to improve the quality of others' lives helps some people cope with the inevitability of their own death.
- A way to pay one's karmic debts. Helping others gives many older people the opportunity to pass on the love and support they once received.
- An opportunity to meet interesting people. Regular workplaces are great places to make friends, too, but nonprofit groups tend to attract like-minded people such as people interested in learning new languages. Volunteering can help you form lasting friendships.
Planning ahead is key to succeeding as a volunteer. The lesson is the same as it is in the profit-making sector: explore your hoped-for nonprofit career well before you retire and actually need it.
Retirement is a great time to devote more time to your hobbies. But many people don't develop interests outside of work and family in their younger and middle years, thinking they'll do it after they retire.
If this is your plan, beware! Few people who have not cultivated authentic interests during their middle years are able to do so after age 60. Many of them end up bored and disappointed. So, take the time now to enjoy life, develop interests, and pursue hobbies. When you retire, you can devote more time to your existing activities and add a few others.
If you look around, you will see people in your own community who are doing many interesting and fulfilling things with their own retirement. With a good attitude, patience, and planning, you can make the change to retirement one of the best changes of your life.
I am in this same boat, having taken up a different, but full time role, now preparing for my eventual retirement. But actually, today, nobody really retires. People move on to do different things, which add value to their lives for as long as they are able to do this. So who really needs retirement today?
Best wishes as you plan to enjoy your retirement, by not really retiring!