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Research released by Australian Seniors in January shows that most of us embrace the idea of being younger for longer. Of the 5,000 over-50s surveyed, 75% view retirement as the beginning of something rather than the end of something.
With rising living costs, current support services and infrastructure, it’s no surprise that more than three quarters (76%) believe society is underprepared for a life expectancy of 100+ and wonders how comfortably they will be able to live in later years.
The vast majority (82%) believes it’s important to be able to fund their own retirement, with more than half of us (56%) wanting to have more control over our next life chapter.
Working for longer, however, creates uncertainties about when we will actually retire once and for all. More than three in five (62%) retirees surveyed say that they did not plan the exact age they would retire. Among those not yet retired, the vast majority (85%) say they have not planned their desired age to stop working.
Just over 61% believe that living longer means retiring later or continuing to work on a part-time basis. One in three (39%) thinks they will re-enter the workforce, have an ‘encore career’ or return to study.
More than 17% of those already retired have re-entered the workforce, with more than one in three (34%) admitting financial pressures are forcing them back to work. Boredom is the second most common reason for going back to work (29%) and 19% say they returned to work seeking social connection. Only 3% say they re-joined the workforce to stay active.
Moira is an art therapist from Queensland who, despite being in her early 70s, says she can’t see herself retiring any time soon. “Some of my clients have been coming to me for years, and I have new ones coming along too,” says Moira, who has a background in counselling and psychology.
“I now run my therapy sessions from home so it’s very convenient for me. I really wouldn’t be able to make ends meet if I stopped working now.”
Planning to keep working or returning to work is also an indicator of where we might choose to live. More than half of us (52%) prefer to settle in greater metropolitan areas, with one in four (24%) preferring to live in a city.
“I sold the family home when my husband died and bought a much smaller house in an inner-city suburb, but I still have a hefty mortgage to pay off,” says Moira.
Events manager Gillian, 64, retired in 2018 then opened a gift shop in NSW which she now runs with a friend. “I wanted a break from working, but I still needed to have an income and our little shop is perfect,” says Gillian. “We go on stock-buying trips to India and Indonesia, which I love. I feel very blessed that this venture between two good friends is working out financially for both of us.”
It’s not just affordability that keeps us working. Two in five (40%) say they are very content with the daily grind and continuing to work gives them a sense of purpose or fulfilment in life.
Russell, 75, is a magazine publisher from NSW. He and his partner sold their three-bedroom home last year and bought a small apartment in the same suburb. “I’m nowhere near retiring; don’t even think about it,” says Russell.
“I absolutely love my job and the people I work with. Continuing to work means we can continue living the lifestyle we’re used to. We can manage the bills and still afford a few of life’s little luxuries. While I still have my health, I will definitely continue working.”
At 66, Catherine believes she is still too young to retire. The careers counsellor from the Gold Coast works four days a week with 14 other colleagues. “Work defines who we are. It gives us meaning and security,” says Catherine. “I feel I still have a lot to offer in my line of work and would like to continue working until at least my mid-70s. I would be bored if I retired now.”
More than a third (32%) of us believe living longer means more time to spend with family and loved ones, but not everyone is thrilled with the prospect of reaching 100+ years. Ninety-two is the age most respondents would ideally like to live to as long as physical and mental health were not an issue.
Interestingly, a large majority of us (83%) would rather not think about how long we are going to live for, whereas close to four in five (79%) feel relaxed about accepting when our time will come.