Whether it’s to fulfill lifelong passions, travel more, or just enjoy the freedom of not having to go to work, there are many good reasons to retire. Health, employment opportunities and financial security are all key factors in deciding when is the best time to leave the workforce.
While the average retirement age is 55, many Australians are starting to retire later in life. There are many reasons for this, not least that we are living longer and need to prepare financially for a potentially lengthy retirement. The gradual lift in the age at which we can access the Age Pension is also a factor.
We asked eight retirees, ‘If you had your time over again, would you retire earlier, later, or at the same time?’. Here’s what they said…
Marcia, 56, personal assistant, semi-retired
“Sexism and age discrimination in the workplace are real. I’m divorced and paying off a small apartment. I’ve been retrenched three times now, which I still find very hard to come to terms with. As a woman in my fifties, it’s difficult to land a job interview, let alone a job.
I took advantage of the Early Release Scheme and withdrew $10,000 from my super fund last year. I’m not sure of it was the best idea or not, but it has helped me pay off some bills and get things in better shape financially. I do get some casual work occasionally, but I’d prefer to work fulltime again. I’m being forced into retirement before I’m ready. I feel too young to stop working.”
Paula, 67, art teacher, retired 2014
“I didn’t retire until my early 60s because I love teaching and didn’t want to give it up. My husband is a builder and is mad about sailing. When he was in his mid-50s, he wanted a different kind of lifestyle, so we sold our family home in Sydney and bought an apartment on the NSW North Coast.
I thought I’d miss teaching but I don’t. I still run workshops and connect with local artists. We love living near the ocean and feel healthier and happier than ever. We bought a small sailing boat and take friends out for the day. The grandchildren come for holidays. I think we retired at a good time. We are financially secure and still have many years ahead of us.”
Lucien, 70, salesman, semi-retired 2013
If I’d known how good it feels to have the freedom to work when you want to rather than because you have to, I would have retired much earlier. I was starting to feel burned out and although I’d worked hard all my life, my finances weren’t that stable. I actually didn’t think I could afford to retire, but when I engaged a financial advisor, she helped me put a retirement plan in place that has really worked for me.
I now have an online business that doesn’t take too much looking after and spins a good income. It’s invigorating having so much flexibility in my life and the time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.”
Cheryl, 61, property manager, semi-retired
“My partner and I owned a delicatessen for 16 years which we sold in 2018 and not long after that, we separated. It definitely wasn’t our retirement plan, but that’s what happened. It’s stressful running a small business as well as raising a family. Divorce rates are high among the over-50s.
For almost two years I didn’t work at all, then I found a job in a real estate agency where I still work three days a week. I’ve never done this kind of work before, but I really do like it. I meet new people and I’m enjoying my life again as a single woman. I own my home and have investments. If I had my time over, I would have sold the business sooner and retired earlier.
Mike, 88, farmer, retired 2002
“Farming is in my blood. I’ve worked on properties all my life, but I’d say I did retire at the right time. Farming is all about mechanical technology now. I still poke my nose in occasionally but my daughter and son-in-law run things very well on their own. I suppose one of their kids will take over one day.
My wife Margaret was ready to move off the land before I was. We bought a lovely house in town with a big garden and we’re making a go if it. We stay involved with the community and help out where I can. Currently we’re the drivers of a project to restore local laneways, planting trees and so on. Landcare and local schools are involved. It feels good to give back when you can and I have all the time in the world now.”
Sonya, 56, hairdresser, retired 2018
“I ran a hairdressing business for many years, which I enjoyed, but when my partner started experiencing some health problems, I decided to stop working and take care of her. I have a manager who runs the shop now and I trust him completely. We are not super-rich but we’re certainly not desperate.
I don’t plan to go back to work and will probably sell the shop eventually. But if things had been different, I wouldn’t have retired. We don’t appreciate how important our health is until it’s gone.”
John, 68, photographer, retired 2011
“I would have liked to continue working in my field, but I was becoming increasingly aware of the age difference between myself and my colleagues. I had reached a certain level of experience and was keeping ahead of all the changes in the industry with digital imaging. Kodak had spent years perfecting film, then everything went digital.
All those little indignities you must endure when people make you feel that regardless of your talent and your experience, you’re just no longer valued in the workplace. I retired because my time was up. Still, I have no regrets about all that now. My partner and I are happy, healthy and financially secure. We’re focused on family and just enjoying life.”
Robin, 61, journalist, retired 2017
“I moved to the country a few years ago because I couldn’t take the hectic city life anymore. You reach an age where it’s just too much. My wife and I moved to a rural town in Victoria and now we just potter about, doing things that make us happy.
We sold our city house and bought something a lot smaller which released some money for ourselves as part of our retirement plan. I think we got out of the rat race at the right time. Life is a lot simpler but far more rewarding now.”