“I also cook meals for rough sleepers and care for my granddaughter. When she started school I became a tutor there for Sudanese refugee kids and held English classes for a group of Korean mums whose kids were there as students. I’ve also studied interesting courses online. I go to the gym and do tai chi. Retirement is an evolving experience but I’m very busy.”
Julie Sweet is a psychotherapist at Seaway Counselling and Psychotherapy. Echoing Wylie’s experience, she says retirement is a fluid option for many. “It’s a transition and a process and it’s all about preparation and forward planning.
“It’s beneficial to have savings, but retirement is subjective. Some people may want to take some time out for much needed self care, others could volunteer and not stop working altogether. Many wish to shut up shop and travel the world. It looks different for everyone. This is where dollars and cents come into it.”
Sweet says people can feel nervous, even fearful, around retiring and that is valid, expected and understandable. “It’s empowering for people to familiarise themselves with their financial situation when retirement is approaching. But once expenses are on the table and a strategy has been compiled, mental and emotional health and wellbeing is a significant component of retirement that cannot be overlooked.”
Sydney University associate professor Melody Ding says the fact people tend to have more time in retirement helps facilitate a healthier lifestyle. “Rather than being bound to interactions with co-workers, it allows you to develop different networks. Retirement is a window of opportunity for change.”
Ding says people who retire voluntarily tend to get the best health gains compared to those who retire because of illness and sickness, looking after families or being made redundant.
“Before you retire, think through the kind of retired life you want and what your financial situation can afford. For example, in my research I came across a lady who, in the year before retirement, had already looked up fitness facilities she wanted to try. Doing things like this are really useful so you don’t just leave work abruptly and you’re at a loss. A lot of people find volunteering very meaningful because you remain engaged with the community.”
National Seniors Australia CEO Professor John McCallum says physical activity is one of the hallmarks of a good retirement. This tends to increase when people retire because they have more time.
“People value their health and physical health and cardiovascular health gives you a healthy brain and heart. You’ve got to work at it. It’s also important to do activities that are valuable and satisfying. It’s about having time for leisure if you didn’t have much time for that in your working life. The fact you can do more of that with your friends when you retire is great,” says McCallum.
It is also important to build resilience to cope with any surprises that may happen when you retire. “Things will change as you age. Building networks you can rely on when you retire so that if you do suffer ill health you’ve got support is also critical,” he adds.
Being an active and productive member of the family also assists with maintaining a good retirement lifestyle, says McCallum. Financial security also helps, according to a National Seniors’ research study. Feeling financially comfortable? published in March this year, indicates a good retirement is also about being confident with your financial situation.
However, financial comfort is relative and not defined by a single asset value. The study found people with defined benefit schemes report peace of mind and security. Additionally, living within your means and having the ability to accommodate changed circumstances is also necessary to achieve comfort levels.
On the other end of the spectrum, the report suggests that uncertainty exists about the effects of poor health on financial comfort and the security of other income sources. But people’s perceptions around this are relative to the experience of their peers.
As this shows, there is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to retirement standards. What is important is to start planning early, remain engaged in the community and continue to be a valued family member. That is the best way to ensure contentment later in life.
If you’d like to find out more about how to look forward with confidence in retirement, download Challenger’s “A guide to a confident retirement”.