Bulletins / Articles
Retirement planning seminars (rationale and philosophy, content and objectives)
Rationale and philosophy:
Many retirees approach retirement with a degree of trepidation. Some are openly fearful of this major life changing event. One of the key objectives of a retirement planning seminar is to assist people to overcome such concerns and to provide encouragement to participants to help them see retirement as a time of opportunity and not a threat.
When people reach the stage of pre-retirement in their lives, they have already managed many changes and situations. Retirement is one of life’s major changes and evidence suggests that it is better managed if intending retirees are given reason to be positive and take ownership of the changes as much as possible.
Through my work with my peers in Europe we have developed a model of best practice in retirement planning. Some core principles that have evolved from our model of best practice are (a) it is essential that individuals are respected for the knowledge and experience they bring to the event, and (b) retirement can provide a great stimulus to learning since it causes a change in the life of the individual and those around them. Learning begins with a fundamental change between the individual’s life-history and their exposure to a new experience. This in turn causes the individual to ask questions and initiates a learning process. Good practice in pre-retirement education is about making the most of this opportunity.
A key part of adapting successfully to retirement is to identify and deal with our feelings and emotions about this major event. We work in collaboration with our seminar participants to address these important issues.
Invariably if you ask people approaching retirement what are the biggest issues/challenges facing them, you will often hear back the response of “money”. Without question the changes one encounters in their financial status is a major consideration, but logic and experience would tell us that it is not the only major change potential retirees can expect to encounter in their lives in retirement. While recognising that financial issues are a very real issue, we always begin our retirement planning seminars with an overview of all the main areas of change that retirees will have to cope with in retirement. There are essentially four key areas of our lives that retirees will derive enormous benefit from giving some attention and advance planning to, and they are:
To say our health is the most important of the four areas mentioned is a statement of the obvious but however it has to be reinforced. While there have been huge improvements in the general health of the population, it is a fact that men in particular need to give more thought and a greater priority to their health. If a woman has a medical concern she will in all probability go and have a chat with her doctor and have things sorted. However men are more likely to assume that problems will go away, and sometimes they do not. We discuss some practical steps that can be taken to maintain our good health long into retirement.
Generally a more important issue than money but that importance is not always appreciated by retirees, so our seminars afford this area a significant priority. And the word “relationships” does not just apply to married couples or those with partners, this is a very important area for single people also. The fact is that no matter whether a person is married or single, we all have those who are important to us, who have a big part to play in our lives, and we need to consider the implications of our retirement on those relationships.
For decades there was an unwritten intergenerational social contract which involved a person being educated, going to work, paying taxes so those of the younger generation could be educated, and when they retired the younger generation whose education was paid for in taxes, would then work pay tax so retirees could enjoy a pension. This has all changed dramatically in the last two decades, with people in education for longer, entering the workforce much later, and those in the workforce often hoping to retire earlier than previous generations.
One of the consequences of the breakdown in the intergenerational contract is that today’s retirees who have children will often find they retire without their children having “flown the nest” or they find they experience the concept of the “boomerang kids” where children left home but have returned for economic or other reasons.
At the other end of the spectrum it is not uncommon for people to retire and find they still have a caring role for elderly relatives. This has led to the notion of retiree being caught in a generational sandwich with significant consequences for retirement plans.
Managing our time together and time apart with those who are important to us is a major challenge which requires a lot of consideration. Cultivating a social life outside the work environment is vital to avoid retiring into a social vacuum.
My experience and that of my peers in Europe is that if we don’t plan for the changing nature of important relationships in our lives when it comes to retirement, all the money in the world is of no value, as life can be miserable.
A retirement planning seminar will always have a considerable focus on the financial implications of retirement. It is important for retirees to understand how their pension will be calculated, whether they will have a social welfare entitlement, not to pay too much tax and to know how to make their money work for them in retirement.
Where possible it would be important to have a pension expert from the employer to give an overview of the pension scheme and address any queries people might have.
We would have a specific session on the taxation system so people can get an understanding of how to keep their tax affairs in order and to ensure they claim all their allowances.
Part of most pension schemes would be a tax free lump sum so a session on how to make this money work, what kind of questions to ask of financial advisors would be important for retirees to know.
Social welfare can be complex at times to we explain how this system works and what the implications are for individuals.
Doing a budget is a good idea and we have some discussion on how best to do a budget for life in retirement.
Using our new find extra time to our benefit is important. Time in retirement can be one of two things, a gift or a burden. Our emphasis is on how to plan to get the most of our time so we enjoy it as a gift.
Developing a new structure and routine for our day is vital and this forms a major part of our discussions on this session.
The primary objectives of a retirement planning seminar might be summarised as follows;
- to analyse our understanding of change and transition
- to explore our feelings and emotions and reactions to change
- to identify the key issues/challenges in retirement
- to consider our choices and options
- to use our considerable knowledge and skills already acquired to assist us making this transition from work to retirement