In today’s workforce, do people plan for their retirements?

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Have dreams and ideas of a blissful retirement, Why not? It is that time of life to take a break from years of hustle and bustle, rest and generally enjoy. Unfortunately, this is not the story for many current retirees. Instead of looking forward to this new stage of life with glee, they are hunted by the fear of the unknown.  A few months ago it was Workers’ Day in many countries around the world, no wonder I can’t get the thought of the day off my head. I live in a country where such days and labour union are a no go zone for all workers and the only place to seek redress or settlement is through the ministry’s office thanks this ministries do work.

However for many of them all over the world, it was with mixed feelings. While some rolled out the drums to celebrate the many blessings and opportunities that have come their ways, others were burdened with unpaid salaries, unrealised dreams, strangulating economic situations amongst others, not forgetting the one bit that kills the employed people faster than cancer in today’s world. The thought of retirement, in its simplest form retirement can mean different things to different people. Despite being an important life transition for older adults, the psychological impact of retirement can be devastating for many people, whether because of inadequate finances, the loss of work friendships,  or simply because they have no idea what to do with themselves afterward.  

In today’s workforce, do people plan for their retirements? The big question is whether they dream, plan or look forward to the day they would retire. Retirement should be a time where one can take life easy, slow down the pace, among other things and generally revel, but are people really prepared for retirement? Is there hope of such luxury? Not surprisingly, the process of preparing for, reacting to, and adapting to retired life can have a major impact on self-esteem and psychological well-being, something that many retirees have difficulty overcoming.  I have seen people who view their career as being central to their sense of identity and I am sure they do experience a major sense of loss when that career is taken away from them.  As well, retirement can mean no longer having regular contact with people at work whom they have come to view as a major source of emotional support.  All of this can make retirement much more traumatic than it needs to be.

Though there are positive aspects of retirement as well. It all depends on the planning from the beginning of one’s career. Along with this loss of purpose that many retirees face, there is also the loss of work-related stress that can make post-retirement life much more carefree.  Older workers facing retirement may also find themselves dealing with greater challenges due to health issues or normal ageing that make them less able to keep up with their younger co-workers. This can add to work-related stress, particularly if these older workers are made to feel as if their job skills are obsolete or that younger workers can replace them for less money.

What this boils down to is that retirement can be a positive or a negative experience and this will have an impact on retiree self-esteem as well.  According to observations on how people handle retirement, there are a wide range of different factors that can determine how successful the transition from working life to post-retirement life will be.  These factors include:

  1. The timing of the retirement –  workers who are given the time to prepare for the end of their working lives and to make concrete plans for what comes after usually do better than those who are forced to retire or who were unable to make the needed preparations.  Having time to prepare typically means that workers have the chance to work through the emotional turmoil of retirement and recover their lost self-esteem to some extent.
  2. The context of the retirement – what are the actual life circumstances faced by the retiree? How successful the retirement is going to be will depend on the resources that will be available to them afterward, both financial and emotional. People who fear that they will be left in poverty because they don’t have the necessary security blanket in place or may develop health problems that can eat through their savings are not going to see retirement as a welcome experience.
  3. Gender – up until fairly recently, men have been much more invested in their working lives than women though this has changed significantly in the past few decades. Even now, research tends to show that men are more likely than women to experience a drop in self-esteem after retirement.
  4. Age – Although 65 is usually seen as the optimum age for retiring, many may choose to retire earlier or later depending on life circumstances and finances. For people who find themselves on forced retirement due to mandatory retirement ages are the worst affected and mostly develop an absolute feeling of being unwanted.
  5. Personality – past research has linked changes in self-esteem following retirement to key personality traits such as Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, or Conscientiousness (a.k.a. the Big Five). These different traits can help retirees cope better with retirement depending on personal circumstances.
  6. Financial status – it’s no surprise that successful retirement depends on the amount of financial stability you might have. Retirees who have to scrape by on minimal pensions and/or low-wage jobs to make ends meet are going to suffer more stress than those with other incomes.
  7. Volunteering – not only does volunteering provide retirees a chance to give back to their communities, but it can also give them a sense of purpose that can make retirement much more bearable. Working as volunteers also means becoming part of an extended social network that can offset the loss of work friends.
  8. Health and physical activity – while growing older invariably means developing new health problems, most retirees can add years to their lives by staying physically active. This can include a regular exercise routine, developing new hobbies such as hiking or yoga, or maintaining the same physical routine in retirement that many people engage in during their working lives.
  9. Social integration – having stable social networks can be an essential part of healthy self-esteem following retirement. Actively networking with friends and family can often help retirees avoid the kind of isolation that can undermine self-esteem in many older people.

When researching on this topic I read a lot of reports and most of them pointed out that retirement stress mostly will kill those who just wake up to the fact that companies and governments rules are being followed, and their bosses are simply sending them letters to prepare for retire whereas it was not on their mind. While retirement isn’t always an option for many self employed and investors, it does appear to provide emotional relief from this late-career strain as well as giving retirees new opportunities to find more meaningful outlets for their activities and allowing more time to be with family members.

In my conclusion, there are important differences among retirees depending on their actual life circumstances, but the most important question of the whole scenario is when did you start to plan for your day off the office for good? If today you can answer that question with a definite date in the past then am sure the retirement won’t be a problem to you but a chance to explore more opportunities that you could not afford time to during your busy schedule days.

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