18 May, 2015

Are you ready for retirement?

Most children long to be an adult - now. Girls play mother with their dolls. Boys try on dad’s ties & draw moustaches. For them adulthood is cool ( while we long to be children again! ). When they grow up, they would want to earn, find a mate, marry, start a family… and some years into work, we want to retire!
There is always something that people want to be or want to do. We are constantly striving to move towards an ever shifting goal post. And that can be like being on a treadmill.
Lots of people are doing extremely well in life & want to retire early ( while there are millions who would give their right arm to be in their place! ).
Retire from work, not from life is a popular saying. Wonderfully put. But to retire from work itself, may be impossible for some, for various reasons, though it seems so appealing.
There are a few questions to ask before retiring… the answers would throw up some surprises.
Do not have enough to retire on – On the face of it, many think that they do. A lot many tend to think it maybe 15 or at best 20 years in retirement. Some want to retire prematurely. The truth today is that it can be 30, 35 years or even longer in retirement. That is a long time indeed.
They need to answer the question whether they have enough to sustain themselves for such a long period. Most have not done the math – they have assumed that it will, for they have a good, big corpus today, which seems like it would be enough. Inflation and their own longevity can wreak havoc, to even a big corpus. Medical costs would do their work too. And retirement plans could go up in smoke!
Aspirational trap – This is the shifting goal post I was referring to. If it is a mid-market sedan now, it would have to be a luxury sedan five years down the road. Children’s education abroad suddenly pops in in some cases, upsetting carefully laid out plans – for this is a really big one! For some it is that Duplex apartment in that tony neighbourhood or that fancy car that Joshis now have etc. Once aspirations sprout wings, retirement remains merely a dream!
Nothing to do in retirement – There are others who seem to have the gigantic corpus that is a prerequisite to retire. But some do have a peculiar problem. They have nothing much to do in retirement. They have worked all along and their work lives had given them a comfortable routine, which served as a template for their lives.
After retirement, their biggest problem would be - what to do to fill up the 24 hours. That can be one hell of a problem for them and their spouses! A free electron about the home can drive others in the house crazy – because they would themselves go crazy due to lack of anything to do!
The adrenaline junkies - These are people who lead hyper active lives in their working years. These are people used to action and power. They would find sitting around doing nothing, next to impossible. These are people who dread the idea of retirement anyway. They prefer to work till their last breath.
However, those employed would find that they would have to retire one day. When that day eventually comes, they would probably throw themselves on to a business, worthy causes, politics, hobbies etc., with a zest that would put a 20 something in shade! These types would never retire if that were possible. They just cannot live without their dose of adrenaline, every day.
Retirement – a mirage? The reasons as we have seen are many… but many may continue to lead active lives – be it work or otherwise. Many may not be able to retire from work that pays them, as long as they can. Others have different reasons. That’s already happening in the west. It can happen in India & other countries, sooner than we think.
That’s an irony, especially in India, considering that India has one of the youngest populations in the world, who may want the older folks to make way for them. They won’t understand why the older folk just don’t walk into the sunset. The youngsters don’t know yet, that they can’t. They are just not prepared for it!

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