We’re living longer, so we’re facing the need to pay for 30 or more years after retirement age. The reality is that more people are either choosing to work on after they turn 65 – or they’ll be forced to.
Thirty years ago, just nine per cent of people over 65 were working. Today, Statistics NZ says more than 20 per cent of people over 65 are employed, and that number’s rising.
The Commission for Financial Capability found one in five people expected to work beyond 72, and one in 10 thought they’d still be working at age 76.
More than half of people who responded to the survey said they needed to work for financial reasons, but many want to continue working for the social interaction and to continue using their skills.
Most people don’t go back to university in their 50s, but facing another 20 years or more in the workforce is prompting some to retrain.
New career at retirement age
One is grandfather of four Tony Adolph. He was an army chef for 20 years, then worked as a chef on fishing trawlers, container ships, and oil rigs. He wanted to spend more time with his family, so he moved back to land.
Then a chance encounter led him to a new career.
While waiting for a catering job, he took on some paving work at a local kindergarten. By his third day, he realised how much fun the kindy working environment was.
“The head teacher approached me and told me I should take up teaching,” he says. Adolph took her suggestion and ran with it, graduating with a degree in early childhood education at age 62.
“It was a hard decision to make financially,” he says. “But I didn’t want to retire early because I would have got bored, and I feel I still have a lot to offer. And I’m a firm believer you have to keep your mind active, and if you don’t, you lose it.”
Now 64, he has no desire to retire next year.
“I really enjoy working with the children and I see the value early childhood has in setting up children up for later education,” he says.
“Retirement isn’t even on the horizon. I’ll do this until I can’t do it any more, for whatever reason. I really feel I’ve got a lot to give and it would be a waste to chuck it in just because I turn 65.”
Financial realities for retirement
While NZ Super will keep you out of poverty, most of us aren’t on track for a comfortable retirement, and with the Real Estate Institute recently revealing it takes 16 years for Aucklanders earning an average weekly income to save for a house deposit, the ability to rely on home equity in retirement is fading too.
If you want to have choices when you retire, a 2017 Massey University study found you should have around $100,000 in your KiwiSaver account by the age of 30, and $182,000 by age 40.
The study estimates a one-person household would need to have saved over $400,000 by age 65 to live a comfortable retirement, one with the odd holiday, an occasional bottle of wine, or movie night.
Having choices at retirement age is the key.
Why retire at all?
GNS Science has seven scientists who chose to continue working in its Wellington lab after retirement.
George Scott retired in 1994. Now 86, he still works up to 28 hours a week, biking into the lab from his retirement village, using the equipment for a couple of hours, then heading home to write up his findings.
“I don’t think I’ve had a stellar career, I’ve just had a long period of working on scientific topics that are highly interesting to me,” he says.
“I’m a curious guy, and curiosity gets the better of me. My major interest in life is doing what I’m doing.”
Scott points out that retiring in the 90s was different. “Retirement income was pretty good in those days, compared to the provisions you have now in superannuation,” he says.
“I had a really good superannuation setup, so there was no problem with retiring in terms of income. I could retire when I wanted to.”
Percy Strong retired at the age of 70. He didn’t go on a world tour after retirement – he shifted his desk into another office. Now 76, he’s at the lab most days. He says, at this point, retirement would be hard to do.
“You can only pull so many weeds out of your garden,” he says.
“Physically, nothing’s telling me to slow down or quit. Maybe by the time I’m 110 it’ll wear out a bit. I’m sure you’ll still be able to reach me on the same phone extension.”
First published 21 May 2018
Story by Eleisha McNeill
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