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Happy Retirement

Recently I learned that a relative was retiring after over 35 years with the same business. During that period, the relative had climbed from temporary employee working shifts to a senior executive with great responsibilities within the organisation. Through their own efforts, they have carved out a meaningful and important career and this is now coming to an end.

In discussion, I asked what was on the menu for the rest of life. Guess what! This relative has been invited to return as a consultant and is looking at entering the labour market within their chosen speciality and working for a different organisation doing much the same as they have been doing for the last 10 years. Obviously there is no desire to venture out of the relevant comfort zone and also no desire to examine opportunities that lead down different paths.

My relative’s partner has recently retired from a senior executive post in a listed company in Johannesburg and they are now employed using their expertise and experience in an alternative business doing the same thing. When I asked why, I was told the partner wished to avoid being perceived as of no value in the business market.

In both cases, my relative and their partner are financially independent and there is no financial requirement for them to continue working; they simply need to keep busy!

This situation made me realise just how essential it is for each and every person who works, either for themselves or as an employee, to make preparation for that time when retirement becomes reality “Why is retirement necessary?” I hear you ask. The answer is that, to make a “career path” meaningful and realistic, it is necessary to replace those in senior posts with suitable replacements who have progressed through the “path” defined for them. This can only be realised by insisting people retire.

The principle of “dead mans shoes” that used to apply is no longer relevant in business. The “lateral movement” of executives is accepted, “head-hunting” is common and looked upon favourably in business today. To avoid losing potential talent, every business needs to replace senior and middle management on a regular basis.  “If you remain static, you are going backwards” is the current situation.

Preparatory planning for retirement addresses the insecurities that limit the scope of new retirees and this, in turn, leads to inappropriate options being considered and improper selections being made. Often, senior executives simply do not have the time to address post-retirement options until the “post” is removed from the equation and the person becomes “retired”. This induces emotional stress as the change is sudden and irreversible.

Going from an office with defined responsibilities, relevant authority and sufficient staff to implement the necessary policies and plans associate with management, to being alone, with no defined medium term plan, total authority for oneself only and no supporting staff, is an awesome and intimidating situation. It happens and often takes considerable time to fully appreciate. It is also totally unnecessary, if only the potential retiree spends a little time preparing.

UntitledReading the book “The Next Step: Planning the road through Retirement” by Andrew Blaine and Barry Smith, which is available on and from the authors at or will offer useful advice and guidance in addressing the challenges associated with the quality of life in retirement.

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