Now is the time to prepare for retirement
By Howard Huggett Seven News, December 4, 1976
A great many employed people look forward to retirement as a kind of escape from the struggles of a working life, a chance to “take it easy.”
It would be more accurate to describe it as a new situation with new problems.
When you are working you are giving up large amounts of time for money to live on. Since you have to do this you tend to regard work as a task, particularly if the job is difficult or boring, as so many of them are. And your leisure, because it is limited, seems very precious.
However, at retirement the situation is reversed and you find yourself with more time, and usually less money than you need. This can be quite a shock, and it is wise to prepare for the change.
That double problem of too much time and not enough money represents two results of one condition – a lack of activity. Many pensioners complain of loneliness, of a feeling of being “on the shelf.” What they so often need is the challenge of a new occupation, the companionship that comes from working with others, the satisfaction of being useful. So many people spend their working lives at menial, boring jobs in order to earn a living. If they could on retirement find a fresh occupation that was interesting and rewarding they might enjoy some of the best years of their lives.
Wilder Penfield, the famous Canadian surgeon, once said that everyone should start a second career in later life. If the new job brings in much-needed money the two main problems of retirement could be solved.
Alas, it isn’t easy. Finding a new activity in later life, even when your health is good, can be difficult. It helps a lot to possess some skills of hand or brain, a good education, the capacity to mix with others, the ability to express oneself. And let us not forget the important of ‘good connections’, of friends or acquaintances who have some influence and can supply that helping hand that often means so much.
Well, none of these advantages can be acquired over night. They have to be developed in earlier years, and the sad fact is that the very people who have never enjoyed such advantages during their working life are the ones who will need them most on retirement.
The skilled worker, the university graduate or the business executive is more likely to reach pension age with substantial savings and a satisfactory private pension, and therefore have no need to earn additional money.
But if they should have to work their chances of getting a satisfactory job are much better because of their more favourable circumstances. The low-income worker does not escape from disadvantages on retirement, they follow him or her down the road.
There is one acquisition that can be useful in later life, and that is the hobby. When time hangs heavy a hobby can brighten many an hour. Besides, it can sometimes be used to earn money. But here again, hobbies are better acquired in earlier life, when learning ability is higher and there is ample time to develop skill and experience.
The point is plain, the time to prepare for the problems of retirement is during the working life. Do what you can to develop capabilities when you are younger, so that you will be better able to meet the difficulties of your later years.
Now of course a great number of working people, despite all their efforts, will have to go through life without the skills, education and other advantages enjoyed by the more fortunate. This means that their situation at retirement will be about the same as a very large number of pensioners now have to put up with, unless our society makes a considerable improvement in the lot of the senior citizen.
Once you go on pension you are much more on your own and the influence of an individual pensioner is mighty small. The proof of that is that although there are nearly two million senior citizens in Canada the majority of them are living in poverty. Their great numbers are of little value because they are not organized.
It is the responsibility of pensioners, who know all about their difficulties, to make sure that those who are still working are made aware of the situation that awaits them on retirement. After all, working people are supporting those in retirement, and in return for this service they are entitled to any help that senior can offer.
Besides, most pensioners have children or other young relatives, and they should be concern to do whatever they can to make sure that the next generation gets the better deal than they have.
But, most of all, it is the responsibility of those who are working to interest themselves on the situation of the senior citizens, the generation that did so much to help build this country. It is in the interests of working people to improve that situation that will be theirs one day.
This article was published in Seven News, Volume 7, Number 12, December 4, 1976