Today when standard mandatory retirement ages are a thing of the past it is more important than ever for employers to understand some of the factors underpinning the retirement decision. For example, the timing of retirement - where one of the key myths is that a person’s retirement date will depend largely on when their partner decides to retire, particularly in the case of women.
However, as a recent article in the Wall Street Journal indicated, the days when a husband automatically retired at 65 with a corporate pension and his wife dutifully followed him, are over. Most women approaching retirement age are now working, and many have their own retirement savings and viewpoints about the nature and timing of retirement.
Many of today’s older women re-entered the workforce later than their partners following a period of non-work or part-time working while they raised their children. Consequently they may be at their peak with prospects ahead of them when men slow down and want out.
Add to this the fact that retirement, particularly for women who tend to live longer, can now last for up to thirty years or so and women may look with horror at the prospect of relinquishing an income, social relationships and recognition for many potentially unfulfilling years ahead.
Of course, it’s not all bad news; many people - female and male - have very positive retirement plans. But as the article indicates and my own experience with coaching and advising older people bears out, many individuals simply don’t talk to each other in any meaningful way about retirement beyond a shared acknowledgement that it will be good to leave the rat race behind.
Employers can help in many ways, not least through providing meaningful, couple-centred later life planning programmes and coaching. That may sound overly altruistic and unrealistic in this economic climate but if employers want to see their older workers making positive transitions into retirement and being clear and open about their future plans, something has to change - and fast.