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Defying life's blueprint

 

One of the both interesting and challenging aspects of planning for retirement is that most of our lives don't follow a common blueprint, at least to the letter.

 

Certainly, there are those who completely stop work around their 65th birthday and live until their life expectancy, having progressively moved through typical stages of retirement of being active, more sedentary and then frail. 

And then there are those, of course, who work until well past conventional retirement ages and who may remain extremely active long after retiring (if they ever do retire).

For instance, Catherine Hamlin, an Australian obstetrician and gynaecologist, is still operating at age 92 with the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. Dr Hamlin and late husband, Dr Reg Hamlin, founded the hospital 42 years ago.

And then there is the former Australian soap opera actor, politician and farmer Elisabeth Kirkby, 95, who won her doctorate from the University of Sydney at 93 years of age. (Perhaps you may be old enough to remember her as Lucy Sutcliffe in a top-rating serial of the seventies, Number 96?)

Lis Kirkby served on the NSW legislative council until past her 77th birthday and ran a wheat and sheep farm until reaching almost her 90th year.

Hamlin and Kirkby represent a perhaps surprising proportion of older people who intend to keep working and remaining active into old age, sometimes very old age.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) over the past week released its 2014-15 Retirement and retirement intentions report showing that of the 4.7 million people in the workforce:

  • 80 per cent of workers intend to retire at some stage. (Almost half of these intending retirees aim to stop work between ages 65-60 yet almost a quarter intend to keep working until age 70 or older.)
  • 8 per cent of workers haven't made up their minds whether or not to eventually retire.
  • 12 per cent of workers intend to never retire.

Many of us would like to assume that we are in control of the timing of our eventual retirement. However, our intentions and when we actually retire may be very different in reality as the ABS has observed in the past.

Much obviously depends on employment opportunities, our health, our financial needs and whether retirement is sufficiently satisfying. So much depends on our changing personal circumstances.

A critical point to keep in mind is that life doesn't always go to plan; it often doesn't. Sound financial planning involves preparing for the expected and the unexpected.

 

By Robin Bowerman
Smart Investing 
Principal & Head of Retail, Vanguard Investments Australia
6 April 2016 | Retirement and superannuation

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