Retiring Old Leaders

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

Ajax Rocky Mtns

My wife and I have been involved in a wonderful volunteer program raising guide dog puppyies for the blind in California called Guide Dogs of America for about 15 years. Not long ago we got a call from the organization telling us that an earlier guide dog puppy was now “retired” and moving on to another family. Ernie (that’s what we called him until the woman he worked with decided to exert her independence and renamed him “Journey”) was about 6.5 years old making him in his late 50’s in human years (I had no idea the accuracy of “dog calculators” was hotly debated!).

What does a retired guide dog do in retirement? Who doesn’t want to retire earlier?

In fact, according to an annual census survey of key economic and social characteristics (American Community Survey 2006) Americans are actually delaying retirement. The results of this survey suggested that 23.2% of all Americans between 65 and 74 years of age were still working in 2006 (up from 19.6% in 2000).

Is work so much more fun that employees just can’t leave voluntarily? Our own research suggests that 40% to 65% of all employees report they often feel pressure and stress on the job (Nowack, K. (2006). Optimising Employee Resilience: Coaching to Help Individuals Modify Lifestyle. Stress News, International Journal of Stress Management, Volume 18, 9-12). Experts on retirement and financial planning point out that all of us need to earn more to pay for longer retirements, increases in health care costs and increasing longevity. In 1993 overall life expectancy was 75.5 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–in 2003 it had increased to 77.4 years.

In a recent retirement study by Merrill Lynch (New Retirement Survey), the new career paradigm of job security being replaced by employability security seems to have really shifted feelings about retirement. Some of their findings suggest:

  1. Men describe “retirement” as a period where leisure activities increase and more time can be spent with their partner. Women of the same age cohort view retirement as a time for their own career development (particulary those who have “off ramped”), volunteering and personal growth.
  2. 37% of those in the survey indicated that finances were a key driver of delaying retirement, 67% reported that work is actually challenging and motivating providing a sense of identify and meaning.
  3. When asked about their preferred work arrangement when they retire 42% ideally would like to “cycle” between work and play, 15% prefer part-time employment, 13% want to initiate that dormant “entrepreneurial gene” and 6% didn’t really see retirement as an option.

In light of these figures, the hierarchy of the world of work seems to apply–jobs, careers and passions. So, identify those “signature strengths” of yours and find creative and new ways to “work to live.”

As Malcom Forbes once said, “Retirement kills more people than hard work did.”   Be well……
[tags]surveys, Envisia, Envisia Learning, retention, talent management, retirement, career management, longevity, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack[/tags]