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Changing attitudes towards retirement

Avoiding assumptions based on age and appearance
A majority of people end up retiring from their jobs not because they really want to, but for reasons beyond their control such as ill health, disability, age discrimination, job elimination or corporate restructuring. Shutterstock

By Brian Kreissl

Over the past year, at least three people I’ve talked to either asked me if I was retired or if I was thinking of retiring. Being 46 years old and having no intentions of retiring anytime soon, I was quite offended by the question.

Part of it is obviously the hair, but I don’t think it’s that unusual for a man in his mid-40s to be bald. I try to shave it really short or even shave it “cue ball” style, which makes me look younger. I also have fairly young-looking skin and I try to stay fit and active.

I don’t think I have an attitude that would make me seem older. While I can be a little cynical (which my mother told me is generally the hallmark of an older person), I believe I have a growth mindset and I am always looking to learn something new and further my career and education.

I hardly think I give the impression of someone looking to wind down my career. In fact, I am still trying to plan my way to a corner office. I am not one of those people who feels burned out and is counting down the days until retirement (believe it or not, I have met people my age who were doing that).

I feel like I have more in common with someone in his late 20s just starting his career than an older person winding down his career and planning for retirement. As mentioned in an earlier post, age really is just a number, and there are people much older than I am who still seem young at heart.

Strangely enough, all of the people who made those comments were considerably older than I am. It wasn’t like some youngster made the comments trying to make a dig at the “old guy.”

Nevertheless, I probably shouldn’t have let those comments bother me. Some people are terrible at guessing people’s ages, and many people will say things as deliberate digs to offend others.

The irony of being at the beginning of a career and lifestyle reinvention when others assume I am thinking of retirement hasn’t been lost on me. Here I am starting a new degree with new plans for my life and career, just when other people assume I’m ready to be put out to pasture.

Exiting the workforce someday

The whole idea of “Freedom 55” has me kind of freaked out. While very few people are able to retire at 55 these days, I realize some people do retire around that age. But retiring in only nine years’ time seems impossible to even imagine at this stage.

However, I suppose I do have to start at least thinking about the fact that I will someday exit the workforce. The ban on mandatory retirement, the fact people are living longer and staying fit and active into their advanced years, and financial concerns about sufficiency of income on retirement are resulting in many people working well into their 70s and beyond.

But everyone leaves the workforce at some point, and even if we don’t stop working altogether, many people’s work lives end up changing after they retire from their main careers. I am not necessarily talking about the stereotypical Walmart people greeter jobs, but many people do end up consulting or working on contract in some capacity after they retire from their main careers.

Involuntary retirement and planning for the future

It shocked me when I read recently that the majority of people end up retiring from their jobs not because they really want to, but for reasons beyond their control such as ill health, disability, age discrimination, job elimination or corporate restructuring. While people are working longer, many people feel unable to afford retirement and our attitudes towards aging and retirement are definitely changing, we are also starting to see more age discrimination as well.

Therefore, many of us may need to be prepared for a future where we are working in some capacity but not necessarily in the type of role we had envisioned. Employers also need to provide workers with pre-retirement planning and counselling and be flexible about work arrangements. They should also be prepared to provide opportunities to older workers and not assume people over 45 are winding down their careers.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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