Within a generation, the concept of ‘retirement’ has changed greatly. What was once a ten year period of ‘a well-deserved holiday,’ for many people it might now be considered a ’second life’ filled with rich experiences.

What can we do to ensure this second life is the best it can be?

Canadian educator and international retirement expert Barry LaValley visited Christchurch this week to launch his new book that has been specially adapted for New Zealand readers with the help of financial advisors Cambridge Partners.

So you think you’re ready to retire showcases stories from New Zealand retirees and outlines how to get the best from retired life by planning for all aspects of this life stage.

Barry has a background in psychology and the financial services sector, and his interest lies in supporting people as they make important life transitions, particularly around retirement.

His work and research over the past 30 years has revealed that for many retirees, the emotional aspects of this part of their lives are equally, or perhaps more important than monetary or career concerns.

The book outlines ways in which people can seek out financial comfort while fulfilling a meaningful life on their own terms, and offers up thought-provoking exercises for the reader.

Barry describes retirement as a multi-phase journey for which money is important but the context in which it’s spent is more so.

His advice is to do what you can while you can still do it. He stresses human beings are not meant to be alone and the key to a happy retirement is relationships.

“I’ve talked to many people around the world about what retirement means to them. People are clear on what they’re retiring from, but not what they’re retiring to,” he explains.

“Retirement advisors have traditionally been financial advisors, but there is much more to this phase of life than money. It’s also about how we act, think and feel. Everyone’s circumstances are quite different, but there aspects of this that we all share.

“You’ve got to do as much as you can, as quickly as you can.”

Building connections

Work provides an important social connector for many people, and therefore relationships have the power to shape our retirement, says Barry.

“In North America, we have the concept of the ‘snowbird’. Everyone dreams of living somewhere warm and tropical, but without friends, a beautiful location can quickly get lonely.

“The role that relationships play as we get older becomes very important – whether they’re family, spouse, friends, neighbours. We can be introverts or extroverts, or somewhere in the middle – it doesn’t matter, we need to work on nurturing good relationships with other people.”

Preparing for change

Thoughtful preparation for this part of life is important to ensure we get the most out of this time.

“Evidence shows a direct correlation between the longer you work at something you love and the longer you live,” says Barry.

“From a healthy ageing perspective, that becomes very important. We need to create meaningful experiences and continue challenging ourselves and doing what we love.

“I think that because traditionally, planning for retirement was focused solely on financial issues, these things haven’t been thought about enough. Retirement is not like a 30-year-long weekend, but rather a different view on life that still requires structure, goal-setting, routines, and meaningful experiences.

“Lots of retirees tell me ‘I’m busier than ever now that I’m not at work,’ but they’re not really doing what they truly want. This is their chance – it’s not just about filling in time.”

More of Barry’s work can be found at www.retirementlifestyle.com. So you think you are ready to retire is available at grownups.co.nz, $39.99.



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