The results from our annual retirement survey offer poignant insights on retirement and the third phase of life.
Our objective with the survey is to better understand the key issues impacting retirement today and to find clues to the issues retirees are struggling with and how we can offer better solutions to those. Which aspects beyond money are the most important to retirees? What changes might improve retirement most across the board? These are some of the issues we broadly want to uncover.
More than a thousand retirees contributed to the study – from all over the world, including the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands.
Our first observation came from conducting the study itself. This was the willingness and eagerness with which participants engaged on the subject – confirming the need for more dialogue and interventions to improve the state of retirement globally.
Here are the nine key findings from our first annual survey:
Retirement was a negative experience for 32% of retirees.
One in three people has an undesirable experience as they transition to this major life phase. That’s a staggering amount considering that everyone eventually has to take this step.
This percentage is larger than we expected even though we already believe that retirement in its current form is outdated. It confirms the urgency of addressing the outdated retirement model. People need guidance when transitioning into the next phase of life after full-time employment.
The main reasons cited for a negative response were inadequate financial resources, medical and health concerns, a lack of purpose and a lack of preparation.
Health and money are the top concerns for retirees.
Good health and adequate financial resources are simply essential elements for a good quality of life.
The vast majority of retirement as a subject seems focused on money. The financial industry has long focused the conversation on this. Health is even more essential, however, and while finances play a significant role in one’s ability to afford proper healthcare, there are many highly effective and inexpensive measures that can improve one’s health and can be incorporated at any stage of one’s life.
Interestingly the next two related issues were ‘a sense of purpose’ and ‘boredom’. People need to know how to fill their time, how to be productive and have a sense of purpose.
38% of retirees do not have a clear sense of purpose.
A sense of purpose is the thing that gives meaning to our life. Without a clear purpose, we risk drifting without goals or a sense of direction.
Retirement from one’s vocation generally brings a reduced sense of purpose. From the results of this question, we can see that more retirees need to develop and understand their purpose beyond vocation. Often this requires finding, clearly articulating and then fostering our underlying and latent passions.
54% of respondents didn’t feel financially secure at retirement.
Even with money being the ubiquitous and inescapable retirement concern that it is, the majority of people feel financially vulnerable. Many note a sense of helplessness because their savings are pretty fixed while the cost of living continues to increase. Some retired unexpectedly, either due to unforeseen health or employment reasons, and were therefore inadequately prepared for this sudden loss of income.
This confirms the need for continued earning opportunities in retirement as well as ways to maximise one’s resources.
62% of people feel their skills are being underutilised.
General improvements in health over the past decades have made the traditional mid-sixties retirement age an arbitrary cut-off. Most people’s bodies and minds are functioning perfectly well, and they are willing and able to continue with work and societal contributions.
There’s an opportunity to address the under-provision of savings by better employing the skills retirees have to offer.
If this doesn’t happen though, it’s easy to understand how a financial shortfall along with a sense of being under-utilised and undervalued could further fuel anxiety.
The sudden sense of isolation and loneliness was the most surprising aspect of retirement.
One of the unforeseen downsides that many retirees experience is a quick and sharp decline in social contact. Many say they were blindsided by the loss of regular social interaction which was part of their work life.
Fostering relationships and building new social structures is an important aspect of preventing isolation and loneliness.
52% of retirees don’t feel adequately prepared for the non-financial aspects of retirement.
As we know, the retirement narrative is largely dominated by the financial industry, which has led to the neglect of other important aspects: psychological, emotional, physical and lifestyle.
In our survey, more than half of the retirees said they felt unprepared suggesting that these are significant issues. It confirms the need for more training and guidance before and during the transition to retirement – that’s what we’re aiming to do.
The majority of retirees experience a diminished sense of identity.
During our working lives, formal employment is central to our identity in society. Our standard introduction includes, “What do you do?”. It’s how we position ourselves and quickly try to make sense of others. Retirees need to be able to answer this question about themselves still. A sense of identity comes with purpose and direction. Staying active and productive is essential for this too.
74% look forward to the future
Despite some challenges, most of our retirees have a positive future outlook, and so do we! There is always much to be thankful for and look forward to – and we can actively improve the quality of our lives on many fronts if we are equipped with the right knowledge and chose to do so.
The results have confirmed a number of our key hypotheses. Retirement is not working in its current form. This is a growing global problem that requires more engagement and interventions from individuals, organizations and society at large.
The findings of this study have further fueled our desire to affect change and build a better alternative to the traditional retirement model. We will continue to track the important issues and ask new questions to uncover the critical issues and find new solutions.
I retired also just as lockdown in the UK started. It felt like falling off a cliff! So many of the plans I had for volunteering at various organisations we dashed in just one day. I am divorced, live alone and have been a bit of a social butterfly all my working life – so many acquaintances but very few friends. I am looking now since things are easing up a little of joining the local chapter of U3A and hoping I will find something there that will fill some of the endless days.
Hi Lynne, Your story is a familiar one and exactly the reason why we started Reset Retirement. The University of the Third Age is a fantastic organisation! Joining them is a great idea.
I’ve been working in some form or another since I was 12 years old! The opportunity arose and I took it and haven’t looked back. Yes financial concerns are key but it’s not the end all be all. However, I have been retired for 4 years and somehow and even through Covid maintain a good attitude. Yes connecting with people is so different since being in the work force full time. People connect but not as deep as they seemed in the past. The number one issue I see and feel is how as seniors you are automatically put in a box. Ageist remarks, even from Doctors (degenerative, age spots, it’s your age! Society in America is if your gray, retired not working your too old. Health is good so far, definitely enjoying nearly everyday, some are not as busy but I get along very well. Retirement to me is just look at all the possibilities. Forget what others think, it’s my life to enjoy how I want. There is no rule book…keep moving is my best suggestion. And don’t worry if one day you don’t even want to leave your home… just chill and enjoy. Health is key and I know so many have so many more issues than myself and all I can say is do your best you!
I started a travel business after I reached my “sell by date” with no pension at the ripe old age of 65- after ten years successfully running the bequest programme for the Children’s Hospital Trust in Cape Town. I’d visited China several times, travelling solo across the length and breadth and wanted to share my love for this incredible country and its people. Sadly COVID19 brought it to a grinding halt, but I’m hopeful there may be light at the end of the tunnel!. Anyone up for a seniors adventure tour of Chinawith me?