Writer Tim Drake asserts in his book Generation Cherry that the concept of ‘retirement’ is disappearing. He also claims that our idea of a ‘job’ is also having a makeover. Why has this happened and what does it mean for those of us who are over 50?
He illustrates how this change has come about by looking back at the Industrial Revolution. Prior to this, the concept of a ‘job’ was non-existent; people had ‘work’. However, this important historical period ushered in the concept of having a job with a retirement age and a pension. Nothing about that situation changed much until our current decade.
The disappearance of retirement age
As he says, the Gig economy and the increase in the number of people opting for self-employment means that we are once again leaning towards the idea of ‘work, which doesn’t automatically imply a retirement age or an accompanying pension. As a result, people are finding it increasingly difficult to afford retirement, especially in their early to mid-sixties.
I can personally relate to this, because as a self-employed writer, I don’t have a cut-off date for stopping work. There is no ‘gold watch’ moment for the self-employed. We keep going, usually through financial necessity, and often because we enjoy it and there is nobody to tell us it is time to stop. As long as clients give us work, we will do it. Furthermore, the shift in state pension age has inclined us to accept that our parents’ notion of stopping work at 60 or 65 simply doesn’t apply to us. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Tim Drake points out.
The lucky generation
Drake called his book “Generation Cherry”, because those of us who are over 50 are the Baby Boomers and we are probably the most fortunate generation of recent history. We had free education, including at university level, the healthcare system was less stressed, we bought property at an earlier age than any young person could possibly hope for now, and, we had an abundance of jobs to choose from. Who now could phone a company, ask for a job and get an interview without so much as a CV being sent in? Yet, that was my first experience of job hunting, and yes, I got the job I was after.
In his view, we are still the lucky ones. We are healthier and living longer, which means we have the opportunity to “find new energy and purpose in our later years,” as Drake says. His book delves into four lessons that he believes will underpin taking back control of our lives and finding greater fulfilment in our later years. He calls them the Four Autonomies: Earning, Learning, Giving and Recharging. In brief: Earning keeps you in touch with the real world; Learning keeps you growing; Giving is a win/win deal with society and Recharging keeps you relaxed and energised. He also adds a fifth element – Enlightened Thrift – which is ensuring that we value what we have and are prepared to live with less if necessary. As he says, he hopes that his life lessons, which underpin the book, will give you the tools to enjoy a second bite at the cherry in this new era of the extended retirement age.