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What’s your plan for a greater, later life?Created by Verity in Being You, Relationships, Retirement
This article is the first in a series taken from The Guide to Later Life - published by McCarthy & Stone, Britain’s leading builder of retirement housing. The Guide aims to help more people and their families to open up and start tackling those ‘challenging conversations’. It includes contributions from a pool of experts, as well as people who have a personal experience of the issues themselves.
The world has changed and so must you, says Steven Bedford — so don’t delay, start creating some plans for your future. Steven Bedford is an entrepreneur and Business Executive. He was also Chair and Co-Owner of Build-a-Bear Workshop UK, Eire and France, having co-founded the venture in 2003. Since retiring from corporate life he has developed his own property and buy-to-let business and runs courses on entrepreneurship. Steven is chair of McCarthy & Stone’s Greater Life Advisory Board (GLAB).
Over the past 50 years our world has changed enormously — from the austerity and shortages of post World War life, through the marvels of the Industrial Age, which delivered wealth and opportunity to many of us. Now we live in the Information Age, where a bewildering range of goods and services are available to the whole population rather than a privileged few.
Most commentators would say that having choice is a good thing, but what we can often be poor at is actually making choices and understanding the consequences. And as we advance into later life, the impact of the choices we have made becomes evident. For example, most people will have had to make the choice of whether to work hard or not, to live a healthy lifestyle or not, to have saved and built assets or not, to invest in a pension or not, to live within their means or not.
In making these choices, it is often the difficult decision at the time that turns out to be right thing in the long term. For our generation, the tendency has been to take the easy decision and take a ‘we’ll be all right in the future, won’t we?’ approach.
But most of us are products of the choices and habits we formed in the Industrial Age when we had greater certainty of outcomes, such as work hard, get a good job, and stay there until retirement on a defined benefits pension, with a seemingly unlimited welfare state as a safety net funded by never-ending economic growth.
We now find ourselves retiring in the Information Age, where only defined contribution pensions are available, investment returns are weak, a lack of job security and unpredictability abounds, and governments can’t afford to keep the promises of their predecessors. The rules are all different, but our generation is still driven by the expectations formed in a previous era. These days, leaving full time work is no longer an event driven by a date in the calendar; now it is a choice. You decide when to do it and what you are going to do next. But with what certainty that you will lead the life you want? This requires you to have a plan for your later life. Even if that plan is only a few ideas in your head, it needs to exist, and the sooner you start the better.
So what should we all do?
1. Face your fears and deal with the bad stuff first. Amongst the most common anxieties are lack of money, poor health and loneliness, but with perhaps 30-40 years of active life ahead, a future without a positive outcome is immensely depressing.
2. Be realistic. The dreams of retirement conjured up by the marketeers will not happen for most of us, but the gift of good health can provide the basis of a satisfying later life. It won’t be retirement in the old way, but a potentially more varied way of living, with a different balance of work, leisure and learning. This may require compromise, but coming to terms with it before you actually stop work or become a ‘pensioner’ is essential if you are to shape how you want your life to be.
3. Build two pictures of your life — one now before you finish full time employment and another one of how your life will be when you are in later life. What do you need to change? Analyse and think about the following and the choices you have or would like for a better future:
- Ambitions Money
- Health Relationships
- Family Friends
- Work Learning
- Housing Death
- Being Alone
Building a view of the life you have and the life you want will provide insight into the actions you need to take to give you the later life that meets your objectives. Each plan will be different, of course; and the more clarity and detail your plan contains, the greater the incentive you will have to make it happen. Remember, we are living longer in a world that has changed. We must accept that, and develop a plan for later life that helps us prepare for the world in which we will live and not the one that we grew up in. You can start planning for your better future now.