Joachim (name not real) has been working for a government institution over the past three decades. Early this year, he received his notice for retirement, something that scared him to the marrow. He could hardly imagine life without being in that institution and begun frantic efforts to get some sort of contract extension. The year is ending and his efforts have yielded nothing. This has left him a bitter man. As a matter of fact, one of his colleagues advised him to go rear chicken.
Retirement is defined as, leaving one’s job, career or occupation permanently, usually because of age (Dictionary.com). It is a song that has been repeatedly sung for us since childhood that we now accept it as a default with some even taking pride in early retirement claiming that all they do is just wake up, eat, drink and have fun.
Unless you have been highly incapacitated by disease, in my view, we have more knowledge jobs today than ever before in the history of humankind hence allowing one to work till they die. These are jobs that do not necessarily require prowess in physical abilities but only a decent brain to be executed.
You have that high flying job today raking in good money but the time shall definitely come when you have to leave. Even when your employer chooses to retire you, at a personal level, Do Not Retire. Recently, while at a meetup with my OBs and OGs, an auditor friend stated it well. He advised that instead of Retiring, we should Re-fire.
How do you Re-fire?
You could be a career lawyer who has rattled the legal profession for years. However, as you age, there are many younger much sharper lawyers in tune with the times and ready to spend hours without end researching on cases before court. It becomes increasingly hard to compete with them. However, this does not mean that you are now useless. By repositioning yourself in a niche area of the legal profession, coupled by your vast experience, it should be possible to boost your career way into the 70s and even 80s.
You’re an auditor, again faced with the ever changing landscape of the profession, if you remain static in your approach, you definitely get wiped away. However, using your networks built over the decades of work, it should be possible to set up a team blending youthful exuberance and adult guidance. This way the zealous youths get managed by the old broom while raking in business from your wealth of contacts. This is called refiring.
Having hustled for years without end, Colonel Sanders found himself penniless at 65 years. Upon retiring, he then chose to utilise his first social security cheque (equivalent to the NSSF in Uganda) to promote his chicken recipe. By partnering with different restaurants and earning a small fee off each piece sold out, that marked the start of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a company he was able to sell for US$ 2 Million eventually. Today, it’s a global icon in the franchising arena.
Then there is the option of re-inventing yourself. Some argue that starting out in a new profession during one’s old age is such a big challenge. True! However, it is not a rule of thumb. Some people have abilities that may be discovered at a more mature age and this is the time to probably bring them out to light.
Ambassador Phillip Idro is currently a well known Agriculturalist engaging in large scale rice commercial farming, processing and marketing through his Upland Rice Millers company. He started all this after retiring from an illustrious career as a diplomat and security chief in the Government of Uganda. His is a classic case of someone who switched into an entirely new field upon retirement and has hit the pinnacle.
Is retirement grossly overrated?
The fairy tale image painted by capitalists of workers putting in their all in exchange for a better future after retirement is some kind of hogwash. At 70 years, one shouldn’t expect to easily enjoy swimming at the Hawaii beaches, eating and drinking all tribes of alcohol day in day out without end. Plainly put, your body can’t handle anymore like that of a 30 year old. Pushed to the limit, it caves in and is likely to become a supermarket of complex medical conditions.
When my late father retired, he opted to sit at his home in Butaleja district. Within a few years, he was in and out of hospital facing all sorts of complications. However, the moment he reinvented himself and begun offering his services to schools in the neighborhood, the hospital became alien to him. There are numerous retirees that would have lived much longer if only they had engaged in some form of work to keep them going. You cannot just dump a lifestyle you’ve led for thirty years out of the blue and expect to find comfort in merely sitting and eating food.
Back to Joachim, his current state of sadness could have been avoided if the Human Resource department of his organisation had done its job right. Most HR personnel concentrate on recruitment and internal management of staff. They hardly put into consideration the need to transition staff out of the organisation. Why for example can’t they have a programme that starts mentoring upcoming retirees five years to the time they are meant to leave? This way, they can help these people re-align their expectations, plan better as well as discover themselves in light of being able to work while they are out of the organisation.
Joachim is definitely likely to be haunted by the feeling of hopelessness. He not only is leaving without a staff send off party but shall most likely miss the perks he has enjoyed all this time as a top manager. Someone to deliver your free newspapers each morning, a tea girl to respond to your feeding needs, an official car fuelled by the employer, paid for local and international trips, media coverage among others. A one time minister told a group I am part of that upon being dropped from government, she actually always thought that her phone was spoilt because of the gross reduction of incoming calls. She felt lonely and left out as this was the total opposite of her previous life. This lady has re-invented herself successfully and is going places in her private practise despite being at an advanced age.
Still thinking about retiring? Share your views by commenting to this article.
James Wire is a Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda
Follow him – @wirejames on Twitter #BusinessWithWire
Email – lunghabo [@] gmail [dot] com