Sun has set on the Golden Days of DB pensions: How to survive the New Retirement

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My latest Financial Post column can be found online, by clicking on the highlighted headline: Sun has set on the Golden Days: How to survive the ‘New’ Retirement. It can also be found on page B8 of the Friday paper under the headline Senior Investing Gets Critical.

The piece is based on a half-day conference held in Toronto on Wednesday sponsored by Franklin Templeton Investments. The third annual Retirement Innovation Summit was an equal mix of sessions on Retirement readiness and updates by Franklin Templeton executives on the current state of the markets.

The big theme was the well-established (two decades now) shift from the guaranteed-for-life Defined Benefit pensions earlier generations enjoyed, to market-variable alternatives like Defined Contribution pensions. As a result, longevity risk and market risk has been gradually shifting from the shoulders of employers to those of their workers/employees. And that in turn has meant that would-be retirees have to devote a lot more attention to the markets and investing than older generations that enjoyed what seems in retrospect to be a “golden age” of retirement income security.

Retirement is a gradual process, not a cliff

As for Retirement Readiness, one speaker described how Retirement itself has become more tentative. Instead of moving abruptly from 100% work mode to 100% leisure the moment you reach the traditional retirement age of 65, workers are experimenting with retirement and more often than not returning to the workforce, only to rinse and repeat.

Since the US financial crisis, the numbers of people aged 65 or more who are still working full-time has been on the rise. Of those still working after 65, only one in five did so because they felt they had to because of shaky personal finances. For the other four in five, it’s “because they want to or truth to tell, their spouse wants them out of the house,” the speaker said.

Furthermore, among both full- and part-time workers in that age category, 40% reported they had retired twice already: they had quit the working world, returned a few months or years later, then quit again and then returned to work again.”

Taking a Retirement Victory Lap

So much for the so-called “Retirement Cliff.” This of course is a major theme of the book I co-authored with Mike Drak: Victory Lap Retirement. We basically argue that retirement is a long process that involves slowly moving into. After all, you never see an airplane land by suddenly putting on the brakes in mid-air and dropping vertically: there is a gradual “glide path” to a smooth landing.

So it is with Retirement in our view: call it Semi-Retirement or an encore career or a legacy career but in essence it’s about moving gradually over five or ten years from 100% full-time work to perhaps 80%, 50%, 30% and so on, so that by the time you’re fully retired (perhaps in your 70s), the shock to your system is much less severe.


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