Book Shop Remix: Where would you shelve Retirement?

By Mark Venning,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub


If you slid into your virtual bookshop to look for a book on the subject of Retirement, where would you begin? A keyword search would likely begin with the phrase “books on retirement” and …

Kaboom! An explosion of titles appear. Depending on your mindset, where your thinking was at a given moment, what triggering event gave rise to a conversation, you would gravitate to where? Titles such as The New RetirementalityRedefining Retirement: New Realities for Boomer WomenHow to Retire Happy, Wild, and FreePurposeful RetirementWhat Retirees Want. Only a slice of texts on an almost endless bookshelf, which began to expand after 2004.

In the year 2001, while working as a consultant at a career services firm, (aka Career Transition/Outplacement), a managing partner asked me to deliver a Retirement program. For the first time since the late 1980’s, a corporate client suddenly requested a set of workshops for their employees approaching what they prescribed as retirement age. When I looked through the thick Retirement binder with its referenced reading resources, I ached in the head after what I read.

Sparing the colourful expletives, my response to the managing partner the next day was that I needed to re-design the whole thing before I dared to set foot inside that corporate boardroom. We needed to not only be contemporary, but we also had to be futuristic, to constantly respond to changing attitudes on what I then described as later life journeys as opposed to Retirement. The trouble was it would all seem too cryptic, too ethereal in concept unless I spoke of Retirement.

In prep for the Retirement re-design, I scoured bookshelves to see what new thinking was prevailing at the time and, to my disappointment, there wasn’t much that ground breaking. Much of the material was from the mid to late 1990’s. When you walked into a bookshop, you would find these “Retirement” books in the Business section, likely under the sub shelf “Financial Planning.” The issue with many of these was that specific references became quickly time stamped “out of date.”

Scouting out the extravaganza of Retirement books

While still shelving Retirement books in the Business section, they are usually broken into two categories – Financial Planning and Lifestyle Planning, you may wander into the Careers section – Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation for example. With luck, visit Self Help (DIY retirement is a thing). One recommended book I found sits in the Christian Living section. Try fiction! Yes, there are those too; and no doubt, somewhere out there is a Boomer Retirement book club discussing the latest find.

Over my twenty years of scouting out the extravaganza of Retirement books there have been a few peaks in inspired writing and in some cases the writing, aimed at a corporate audience, advised on how organizations should be prepared to “survive the graying of the workforce” and be ready for the “looming wave of Boomer retirements.” Yet there is a trip wire here.

A funny thing happened on the road to Retirement. Where I live, in Ontario Canada, even with the provincial government prohibition of mandatory retirement (with the odd exception) in 2006 there continue to be sinister ways Retirement conversations with employees occur in the workplace.

Some companies have overtly taken on the discriminatory exploration of “retirement intentions” with employees over age 55.

If you were to publish these stories, you might shelve them under True Crime   

Mike Drak even describes the manner in which it happened as a “cloak-and-dagger approach” and further he says, “The bank wanted me to pretend I was retiring…” That feeds in nicely to our 2020’s playground of fake news. Irony is – that bank, as with others, is part of an industry, which has just come off their annual cycle, pre-tax season, of heavily marketing Retirement investment products, with lines like – “prepare as you enter the Retirement you deserve.”

For some deserving people, while the transition from a full-out corporate work situation often has an adequate financial plan in place for the future, the repurposing of personal identity is in itself an ongoing forward spiral of change and transitions in later life. Sometimes I think when someone says they are “entering Retirement” it sounds like they are looking for their self in one of those strange warping “house of mirrors” at a carnival.

On my site (link below) I delve into a book review of Retirement Heaven or Hell, and include by way of a brief interview some added comments from the author. Drak’s narrative will resonate for those people that still experience the encounter with a so called Retirement the same way many of the people I met in the numerous Retirement workshops I facilitated years ago, many of whom are in their mid to late 70’s and early 80’s now.

Mark Venning works with business & non-profit leaders offering presentations, advisory and research services to help in “recoding a longevity society,” finding their fit to meet the shift in aging demographics, and make sense of the emergent longevity economy. This blog originally appeared on March 9, 2021 and is republished here with his permission. 

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