Life is not about retirement; it is about living and your financial plan should help you to live into your 90s or 100s. Picture:123RF/CATHY YEULET
Life is not about retirement; it is about living and your financial plan should help you to live into your 90s or 100s. Picture:123RF/CATHY YEULET

Quietly amid the noise of Covid-19, we witnessed two significant birthdays in May — Sir David Attenborough turned 94 and Fredie Blom 116. Sir David is well known and Blom, who lives in Delft, Cape Town may probably be the oldest man alive. So what do these two men have in common?

Sir David and Blom’s birthdays are merely two examples of an increasing cohort of people that are living healthy lives well into their 90s and 100s. Earlier in 2020, the world was touched by the death of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas at the ripe age of 103.

Closer to home, in January we saw the death of business mogul Richard Maponya who fulfilled one of his lifelong ambitions at the age of 86 when he opened the Maponya Mall in Soweto, a 650,000m2 shopping complex with more than 200 stores.

Retirement is not what it used to be 

Sir David at 93, recently filmed a new feature film — “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” — with the WWF. Not only has he kept on working, but he also continues to play an active role in fighting for the planet.

Fredie Blom continued to work as a gardener to the golden age of 106, while Richard Maponya, who still worked in his 90s said: “Why should I retire? We need to create jobs for our people. That is my primary objective.”

The reasons and motivation for people continuing to work after what used to be “normal retirement” age may differ, but it is increasingly important not to regard 65 as a “line in the sand” at which point you must stop working and enjoy your romanticised Golden Years.

Living longer does have a profound impact in how we think about retirement and retirement planning. Currently retirement age is regarded as anything from 55 to 65.

But in planning for lives that go well into your 90s or 100s, this means providing for an income for 35-45 years in retirement. This time in retirement is often longer than many people spend working and saving towards retirement.

Rethinking retirement

From a financial planning perspective, life has traditionally been defined into three chapters: learn, earn and retire. This is however inadequate given the longer life expectancies.

Instead its more likely you will have five life stages: the foundation stage where you establish yourself and your family; the bridging years where you manage your family and career; your twilight years where the nest is empty but you keep working in a new career or as a consultant and you travel; your passive retirement years where you slow down and stay at home more, and your frail years during which time you may need long-term care.

The objective of reviewing your life stages is to provide context of the financial priorities and focus areas in developing a 35-year retirement plan, with each stage clearly identified with specific and tangible deliverables.

Life is not about retirement; it is about living and your financial plan should help you to live into your 90s or 100s.

Gouws is a Certified Financial Planner at Gradidge Mahura Investments