When do you plan to retire and what does retirement mean to you? Ask these questions to a number of people and you will receive many different answers. The one thing these answers are likely to have in common, is the wish to have the means (enough money) to decide how to divide one's time between paid work and leisure.

I believe that very few of us would claim that what they really want to do is to continue exchanging their time for money (working), throughout old age, to simply afford to survive.

Some people choose semi-retirement and work part-time, for a variety of reasons. Maintaining an active social life is important to many, earning a little extra income is almost always a good thing, and for those without any hobbies, just keeping busy could be what makes them happy.

The end or the beginning?

For previous generations, the very word retirement was often seen to represent the beginning of the end; being unable to work and earn a living often meant the loss of status, sometimes even identity and with it the reason for living. This could sometimes result in otherwise active healthy people declining rapidly, seeming to have no real motivation to carry on.

I had a rude awakening on this point around thirty years ago. I was new to my career in financial services and was researching some statistics relating to a major national company's pension fund. I was particularly interested in the comparison between those who retired at age 60 and those who worked on to 65. The life expectancy for those who ceased work at 60 was a nice healthy average of around 15 years. I was shocked to find that the average for the other group was less than 4 years! Yes, it is true; working those extra five years was shown to shorten peoples' lives really significantly!

The reasons for this difference are of course many and varied. The most obvious fact being that the 60-year-old retirees were mainly the higher status professional people. Those who worked longer were usually manual workers, lower status and not so well-educated.

While never fully understanding this, I have been fascinated ever since and have made it an area of study.

What about the situation today? Many of the 'boomer' generation (myself included), see the end of a full-time career as simply an opportunity to begin a new stage of life, one which can be full of promise for a good many years. Many such people see the value of working for its own sake, something fulfilling and not only a means of earning money. There are also many examples of hobbies and interests being turned into earning opportunities, but money is often a secondary consideration, the primary motivation being to continue actively contributing and playing a meaningful part in the world.

Whatever your own life has in store for you, it is always a good idea to have enough knowledge to make well-informed choices. Why not do what it takes to gain and use that knowledge and so make your later years as good as you want them to be?

Author's Bio: 

I have worked as a personal financial planning consultant for 30 years and this article is based on the first chapter of my ebook 'A Quick Overview of Retirement Planning' the kindle version of which is available through Amazon at http://simplemoneycoach.com There are also further ideas at http://www.squidoo.com/simple-money-coach