Calling all ages

September 1, 2016

"Retirement at 60, unless it is due to poor health or caring responsibilities, is
beginning to seem redundant.”
- Sally Loane

Retiring at 60 is quickly becoming an outdated notion and older Australians are embracing the idea of longer working lives; a trend that could benefit everyone – older workers, younger workers and employers alike.

Mercer’s Talent Business Leader Garry Adams says juggling the widely varying needs and workstyles of an intergenerational workforce will be an essential management skill for successful businesses.

“Retaining and employing older workers is about keeping experience and that’s worth a corporation’s time and investment,” Adams says. “It is a balancing act though; you don’t want to derail your talent management strategy by discouraging younger workers; you also need to prepare for the more frequent and regular career movements of Millennials.”

Nathan Bright, Human Resources, Health & Safety Manager at Norske Skog Paper Mills in Albury, says the company has an average workforce age of 48 and offers a suite of incentives to keep its older workers on board and happy.

Services include free or subsidised gym memberships, annual skin checks, on-site physiotherapy and access to ongoing pathology as well as financial help to get employees ready for retirement, such as developing transition to retirement plans.

“We have very low turnover, which is magnifying the ageing workforce,” Bright says. “But most importantly we are addressing staff needs and ensuring they are happy in the workplace.”

Financial Services Council CEO Sally Loane says an ageing workforce is inevitable; pointing to the 2015 Intergenerational Report, which predicts workforce participation of older Australians will increase from 12.9 per cent in 2014-15 to 17.3 per cent by 2055.

Loane says Norske Skog’s approach reflects a growing positive shift in societal and workplace attitudes toward older workers.

"Our nation needs older workers as it benefits their wellbeing, the economy and the broader community," she says. “Employers are increasingly embracing the unique skills and experience that older workers contribute and are introducing programs to train and retrain mature staff.

"Retirement at 60, unless it is due to poor health or caring responsibilities, is beginning to seem redundant.”

The council’s Older Workers Report 2015 found more than 70 per cent of older workers are happy to keep working and about 55 per cent say they’d to transition to retirement by working part time for the rest of their working life.

Financial security is the main reason older employees continue to work (61 per cent); but personal enjoyment and a sense of independence are all key motivations.

For Mercer customer Karen, it was a mixture of all three – financial necessity, independence and work/life balance – that led her to part-time work and semi-retirement at age 63.

“I love my ‘hobby’ and there is no frustration like I experienced being at the top of the ladder,” Karen says. “I am enjoying the freedom of semi-retirement; it’s easy to balance work and life with a five day weekend.”

What’s your backup plan?

More and more Australians plan to work well into their retirement years, but Mercer financial adviser Stephen Bury says it’s essential to develop a backup plan early on, preferably in your 50s.

A Mercer study, based on a survey of 1500 people aged 50-80 years, found 40 per cent of Australians were forced to retire before they were financially ready; because of either redundancy or health reasons.

The 2014 study showed 62 per cent of Australians retire before they turn 65 and only 3 per cent worked beyond age 70.

“You need to prepared financially earlier because the timing of your retirement might not always be your choice; you need a backup plan,” Stephen says.

Consider your options and seek advice on your financial situation to ensure your readiness to retire is aligned with your finances.

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