There’s No Such Thing as Retirement

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Retirement often no longer lives up to the stereotype for today’s Third Agers.

The last thing current or recently graduated Wharton students are likely to be interested in is retirement. This is understandable, but paying some attention to one’s “Third Age” when starting a career may be worth it.

So what is the Third Age? The “First Age” is the period devoted to the formal and informal education that will shape the career and adult life, which is one’s “Second Age.”  Then after many years, one enters his or her Third Age—frequently called “retirement”—which for many is a variety of leisure, business and community activities.

While most of us are attuned to the need for Third Age financial planning, another type of planning is equally important—how to remain optimally healthy while acquiring the interests and abilities for living as a productive member of society in a fulfilling and enjoyable final phase of life. Advances in public health have made it likely that most of today’s Wharton graduates will become octogenarians.

But today’s electronic world, in addition to changing the world’s economic systems, has also created a paradigm shift in retirement. One can no longer expect to work for one organization or profession for 40 years and “retire” at age 65. In the prime mid-life period of 50 to 55, one may be working under contract with several organizations, instead of in a full-time position with just one.

This is actually good news! It allows one to continue making a professional contribution and maintaining one’s income level while having the freedom to balance more varied work with other facets of modern living.

And what is the new retirement paradigm? Instead of spending the last 10 percent of life in retirement, one can now remain productive as a “Third Ager” for as much as 30 percent of your lifetime—almost equal to the time spent in Second Age’s “full-time” work.

The bonus: While still in the prime of life, Third Agers can become personal entrepreneurs, independently shaping their own combination of work, family, leisure and community service at desired levels, for the final chunk of life. One can continue to be creative and innovative, contributing to the economy and community in combinations never dreamed possible and actualizing many possibilities that were beyond reach during the constraints of Second Age.

While still at Wharton, MBA students could draw upon the insights and tools from Wharton’s own Boettner Center for Pensions & Retirement Research.  And when in the “work world,” Wharton’s Lifelong Learning should be just a few fingertips away at all times. Eventually, classmates can join together once again in the Wharton Graduate Emeritus Society, where they can remain involved, letting the Wharton family draw upon each other’s know-how and experience.

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