Whether you’re a newbie to the workforce, fresh out of school and eager to move out of your parents’ basement, or you’ve been plying your trade for decades entertaining dancing thoughts of retirement, it’s never too early or (in most cases) too late to position your career to optimize your retirement. We say ‘in most cases’ because, believe it or not, there are some people who are so deeply embedded in the land of denial they have no plan, investments or savings in place to fund their retirement. To those people, we wish a hearty good luck and hope they have a supportive family.


retirement has become a privilege

The days of fully funded pension plans are long gone. No longer can you expect to build a decades-long career at your workplace and be rewarded with a steady pension check each month to fund your retirement for the rest of your life, without question. These days, if you want to retire, you better get your finances in order yourself, because it’s up to you to decide how much money you need for retirement and make saving that amount a priority. Sure many companies offer company RRSPs and some even offer to match your contributions, but most of the time participating in these plans is completely voluntary, meaning you can skimp out on saving for retirement indefinitely. If you want the privilege of being able to retire from the workforce at any age, you better make sure you have a plan, because no one else is going to do it for you.

it never hurts to start early

Like it or not - prepared or not - time marches on. Whether you embrace the privilege of aging in life and at work, and commit to doing it well, or use your earning potential to stave off the ravages of time with cosmetic surgery and hope the future takes care of itself, how you deal with it is up to you.

When we talk about retirement, we’re referring to the point at which you cease your primary work. In the past, retirement referred to the cessation of work altogether (insert picture of a life of leisure). In today’s world, it’s not only necessary for many people to continue to earn some form of income in their senior years, but it’s desirable. Many people choose to look at their retirement as just another step on their career path, while others embrace it as an opportunity to pursue interests that could lead to deeper personal satisfaction, purpose and fulfillment, and increased or additional earning potential.

the lifespan of retirees live is increasing

We’re living much longer and in much better shape than our ancestors were. According to Statistics Canada, life expectancy rose from 60.6 in 1921 to 82.7 in 2005 for females, and 58.8 to 78 for males. Retirement – at around age 55-60 – was an afterthought, as many seniors didn’t live long enough to see retirement, and if they did, it was usually for a relatively short amount of time.

By 2031, Stats Canada expects life expectancy to rise to 86 years for females and 81.9 for males. If you retire at 65, that’s a long time to be idle and an even longer time to expect savings or private or government pensions to maintain a standard of life that will likely be subject to increasingly pronounced health issues. We’ll need more and more with less and less. That’s why terms like pre-tirement and semi-retirement, where people remain in the workforce but reduce work hours or workload, are becoming common.

make retirement planning a priority

You’re never too young to start planning for retirement. And the earlier you start, the less painful it is. Planning ahead is essential to fund a retirement that provides you with a higher quality of life and the ability to maintain your health and independence as long as possible. Here are a few suggestions for how to position your current career to optimize your retirement years.

map out your retirement journey

Before you set out on a journey, it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going. Career planning at any stage is essential to reach your goals, but it’s especially important if you’re approaching senior-hood. Mistakes are wonderful learning opportunities but they’re also costly and options to recoup losses diminish over time.

Ask yourself a lot of questions. When do you plan to retire? How will you fund your retirement? Will you continue to work part-time or occasionally? How do you plan to spend your retirement? How do your existing skills and experience support that goal? Are your retirement goals realistic and attainable or do you need to make adjustments for it to be feasible? Questions like these will help you create a step-by-step plan for realizing your retirement goal.

check your workplace for post-retirement career options

These days, some seniors opt to forgo complete retirement and remain in the workforce in a smaller or more limited capacity. It works out well for employers who are looking for ways to retain their skills, experience and knowledge base. Many organizations have established environments and options for different ways of working that keep seniors in their workplaces.

If your organization doesn’t have a knowledge retention plan in place, suggest they start one and offer to work with them to create effective ‘stay’ plans that might include knowledge transfer, a phased retirement where you reduce hours or days in the workplace; and opportunities to work remotely. Assume more of a consultant role; mentor and train new/younger employees. Imagine the work life you want and create a plan for it.

plan a fulfilling retirement

Retirement is an opportunity to pursue interests life got in the way of. Maybe you’re unsure of what you might be interested in or where your undiscovered talents lie. Retirement is the time to explore them! Take courses. Get training or update current skills. Whether you know what you’d like to do next or accidentally stumble upon your next career, enhance your value to a prospective employer with up-to-date skills and knowledge; you’ll gain confidence and be well-positioned to present yourself as healthy, vibrant, engaged and enthusiastic – everything employers want in candidates of any age.

Retirement is also a good time to flex your entrepreneurial muscles – just ask Grace and Frankie, the 80-something entrepreneurs from the Netflix hit comedy of the same name! Maybe it’s time to take that great idea in your back pocket and develop it. Many seniors are not as motivated by the size of their paycheck as they are by how deeply a job resonates. Maybe the time is ripe for you to satisfy your desire to contribute to social causes.

get your ducks in order for retirement

If retirement is on the horizon, but you’re not quite there yet, there are some ways you can better position your existing job so you leave on a high note, at the top of your game (and optimize any bonuses, pensions or payouts that may come your way).

  • dig into your role. Working harder and finding ways to improve efficiencies, productivity and processes will catch the kind of attention you want. Be seen as a doer and a problem solver.
  • be upbeat, supportive and positive as you perform your duties and interact with others. Be a person others want to work with and be around.
  • inquire about opportunities for advancement and taking on new duties. Being seen as eager to learn belies any age.
  • offer to mentor new employees; position yourself as a knowledge expert.
  • Increase your networks so you’re exposed to new people and opportunities.
  • take courses in areas of interest. You’ll have more to talk about and be seen as someone who’s current and has a finger on today’s pulse. And you’ll keep your resume current.

According to Statistics Canada, by 2030, the year in which the youngest baby boomers will reach 65, close to one in four people in Canada will be that age or older. Baby boomers are exploding paradigms that describe retirement as diminishing or dwindling. They’re healthier, more active, working longer, retiring later, if at all, and redefining the concept of retirement itself. Who knows? Maybe retirement will soon be called something else entirely. New beginnings, anyone?

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