Children seem to be getting older younger, while older people are increasingly staying younger and active longer.
As the concepts of age and retirement continue to be redefined, people 65 plus enjoy an increasing range of choices. While age brackets can be used to define or stereotype large generational groups, think Boomers (1946-1964) versus Generation X (1965-1980) versus Millennials 1981-present) how each group chooses or is forced to live as they age no longer fits neatly into a pre-defined box. Having choice is key and now more than ever before there are a variety of organisations and businesses that offer advice and solutions to suit almost every age, life-stage and means.
In fact, retaining the freedom to choose is considered one of the most valued assets as people grow older. The LiLACS study led by Dr Ngaire Kerse found 85-year-olds considered themselves successfully ageing if they have the ability to make their own choices, have control and autonomy. Reasonable health was important but not as important as having choices and autonomy. In fact, the study found that for most of the 900 participants, their own health came third to meaningful social interactions and the wellbeing of their family and friends.
If meaningful social interactions and the ability to choose and maintain autonomy are fundamental to successful ageing, what can people in their 40s and 50s do to prepare themselves? Alternatively, for those of more advanced years what options provide the most choice?
In the wider Ponsonby area people in their 40s are more likely to be planning to start a family than they are to be planning for retirement. For those nearing their 50s, selecting the right primary school or buying a bigger home could take priority over planning for the ‘golden years’. When traditional retirement ages can actually be a time for retraining or mentoring others rather than slowing down, it’s more about knowing what’s out there in terms of support and services so that you can make the best choices.
One thing GreyPower local advocate Gillian Dance suggests is that everyone from 50 years up should join Grey Power. “It’s a way to ensure that governments, local councils and other organisations are acting with the best interests and needs of the older age groups in mind,” says Gillian. Older age groups are a significant cohort. There are currently almost a million people in the 65-plus age bracket and its size is growing 10 times faster than the under 14s.
“The most important thing for Grey Power is to carry out its function of being an advocate on issues that impact senior age groups. As an organisation, we recognise how important it is to provide information and advocacy for this diverse and rapidly growing group of Kiwis,” says Gillian.
Grey Power has a history of achievements from the removal of a driving test for those over 80, to ensuring access to student loans and the retention of the Gold Card. “One of our recent initiatives is our own power company, Grey Power Electricity. Its power plans are especially tailored to meet the needs of members and it feeds money back into the organisation,” says Gillian. Grey Power Electricity is a partnership with Pulse Energy, designed to provide Grey Power members with lower electricity prices and better services. Available across New Zealand and with the added benefit of unlimited broadband options, Grey Power Electricity is an example of the work Grey Power does for its members.
It’s not only not-for-profit organisations that are committed to offering support for those wanting to maintain a sense of self determination in their advanced years. Companies like EnableMe seek to help people enjoy greater choice through achieving improved levels of financial freedom. Supportive financial coaching, and financial expertise to reduce debt and increase wealth are at the core of the EnableMe model.
An organisation like EnableMe can be a great way to ensure your finances are not going to limit your lifestyle choices as you get older. Director Hannah McQueen says that it is never too early to engage a financial trainer. “As soon as you have a mortgage is the best time to start. I wouldn’t like to say it’s ever completely too late, but the later you leave it the tougher the changes might feel and the fewer options we’ll have to bridge your gap for retirement. Our clients tend to range between 40 - 55, although we work with a wide range – the youngest is 16, the oldest 76,” says Hannah.
Essentially, EnableMe is a set of tailor made strategies and ongoing support to help people become ‘financially fit’ and get ahead in a way that will give them greater choice. “While having a mortgage-free home is an important part of any retirement plan, ultimately you can’t eat your house – so we have been developing strategies that will allow people to afford their lifestyle in their golden years – or they may not end up being particularly golden,” says Hannah.
After social interactions, wellbeing of family and friends and one’s own health, financial security is the next most important factor in determining whether participants in the LiLACS study considered themselves to be ageing successfully. It is also one of the factors that people can take control of both before and during retirement. Retirement planners are one option of making sure the money lasts so that lifestyle can be maintained, another is reverse mortgages from financial institutions like Heartland Bank.
Greg Moyle of OnePlan Retirement explains that with effective retirement planning, clients enjoy the confidence of knowing that their future is financially secure. “Clients don’t have to worry about being a burden on their children. They can spend with the confidence that they won’t run out of money,“ says Greg. OnePlan Retirement is a specialist in retirement planning and believes it is important to know what your retirement dream is so that you can plan for it. “You want to embark on the adventure secure in the knowledge that you can afford to live the life you’ve been planning,” says Greg.
Heartland Bank’s reverse mortgage facility also offers people over 60, with equity in their homes, the choice of staying in their house while enjoying the benefit of its value. The reverse mortgage facility can be used to pay for a range of things from living costs, travel and new cars to debt consolidation, renovations or medical expenses. There are pros and cons but, with reverse mortgages, as with many of the options available in retirement, the key is that people have choices. Websites like sorted.org.nz also offer a range of independent advice on what to consider when planning for retirement, so whether you choose to work well into your 80s or retire at 65 and travel the world, there is no set formula. There is no one way to retire, but knowing what your choices are will help you to age successfully. (ANDREA KAHUKIWA)
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