Retirement attitudes varied

Retirement attitudes varied

Terry McBride, Special to The StarPhoenix

Published: Monday, July 16, 2007

How do you see yourself when you are retired? Will you be slowing down and taking it easy? Or are your best years ahead of you?

In a recent telephone survey, gerontologist Dr. Ken Dychtwald and Harris Interactive analyzed the responses to questions about attitudes and lifestyles of more than 1,000 people age 55 and older. Their “Re-Visioning Retirement Survey” was sponsored by AIG SunAmerica, a financial services company.

Many of the key findings of the Dychtwald/Harris survey directly contradict many common perceptions of retirement. In particular, the concept of retirement as a “winding down” or “extended vacation” is obsolete for many retirees.

They were not looking for who was rich and who was poor. But the survey did confirm that planning for retirement is important, no matter how much money you make. Happiness is linked with feeling financially prepared for whatever lifestyle you want.

Dychtwald says retirees fall into four main camps. He calls them the “four faces of retirement.”


Thirty two per cent of retirees form the largest and unhappiest group. They are pessimistic about the future. Many have been forced into retirement either by their own poor health or that of someone in the family. They saved on average for 16 years and are the least prepared financially to retire.


Twenty two per cent of retirees are always focused on the present. They live beyond their means. They did not devote much time to retirement planning, having saved for only 18 years on average. They are anxious about their finances because they are vulnerable. As a result they are likely to be still working or semi-retired.


Nineteen per cent of retirees had always looked forward to not working and taking it easy. These retirees spend their time on travel or other recreational activities. To them retirement means being on vacation 12 months of the year. They have saved on average for 23 years.


Twenty seven per cent see themselves embarking on an exciting new phase of life. They would rather be too busy than risk being bored. They never feel “old,” plan to do everything in their power to keep from feeling old, and are constantly looking for new things to do and learn. They have a burning desire to be active, productive and independent in retirement. They are well educated, in good health and want to reinvent themselves. They saved for 24 years on average.

Dychtwald says that our attitude toward retirement is a key factor in being financially prepared. Satisfaction is positively related to the number of years that we save for retirement.

Sixty one per cent of those who saved for 25 years or more reported being extremely satisfied with retirement. Only 51 per cent of those who saved for 15 to 24 years were extremely satisfied.

Are you among the millions of baby boomers who will retire soon? You need to visualize and prepare for the retirement you choose to live. You can benefit by learning more about what today’s retirees are experiencing.

Dychtwald has published a book called Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled by the New Old.

“Today’s retirees are social guinea pigs.” he says. “We are shifting away from the model of learning for 20 years, working like a mad dog for 40, and goofing around for 20. What is evolving is some new blend between learning, working and leisure.”

As for visualizing and preparing for retirement, I also recommend a book called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill that was first published in 1937.

Hill describes the power of autosuggestion. To get ready for retirement, write a clear statement of what you intend to achieve. Establish a definite date. Put your plan into action.

Terry McBride is president of the local chapter of Advocis (The Financial Advisors Association of Canada). He works at Raymond James Ltd., a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. A recommendation of any strategy would be made only following a personal review of an individual situation. Seek independent advice for your tax-related questions.