Active … Peter Cunningham went from installing retail displays to driving a limousine.AT A time in life when he could be playing golf, reading the classics or indulging a green thumb, Peter Cunningham is setting up a new career as a limousine driver.
As his retirement age drew closer last year, Mr Cunningham was excited at the prospect of coffees with friends and enjoying life with fewer obligations.
But two months after his job installing retail displays ended, he found the fantasy of retirement better than the reality.
”I’m an active 65-year-old and after eight weeks off I nearly went insane,” Mr Cunningham said. ”I did all the jobs I wanted to do around the house but then I decided I had to do something else. I had to keep working.”
Mr Cunningham is one of a growing number of baby boomers in Australia who are reinventing their working lives post retirement. While earlier generations viewed retirement as a time to relax or perhaps travel, increased life expectancy and uncertain financial conditions are prompting those who have reached retirement age to keep working, often in very different roles to those they had performed before.
With no mortgage and only one child still at school, Mr Cunningham said his main motivation in starting a new career was to keep active and productive.
”I wanted to keep doing something, so I went and got my hire-car licence and thought I’d do a bit of driving. Then my mate said ‘Why don’t you buy a car and make a bit of money out of it?’ So I did.”
In previous generations, starting from scratch at Mr Cunningham’s age might have seemed pointless. In 1970, life expectancy was 71. In 2010, it was nearly 82.
”In the past, people would retire and might expect to die not too long afterwards,” Peter Tobin, a career consultant at Worklife International, said.
”Nowadays we’re expected to live into our 80s and, in theory, retirement age is only two-thirds of the way through life. It raises the question ‘What are you going to do for all that time after finishing work? And, will you have enough money to last you?’
”Most retirees have the mental capacity to keep working or start something totally new. What we’re finding is that more people are looking to things they’ve always wanted to do but never got around to.”
In his 60s, the former ABC managing director David Hill began a successful career as an author. The former politician Michael Yabsley now runs an antique business.
”For some people [retirement] means a whole sea change,” the president of the Career Development Association of Australia, Carole Brown, said. ”They might take a break for a year, but then go back to university or do a short course to become qualified in a new area.
”People don’t just want to retire any more. They are wondering what to do next and how they can keep contributing to the community.”
The gain from continuing to work is tied up in changing notions of identity and self-worth, Sara Charlesworth, an associate professor at the University of South Australia’s centre for work and life, said.
”It’s not just about being bored later in life,” she said. ”It’s about having a sense of identity and value. And society values paid employment. Learning a hobby isn’t as important any more as being in paid employment.”
For many baby boomers, post-retirement employment is also a financial necessity. The economic downturn affected the sharemarket and superannuation, which especially hurt people nearing retirement.
Many are going in a different direction, such as Mr Cunningham, who hopes his fledgling limousine business will take off.
”We got going last week and I’ve had a couple of customers already, so we’re up and running. We’ll see how it goes,” he said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.