Retirement reality

RETIREMENT, it seems, is no longer shunned by the nation s workforce or seen as an admission that you re past your sell by date and deserve to be unceremoniously dumped on the scrap heap. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, if the latest r

RETIREMENT, it seems, is no longer shunned by the nation's workforce or seen as an admission that you're past your 'sell by date' and deserve to be unceremoniously dumped on the scrap heap. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, if the latest research by AXA is anything to go by. According to the financial protection firm, we see retirement today as a veritable haven of freedom and relaxation that's something not only to aspire to, but to positively race towards at a rate of knots. Indeed, four out of five working people (81 per cent) believe they will have an improved quality of life in retirement, making Britain the most optimistic country in the world.

By contrast, just six per cent of those quizzed have concerns about being retired, meaning we're pretty relaxed about getting older on the whole. But with the average age to give up working for a living now standing at just 55, we're not exactly total wrinklies by the time we throw in the towel anyway. So wave goodbye to old stereotypes and say a big 'hello' to the thousands of 'retirement wannabes' who make up the YELLOW generation - Young, Employed and Longing for Life Out of Work.

"Younger people working full-time see their older counterparts living in a golden age of retirement, with a good standard of living, reasonable income, higher life expectancy than ever before and healthy lifestyles," observed Steve Folkard, head of Pensions at AXA. But he added that in many cases the people who are currently retired or retiring have benefited from huge house price growth and final salary pension schemes, which are currently dying out. He warned: "Shorter working lives and longer retirements just don't add up. If you really do want to spend your dotage sailing around the Greek islands, you need to start saving for your future at a much earlier age." His comments reflect the substantial 'reality gap' unearthed by the Retirement Scope study. This is the difference between the age at which we aspire to retire and when we will actually end up doing so. And according to the statistics, we Brits have the biggest 'perception problem' in Europe - a hefty seven years - with only the ever-optimistic Australians having more, at eight years. All this means we're set to come down to earth with a bump as we get older, with retirement becoming more elusive the closer we think we're getting to it. Team this with the fact that younger people (aged 25 to 34) would like to give up the world of hard graft even earlier, at 51, even though the average age to start paying into a pension is 28, and the future of tomorrow's retirees will be very different to what they're expecting. But it's not only differences in perception that AXA's study exposed. It also revealed a few very interesting differences between the sexes. Researchers found that just a third (35 per cent) of women want to take early retirement, compared to more than half (52 per cent) of men, while the fairer sex would also be more reluctant to jump at the chance of giving up work early, if it were at all possible.

Just four in ten women said they'd swan off on a life of leisure at the drop of a hat, compared to half of chill out-seeking men. Females are also more likely to let people be 'young' for longer, with most of them saying 74 marks the onset of old age, which is seven years after men's over the hill marker of 67. Steve Folkard said: "Women have work opportunities like never before in the modern world and many are scaling the heights of the career ladder to claim responsible positions and the financial rewards that go with them.

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"It therefore makes sense that female workers would be more reluctant to give up the daily grind - despite the obvious appeal of an early retirement." Whichever way you look at it, the face of retirement is undergoing something of a renaissance. Let's just hope the reality is as enjoyable as the dream.

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