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Goodbye to the ‘golden years’ as more seniors choose to keep working

The compulsory retirement age in South Africa is 65 years. Illustration: Pixabay

The compulsory retirement age in South Africa is 65 years. Illustration: Pixabay

Published May 18, 2022


Retirement is often referred to as the “golden years” of one's life. It is the chance to finally rest and enjoy your family, and all the simple joys after a lifetime of work.

However, the tide is turning, with more seniors choosing to retire much later, and some electing not to at all.

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According to Investec, only five percent of the country's population is able to retire and maintain their standard of living.

Retirement coach Lynda Smith says: "When a person leaves the workplace, they lose a monthly salary cheque, a reason to get up, structure to their day, a social circle and, in some cases, status."

The founder of Project Management business Betts Townsend, Howard Betts, is among those choosing to keep on working.

Betts came to South Africa from the Seychelles when he was 17 to work as a Land Surveyor. Upon reaching Durban, he says the place appeared to be a first-world country compared to the island – so he decided to stay.

"I have just turned 65 and I am by no means ready to retire! I still enjoy what I do – in fact, I am at a particularly rewarding stage in my career when I am mentoring the next generation, yet I still feel like I am learning."

In most of the built environment professions, Betts says, the benefits of experience and maturity of seniors cannot be understated.

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He says the ability to anticipate problems, think of quick solutions, and deal with multiple things simultaneously comes from many years of making one’s own mistakes, and learning from those who are more experienced.

After 48 years of working, he says he has found that his experience has played a great part in mentoring several juniors.

As for the “golden years” experience, he says he does feel that he is missing out.

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"I am not keen on retiring as I enjoy what I do, however I would like to be in a position to take two or three months off at a time and travel Africa. But that is going to have to wait."

According to the 65-year-old, people are retiring later mainly due to longer life expectancy. The “golden years” are also lasting a lot longer than they did in the “old days”.


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