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Retirement training: A new paradigm

Sound financial wellness and life skills training in the workplace could offer employees a softer landing after retirement..

Employers who are serious about their employees' financial and mental wellbeing after retirement should invest in parachute training. Not literally, of course. Figuratively.

Think about it – having financial security and a sense of purpose when you retire is like jumping out of a plane, secure in the knowledge that your parachute is in perfect working order, that the back-up chute is ready for deployment, that a ground crew is ready should you twist your ankle during the landing, and that a crowd of mates holding ice-cold beers are waiting in the cozy airport lounge to toast your bold efforts.

Employers who are serious about preparing employees for the Great Transition should focus their training efforts not just on financial wellness but also on broader lifestyle choices.

Financial wellness training

Financial wellness training, in simple terms, is about helping individuals adopt behaviours that move them towards greater financial security. Sadly, many employees fail to achieve financial security before retirement and are left out to dry on the tarmac once they leave the company. There is significant work to be done in the field of financial wellness education and much value to be unlocked. The people who are impacted need to know that they are not alone.

Many employers are starting to understand that financial wellness training should not be left too late. Progressive organisations are integrating financial wellness education into workplaces long before employees retire. Employees should already be considering their approach to transition five to 10 years before retirement. Amongst other considerations, they should be thinking about issues such as health and housing.

Financial stress at home and concerns about possible shortfalls after retirement can have a negative impact on employee productivity. Therefore, employers who proactively train employees to handle financial matters and who guide employees towards financial security are not just empowering their employees, they are making an investment in greater productivity and workplace harmony.

Progressive organisations understand the strong connection between mental health and wellness and the stressors associated with managing financial affairs on a daily basis.Companies that invest in the broader financial wellness of their staff are building safer and more vibrant workplaces. I have no doubt that financial wellness education is the next frontier for professional coaches who wish to provide valuable services to the broader community.

Transition training

According to Challenger Australia, approximately 700 Australians reach the retirement age of 65 every day. Unless employers and employees work together, many of those who walk out of the door will be ill-prepared for the transition psychologically. Finding a new rhythm and new purpose in life can take several years.

For decades, employees' lives revolve around the workplace and relationships with colleagues. When retirement arrives and they have to leave the plane, the landing is often hard and the pain inflicted by that landing persists.

Whilst there are early signs of new approaches to retirement training, much of the existing support still focuses primarily on superannuation. Programs do not empower employees sufficiently to make broader lifestyle planning choices. Many employees lack the necessary skills and knowledge to make optimal choices.

Life coaches and advisers can equip employees with these skills or at least empower them to develop the necessary skills for life after retirement. Training during the transition phase should focus on individuals: who they are and what their priorities are rather than on how old they are and what they have or don't have.

Changing retirement paradigms

Fundamental to the retirement discussion is the growing realisation that the nature of retirement and what it means to society and individuals is changing. This is very evident in the programs and workshops that we have in place with a number of organisations.

In reality, retirement has now become just another life stage, not the end of people's active lives. It is a time during which people reassess and reflect on what is important to them and refocus their efforts.

Employers and member-based organizations have a fantastic opportunity to assist employees before, during and after retirement. They can play a valuable role in helping individuals set goals, manage finances and find meaning during the next leg of the journey.

We need to acknowledge that many of these support mechanisms or education programs have been lacking in the past. Of course, some employees prefer a DIY approach. However, many can benefit substantially from the assistance of a specialist third party to help them recognise blind spots and guide them to a better understanding of their goals and desired destination. An ageing workforce offers challenges and opportunities

An ageing workforce is calling for new approaches. In the US, the fastest growing employment sector is the 70+ group. China plans to have one university for the elderly in every county by 2020. 

Employers need to think innovatively about creating tailor-made, holistic programs that consider the specific needs of this group.

There lies real opportunity in tapping into the experience and life skills of retired people; 700 potential mentors are walking out of the door each day and many want to continue participating in the workplace, albeit on their own terms and in an environment that allows them to pursue other interests as well.

Harnessing the potential of these experienced employees can benefit business. The daily departure of some 700 highly skilled, experienced mentors from the workplace leaves employers with a vacuum hard to fill. Innovative hybrid approaches that allow employees to work part-time or offer consultation services to the business for a fixed number of hours per week can benefit both employer and employee.

Sound financial wellness and life skills training in the workplace set people free. It allows them to feel the exhilaration of jumping from the plane without experiencing the fear of falling. And companies that prepare their employees for that momentous jump have a lot to gain.

Darren Smith is the managing director of Financial Advice Matters Group.

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