Skip to main content

Retiring Gracefully (and Purposefully)

There has been a fair amount of commentary and press recently around retirement in our profession. It’s time to look at this topic with a fresh perspective as many traditional views of retirement are outdated and inappropriate in 2021. 

Last week I spoke to the partners at Deloitte about our new approach to retirement which we have modified to reflect changing times and societal expectations.  Our updated approach explicitly removes any expectation of age or tenure being a factor determining when a partner will retire from the firm.  To support this outcome, we have

  • shifted to a focus on early, open and constructive discussions of retirement plans as a natural part of partner career discussions, and
  • modified our partner retirement benefit program to improve flexibility and benefits for partners wishing to retire.

Underpinning these changes is an acknowledgement that the traditional societal view of retirement has changed over the past couple of decades as people are living longer and staying healthy well into their seventies and eighties. Historically the common view was that we worked hard up until a certain point in our lives (our national superannuation and pension system legislates this date being between 55 and 67 years old) and then you step out of the workforce to enjoy your final years with your grandkids, somewhere warm, playing golf, etc. 

For an increasing number of people, this is an antiquated view of reality. I am 55 years old and already know I would like to keep professionally active and contributing as long as I am meaningfully able to. And I have a role model in this regard – my father. My dad formally ‘retired’ as a civil engineer in his early 60s as was the expectation then. Before long it was clear though that the traditional view of retirement wasn’t for him (or indeed my mum who he was driving completely mad) so he started his own one-man civil engineering practice. Today my father is 81 years old and still works several days a week consulting on the design and enhancement of major community swimming pools around the country (and cheekily reminds me that he was a ‘CEO’ well before I moved into this role).

In 2021, we should challenge the concept of age being the determinant of when anyone ‘retires’ and instead this should be based on factors like desire and capability to contribute and add value. We want to remove any sense of retirement being a ‘taboo’ subject and, instead, actively encourage discussions of retirement plans and timeframes continuously throughout one’s career. We also want to create different pathways for our senior partners both inside and outside the firm, recognising that everyone will approach this important career transition differently based upon their individual perspectives and circumstances.

At Deloitte our equity partner retirement plan is entitled ‘Retiring Gracefully’. I like the word ‘gracefully’ as it emphasises that retirement is something that should be based on concepts like mutual respect, support and goodwill. But that is not enough. What we would like to add now is the word ‘purposefully’ as retirement should also be a deliberate and thoughtful choice and a positive step towards the next stage of one’s life and career.

It might sound like a strange thing to say, but I am looking forward to retiring at the right time from Deloitte and actively transitioning to my life beyond the partnership. I don’t see ‘retirement’ as something to be afraid of, but rather as an opportunity to do something different, to challenge myself, and to effectively leverage my life and professional experience. Ultimately, I believe that retirement should be seen as a pathway to new activities and possibilities, not merely ‘the end’ of one’s working career.