17 April 2024
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Billions of dollars in human intellectual capital about to be wasted away!

Ben Johnston
18 May 2022

From an early age, our society expounds that we should “respect our elders” and encourages the notion of “experience being invaluable”. Given our ageing population, over the next few decades, Australia alone is set to lose billions of dollars worth of human intellectual capital as well as priceless wisdom from the workplace once workers vanish into the oblivion of retirement.

Sure, everyone is different. Some people crave the idea of hitting their preservation age, blissfully unaccountable to employers and the mundane of working a five-day week as they have done for the last 50 years - dreaming of unlimited time to golf, surf and travel.

Not everyone seeks a commitment-free existence, however, and many people reaching retirement are becoming concerned about what life will look like once they retire, and what will be their purpose? How will they spend their days?

Increasingly of concern is how will they fund the next stage of their life if they don’t have enough superannuation, or the pension is inadequate to sustain the lifestyle they have become accustomed to?

One of the most inspiring clients I have come across, who is now 90, changed the way I view retirement and what mine may look like. She was married at a young age and like many post-war wives, lived a subservient life to a demanding husband. She wasn’t allowed to have a job and was bound to perform home duties. It wasn’t until she hit the age of 67, she put her foot down and lived the life she wanted. She travelled the world but most impressively enrolled and completed a Bachelor’s Degree at University. She believed that her knowledge and education weren’t any less relevant or important than what you learn as a 20-year-old. Her view dramatically changed my approach to my own retirement years, being that I want to keep studying and gaining knowledge and continue contributing to society in a productive and meaningful way.

I hope that our government and employers begin to acknowledge that many current retirees, and people imminently about to retire, not only have so much to give through decades of invaluable experience, but they also have a willingness and desire to remain productive. Especially now, in the new world of technology-impacted workplaces, many elder workers are at risk of feeling they are not up to the adaptation of a digitised workplace, and sadly, employers seemingly have driven these feelings through the desire to employ “smarter” and more “innovative” younger employees. To me, this is a disaster, whether it be in finance, marketing, trades, communications, you name it, the experience that workers with decades of knowledge cannot, and should not, be entirely superseded and lost.

For those retirees that wish to remain productive and continue working, society should welcome them with open arms, employers should open up casual or part-time roles to encourage retirees to stay or return to work and introduce initiatives around mentorships. TAFEs and Universities should engage these retirees to share their priceless knowledge with the next generation. Technology is only going to become more and more relevant in the workplace, but the fundamentals of the industry will remain, and these “mentors” can pass down priceless industry experience that can only be learned by working in the field for decades.

Overall, we as a society need to change our view of retirement so those people who want to keep working to supplement their pension or superannuation are able to in some capacity. Those who are willing and able to contribute to their industry should be encouraged to do so, not out of pity, but from a desire to extract the rich knowledge that would otherwise be lost to society.

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