If you’re older and tired, it doesn’t mean retire - or does it?

In 1880 Otto von Bismarck invented the word "retirement". This was an idea that caught on. Retirement is a terrible word really. It seems mainly aimed at men and suggests you are tired and give up or stop what you were doing.

The work force in New Zealand is actually diminishing and so who will do the work? We may have to work up to 70 and 80 because there will be no one else to do the work, particularly on the farms. This was graphically illustrated at a recent presentation put on by Price Waterhouse.

In some countries to get the work done, they are coupling up bright young IT savvy kids with older people who have good work ethics to make a team. The USA is likely to open up its doors to employees to do the work

As farmers, we need to look at the misnomer of retirement. Yes we may have been farming all our lives and yes we may be tired, but there may well be other ways of staying on the farm and in the business by using our experience and brains instead of our brawn and tiring bodies. It seems we just get to the really experienced stage of our lives and want to "retire".

Instead of retiring or selling up, could we lease the farm to a family member, or a neighbour? Could we employ somebody to help and we keep to the "brain work"? Could we mentor some young energetic farmer and help him into the business?

It is clear that the labour shortage is already upon us, so who is going to run the farm and milk our cows? When you go onto some farms now, particularly in the South Island, it looks like the United Nations with every nationality that exists running and working on them.

I have a 71 year old client. He changed to once a day milking on a 330 cow farm. He has some staff, but he just loves it. It is no longer drudgery and hard work. More than that, his profit has increased and so has production. His cows look better and get more in calf. He has basically reinvented himself and taken a new and easier approach to farming and he is very happy. He can't stop smiling and he is so excited about life at 71 that he could show a lot of "tired" younger farmers a thing or two.

In my own case, I had been a Registered Valuer for 21 years. I had reached the end of my good times in that business, I was tired of doing the same thing and 10 years ago I reinvented myself and started my present business. It gave me a whole new look on life, I'm happy, energetic and totally focussed. Many of my older Valuer mates are still valuing but are sick and "tired" and they really need a change, reinvent themselves, but not retire.

You often meet people who are tired of doing the same things and they need to find something else to do to reinvigorate themselves. More than that, there will be fewer people left in the workforce to support us oldies. The pension could be drastically cut back, or pushed out to 70 and 75 as qualifying age. If we are not organised, we may be forced to keep working. We could look to "pass the baton" to the next generation. We could get involved in that process and get a new lease of life.

The labour crisis is emerging and they expect New Zealand to be in serious trouble within 10 years. The world is likely to continue with a commodity boom for the next 5 – 10 years, so we could all be very busy. On top of this, we only have 59 days of stored food in the world and this is going to put huge pressure on the agricultural sector to produce more, because prices are likely to rise. We are already seeing the demand increase for dairy products and milk powder rose substantially in the last week.

So, retire? No way! We are all having far too much fun, or should be. Most of us are far too busy to retire anyway. With your health, we have the best health system in the world believe it or not. If we have good exercise, eat a balanced diet and look after ourselves, our life expectancy is very good.

Retirement brings to mind people (normally men) who are old, grumpy and boring. Retirement is also very bad for your health, in fact retirement is terminal. The most important thing is to lead a busy long fulfilling life, with plenty of ideas and activities; this will certainly increase our longevity.

In summary, retirement is a terrible word. When we get older we need to reinvent ourselves, find something that we can do effectively and enjoy. New Zealand is going to see a labour crisis and we are going to need everybody working on our farms just to provide the labour. Just because things on our body stop working at 60 – 65, it is no reason to give up. The body may want to "retire", but the mind wont. It is important to keep good health, get plenty of exercise and keep the brain busy, because retirement is terminal.


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