RETIREMENT AND RETIREMENT COUNSELLING:
ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
PROF. JOHN BISI ASONIBARE
DR. ABDULRAZAQ OLAYINKA ONIYE
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL
GUIDANCE AND COUNSELLING
UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN.
African Journal of Education and Developmental Studies (AJEDS).5(2)September,2008.
Retirement is a significant change in an individual’s lifestyle and, as any change, comes with element of emotion (Marceaus, 1998). The perception people have of retirement is a function of their understanding of what it connotes. Retirement is not only an employment job related concept, rather it is one concept with several psychosocial connotations. From a vocational point of view, it is an indicator of the concluding stage of the occupational cycle at which certain material, vocational and experiential achievements are expected of the reitiree (Oniye, 2001). It is important to note from the onset that “among the various categories of workers in our labour force in Nigeria, the workers approaching retirement and the retired should be our great concern (Alutu, 1999). Broadly speaking the workers in the labour force of this country could be grouped into two main groups, namely, private employees working in companies, firms or workers of business enterprises, and workers in the public sector i.e civil-servants employed by local, state or federal governments. This presentation addressed the concept of retirement and retirement counselling, for these categories of workers with particular reference to issue and challenges inherent in retirement for all and sundry.
THE CONCEPT OF RETIREMENT
Retirement as a concept has both old and new definitions. The old definition of retirement was when a worker couldn’t do something anymore. He or she is laid off. However,. The new definition of retirement is when a worker does not have to do something anymore. The concept of retirement that we associated with leisure, travel, family activities, hobbies, and educational pursuits is a modern idea. The role of “retiree” and the stage of “retirement” we identify with today is a socially constructed concept that was created as a result of the passage of Social Security Act in 1935 (in America). According to Prize (2000), with the creation of social security, a financial incentive or pension was made available to older workers to encourage them retire from the workforce and to enable younger workers take their place; thus stimulating economic growth and progress.
Retirement generally implies the terminal cessation, relaxation or change over of financially remunerative employment. It is a life stage because it is a period of economic inactivity or a change over in one’s economic activity, socially/legally prescribed for workers in later life. Retirement is a phenomenon characterized by separation of the worker from paid employment, which has the characteristic of an occupation or a career over a period of time. It is essentially, a period of adjustment (Oniye, 2001).
Historically, retirement was a stage of life few individuals lived long enough to experience or enjoy. According to Prince (2000), in the early 20th century, the average life expectancy was 47 years. As a result, most people worked until they became tool sick to continue. However, because the advanced medical knowledge and resources we enjoy today were not yet available, a majority of people died quickly of acute illness. It was discovered that before now the overall time spent in retirement was only 7% of adulthood or about 4 years. In the early 21st century, 25% of one’s adulthood can be spent in retirement. This is because the average life expectancy in 2002 was 76 years, thus those retiring at age 65, on average, can expect to spend 18 to 20 years in the role of retires. For instance, if an academic staff in a Nigerian university retires at 60, he is expected to stay alive for another 20 to 25 years on the average. The implication is that adequate plan must be made by such an individual for the post retirement life stage or period.
Type of retirement
In the opinion of Akinade (1993), retirement is a final stage of life when one leaves an occupation which one had been involved in for a considerable length of one’s working life. Retirement in the opinion of experts is an inevitable stage of ageing where the individual gradually disengages from the main stream of active work/social life and is eventually replaced by a younger person in most cases.
In her own submission, Alutu (1999) noted that there are three main types of retirement, namely voluntary, compulsory and forced retirement. Alutu explained that voluntary retirement occurs when the employee decides on his own to retire from service before the attainment of the stipulated retiring age or years of service. Compulsory retirement occurs when the employee had to retire because he has attained the maximum age of retirement or years of service. Forced retirement on the other hand, occurs when the employee is not consulted before he is made to withdraw from service with or without benefits (e.g. retrenchment, rationalization of workforce etc of civil-servants in the employment of Kwara State civil service in 1993/94 and 1995 respectively) (Nigerian Union of Pensioners, 2003).
Similarly, Awoniyi (1997), submitted that retirement can be categorized into two classes viz: voluntary and involuntary retirement. Retirement is regarded as voluntary if the employee freely and personally decides on it before the attainment of the mandatory retirement ago (60 years of age or 35 years of working experience here in Nigeria) Oniye, 2001). It is however involuntary, if the decision is forced on the employee, either on attainment of mandatory retirement age or due to other reasons like mass retrenchment of workers, proven case of ill health, negligence of duty etc.
The implication of these typologies is that the average employee is likely to be retired either when he is ready or before he is ready for retirement. The import of this awareness is that the typical employee must properly prepare for this eventuality, bearing in mid that 25% of his adulthood is likely to be spent in retirement. The focus of this write up is to sensitize all prospective retirees about the need to understand the complexities involved in retirement and the imperative of preparing adequately for this period.
SOURCES OF RETIREMENT STRESS AND PROBLEMS
Fear or anxiety about retirement is one constant companion of most employees right from day of their engagement in the private or public service (Oniye, 2001). Instead of fear and anxiety, the typical retiree or prospective retirees should start from day one to have a focus on their post retirement life plan and life style. This is crucial especially when the view expressed by Elezua (1998) is considered that “the moment retirement comes knocking on the door (of an employee) it enters with challenges and expectations. Okorodudu (1998) therefore opined that because of the attendant stress that accompanies these challenges and expectations, retirement is believed to be fraught with a number of problems for the average employee in a country like Nigeria, with unstable economy.
Retirement as posited by Oniye (2001) is a complex process demanding serious planning. This he noted is possibly because of the fact that, the experience each has in the course of this phenomenon is to a large extent individualistic in nature. Suffice to say therefore that retirees (especially those who failed to prepare adequately for retirement) are bound to face certain problems in retirement for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons and accompanying problems include:
(i) Lack of understanding; (ii) Financial problems; (iii) Social stigma and
(iv) Health constraints (Oniye, 2001).
According to the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Kwara State Branch, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sections 180 and 216 state in subsection 3 and 4 that:
1. “Pensions shall be reviewed every five years or together with any federal civil service salary reviews, whichever is earlier”.
2. “Pensions is respect of any service in the public service of the federation shall not be taxed”.
(Constitutional of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999).
The union noted with dismay that inspite of Federal Government issuance of three circulars between 1999 and 2003 for 150%, 30% and 142% pension increase respectively, the Kwara State Government tends to implement the policy on pension by setting up of two pension board:
(i) Kwara State Pensions Baord and (ii) Kwara State Local Government Staff Pensions Board.
However, not withstanding the setting up of these, pensioners in Kwara State as at July, 2003, were still confronted with the following problems:
1. Lack of proper placement of monthly pensioners retrenched in 1995.
2. Non settlement of outstanding state harmonized pension arrears for the period January 1st, 2001 to March 31st 2003 (27 months).
3. Non implementation of 150% arrears, of pension increase for the period of January 2001 to March 31st 2003; 30% pension increase since January 2000, and 142% pension increase with effect from 1st May, 2000 to July, 2003 respectively.
4. Wrong computation of pension and gratuities paid to retirees of 1st September to 31st December, 1998.
In America, it has been noted that in 1965, 57% of the US population over age 55 was in workforce. Today the number is only 38%. Americans who are in the age bracket of 30-49 have accumulated only one-third of what they will need to retire. Today’s retirees must prepare for a retirement that could last much longer than their parents’. This is because life expectancy for women will rise to 81.2 years in 2020 from 65.7 years in 1940. For men it will increase to 75.3 from 61.4. It has also been discovered that one in every four retirees use their retirement savings for something other than to fund his/her retirement, such as the purchase of a home or to fund a child’s education. Approximately 90% of people who leave a job don’t roll their special (401(K)) distribution into another retirement account. Funny enough, only half of American workers are covered by a pension plan (Barbara, 1999).
Retirement is associated with financial stress. Financial stress is complicated and it should be noted that:
- People at all income levels experience it.
- Financial stress is not the same for everyone.
- Within the families, the major source of financial stress is how to spend what you have; not how much or how little that amount is.
- Having a stable income helps to minimize financial stress.
- Financial stress is so prevalent today because job insecurity is rampant at all levels in many professions.
- Having more money is not an automatic cure for financial stress. It may just create a different form of it.
- Unfortunately, financial stress is built into the America culture, same way it is built into Nigeria’s. As a nation, we have grown up believing that having more is better than having less (The Aging issue Team, 1990).
CONCEPT OF RETIRMENT COUNSELLING
Retirement counseling is the process of providing prospective retirees with factual information needed to make a pleasant transition from world of work into the world of less rigorous occupational schedules – retirement. The concept includes a review of all insurance policies, management of personal income during retirement, explanation of the retirement process, general information about social security, medicare coverage and acquisition of life skills needed for optional adjustment to retirement roles.
Retirement, like any other life process has phases or stages. In the opinion of Omoresemi (1987) three major stages of retirement are identifiable viz: preparation stage (36-45 years), period of immediate retirement (46-55years), and real retirement stage (56-65years). It is crucial for all prospective retirees to understand the features associated with these stages, albeit briefly. According to Adeloye (1999), the preparation stage is characterized by the need to educate all the children, acquire a piece of land and start building a house, having a life insurance policy and recognizing the fact of ageing. At the pre-retirement stage, the individual undergoes physical and psychological changes like wrinkles on the face and skin, growth of grey hair, and familiarization with retirement regulations and procedures. Finally at the real retirement stage, the individual is expected to have completed all necessary arrangement on retirement and can now decide on what to do with life, setting up a small business or enjoying leisure.
Retirement counseling is also interested in sensitizing prospective retirees and retired people about issues bothering on the effect/stressores or problems of retirement. For example, in the study carried out among some Nigerian retirees, Omoresemi (1987) discovered that retirement affects the income, residence, family structure or relationship between members of the family as well as the economic viability of retirees. It must be stated however that those who retire voluntarily or those who have prepared adequately for retirement tend to experience a more stable mental health than those who are compulsorily retired (Adeloye,1999).
Similarly, Oniye (2001) enumerated four major problems associated with retirement. In his study of retired civil servants in Kwara State, he found that the problems most commonly reported by the retirees are lack of adequate understanding of the process before retirement; social stigma of being tagged a retiree, financial and health constraints. Alutu (1999) reported however that while 80% of her research sample acknowledge being aware of retirement, a staggering 54% of the same sample reported that adequate preparation was not made before retirement.
The implication is that after retirement, the retiree might experience feelings of guilt, anger, denial, fatigue or a blurred future and so should be assisted to cope with his new experience (Adeloye, 1999). In Nigeria, there is the tendency for people to over emphasise issues like financial assistance at the expense of more equally important emotional aspect of retirement .the focus of retirement counseling at this stage or period is to assist the retiree (especially if he is the head of the family and thus the principal victim) and all family members who are equally victims to gain insight into heir feeling concerning retirement so that they can explore alternative ways that could help to enhance their emotional stability.
The retirement counselor would seek to ensure reasonable management of issues like accommodation, feeding, children’s school fees (for those who are still raising a family close to retirement or during retirement, which of course is not advisable), maintenance of the family property e.g vehicles or taking care of aged parents.
The counseling services to be provided cut across both the pre-retirement and post-retirement stages. For example, during the pre-retirement stage the focus would be to assist workers plan well ahead of retirement. At this stage workers are exposed to necessary information that will enhance happy post-retirement life. This, ideally is expected to be organized by professional counselor(s) in form of workshops, seminars, sensitization symposi to be handled by specially selected resource persons in the field of education, business, law, health, estate management and vocational skills training.
However, at the post retirement stage, emphasis could be laid on group and individual counseling sessions depending on the peculiar nature of retiree’s problems. Where need be, religious psychological counseling could also be introduced especially with the assistance of Imams and church pastors to introduce a spiritual dimension into the management of retirement stress. All these could be accomplished through services like:
- Information service: Supplying of valid and reliable information on various issues related to retirement, like retirement policies, when and how to retire, how to merge services before retirement, how gratuity and pension are computed or and what to do after retirement.
- Vocation service: Assisting retirees to explore career alternatives and develop leisure interest in which they can utilize their knowledge and skills so that they can be gainfully employed.
- Planning, placement and follow up service: Assisting the retirees plan their lives realistically and effectively. Planning herein connotes taking cognizance of retiree’s abilities, interests, value system, personality disposition, aptitude and so on. The appropriate planning and placement must however be accompanied with periodic follow-up to ascertain the effectiveness or otherwise of the planning and placement.
- Referral service: Sending of special cases to specialists for appropriate treatment; like dentists to ascertain healthiness of aging persons teeth, medical doctors to check blood pressure or psychiatrists to profer therapeutic insights.
RETIREMENT PLANNING AND STRATEGIES
It has been discovered that daily our society is getting more complex both by its structure and operational challenges. Thus, it is known that many powerful societal forces are making retirement planning more important than ever. For instance, issues like longer life expectancies, fewer or decreasing retirement benefits, the trend towards multiple jobs-even careers, changes and rising healthcare costs, increasing job insecurity, among others. All these make planning for retirement more critical now than ever before.
The baseline of our retirement counseling is that regardless of your age, where you work or your life situation, you should start planning now for your retirement. Even if your establishment has a very handsome retirement package like full monthly salary for a professor emeritus, remember those funds may not be enough to maintain your lifestyle after retirement. However, if you start planning now, you can take steps toward the retirement income you want.
The retirement planning advocated herein involves identifying your wants and needs, developing a plan to achieve them, acting on your plan and continually reviewing and revising your plan as you approach retirement. In order to start meaningfully, start by defining your goals. In a more practically way your retirement planning demand that you ask yourself the following questions:
1. At what age do I plan to retire?
2. Will I start a new part-time career during retirement, or never work again?
3. How long do I think I will need my money to last?
4. How much money will it take to support my household?
5. What type of life style do I hope to lead after retirement?
6. Where will I live when I retire?
Sequel to reasonable handling of this goal setting aspect of retirement planning, you will answer questions like these:
1. What provisions do I need to make to take care of my healthcare needs during retirement years?
2. How much money do I need to save to meet my goals?
3. How should I invest my money to maximize my retirement saving?
4. How will my assets, liabilities, expenses and savings change during retirement?
Remember, the sooner you started to save and plan for your retirement years, the more prepared you will be. As a matter of fact, early planning means that just a small investment each year given reasonable profit margin could create a portfolio large enough to meet your needs later in life (Solutions Colony 1998-2003).
You would invest for early retirement. Consider this story “Jerry Mcmahan, retired a week before his 51st birthday. According to him “what enabled me to retire early was both my pension plan and the performance of my personal portfolio”. He was a division comptroller and director of financial analysis”. The experience helped him structure his portfolio. How? At 37 Mcmahan applied his financial planning skills to his personal retirement goals, devising an investment strategy to acquire a certain sum of money in 20 years to fund his retirement. Hwoever, he hit the target five years early. Thus his first major activity when he retired was to study and pass the exams to get the certified financial planner designation. While doing that, he joined SCORE where he spends one to three afternoons a week offering his expertise to people starting business or those having problems with existing businesses. In summary, today Mcmahan is a successful retired employee of Rockwell but actively engaged member of SCORE crop of volunteers and he makes several hundred trades a year. He is happy in retirement.
In order to ensure a successful transition into retirement some retirement tips are suggested for consideration:
1. Persevere and remain optimistic – No matter how difficult the circumstances, have confidence that the basic values you stand for will sustain you, and don’t give up on yourself.
2. Make sure you have a reason to retire, a list of things you want to do other than work.
3. Before retiring, decide how you’re going to spend the eight hours or more you used to devote to work. Retirement is another vocation you have to prepare for.
4. Buy enough shares in stock market or companies to tie down reasonable fund for retirement income.
5. Don’t allow forced retirement to throw you off-balance. You could anticipate it even if it will never happen, because it doesn’t have to be devastating. Instead you still have control over what comes next.
6. Pension benefits are inadequate for most retirement lifestyles. You may have to supplement your income by working. If so, try to find something that you truly enjoy doing. Remember that while retirement laws suggest leaving work by 65, nothing says you couldn’t work longer if you feel like and capable.
7. If you want to do volunteer work to fill your time then find an activity you enjoy. If you don’t, it will be boring.
8. Be careful to choose a retirement residence where most of your specialists like geriatric doctors, lawyers, therapists etc could be located easily, (Adapted from SCORE, 1999).
Furthermore, when thinking about early retirement-whether it’s your idea or your employer’s . try to consider the following tips:
(i) Health insurance availability (ii) income (iii) retirement saving (iv) part-time employment (v) early retirement impact on the exercise of stock options and similar benefits. (vi) your family situatioin e.g are you still sponsoring children in school, yet tobuild your own house etc (vii) the impact of early retirement on pension and gratuity.
In Nigeria, the apathy towards has bred a lot of socio-economic and psychological problems not only to the retirees, dependents and friends but to the society in general. The focus of this discourse is to enlighten all prospective retirees about issues and challenges associated with retirement especially in a country with unstable economy like ours. The imperativeness of getting pre and post-retirement counseling is emphasized because all prospective retirees need to be reminded about the rationale behind saving and preparing for the eventual rainy and idle days (of retirement). The stance of this write up is that for all workers, their youthful exuberance should be occupied with foresight and goals, whichhave to be rigorously and vigorously pursued (Elezua, 1998).
Retirees who have not gone through a detailed goal setting process are much more likely to struggle I the early periods of retirement as they try to deal with feelings. Such struggles can have serious health and financial implications the four periods of retirement are the honeymoon period, the period of disenchantment, the reorientation period and the stability period. If third will present major problems for the retiree. On the other hand, if life style planning has also been done, the retiree will slip quickly and almost effortlessly into the stability period.
Not everyone has the luxury of retiring according to a long-term plan. When people are forced into early retirement they may suffer loss of self-esteem and subsequent depression. Therefore, family and friends should be more loving, caring and encouraging to the retiree to give them sense of affection and belonging, similarly, there should be regular contact with the retiree by friends, family members religious group members and past colleagues.
The policy makers should put in place post-retirement packages capable of making lives of retirees comfortable. This is especially crucial in the area of social and medical care, bearing in mind that poor health and need for health care are other major problems of retirees. Similarly, all workers must in preparation for their eventual retirement, be mindful of their style of life and kind of friends they keep. The mind should be focused on how, where and when to build or buy a house, train the children and ensure a stable standard of living for the family.
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