Take inspiration from retirement lifestyles around the world

Hardly universal, retirement is coloured by cultural expectations worldwide.

In Greece, the old man is an honorific. A sign of respect, equating age with wisdom and a closeness to God, according to Arianna Huffington’s book “On Becoming Fearless.”

The Greeks aren’t the only ones to venerate age, of course. Many Asian and Native American/First Nation cultures do the same. Koreans, for example, celebrate 60 with the hwangap, an acknowledgement of the fortunes of life (made possible in part thanks to advances in modern medicine), and the kohCui, or 70th birthday, another large celebration of the “old and rare.” Generally speaking, these countries and cultures have a history of communal ageing, where the extended family cares for its elder members, while Britons tend to favour a more independent lifestyle as they grow older.

Late-life, liberty and leisure

For those countries with more industrialised economies, retirement looks similar to how it does in the UK, a period of independence, supported in part by pensions or benefits. However, these countries sometimes struggle to contend with greying populations as a political and economic issue.

Here’s how some countries differ.

Japan: Japan has one of the highest life expectancies and low birth rates, so even though there’s a culture of younger people caring for elders, life is changing and leaving retirees more isolated. Those aged 65 and older make up a quarter of the population, growing to about 40% in the next 30 years. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Japanese citizens work until 70 on average – would-be retirees there don’t feel financially secure. Only 21% expect to maintain their quality of life in retirement, according to Mercer, and only 8% are confident they have saved enough.

Norway: Work-life balance in Norway is generally considered so good that many keep working, enjoying flexible hours, high income despite high taxes and six weeks paid vacation for those over 60 (five for everyone else). Work isn’t considered something to escape. One potential headwind? Norwegians tend not to save for retirement, leaving an 8% gap in what they’ll need to bankroll an affluent retirement, according to the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC).

Australia: Australians tend to retire ahead of Britons, bridging any gaps in government benefits by supporting themselves. For the past 20 years, employers have been obligated to pay 9% to 12% to every worker between 18 and 70, basically acting like a traditional pension, although the accounts are owned and managed by individuals. Still, Australians will have to save an additional 6% of their income to avoid financial difficulties as they age, according to the ILC.

It’s certainly interesting how ageing looks vastly different across countries. What’s most important is making sure the retirement you’ve planned aligns with your values – and feels good. Consider taking inspiration from other cultures to create a situation that makes you excited to embark on this next stage of life.

Next steps

When you’re considering what ageing looks like for you, don’t forget to think about:

– Where you’d like to live, whether it’s in a community setting or closer to family

– How you’ll spend your days, whether it’s volunteering or otherwise staying involved in the industry you once worked

– Planning for any lifelong dreams you want to achieve once you have the freedom to do so

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