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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Building a Bridge to retirement

         It has taken me several years to decide when I want to retire. First it was the mandatory retirement fight then it was some insecurity about my financial preparedness for leaving teaching and my role attachment to the work.  I didn’t actually make the decision to retire until late last year.
         Building a bridge to cross while leaving work seems to me to be a good way of making such an extreme step.  Looking at my life history many changes have occurred first my parents moving around then going to different schools as I climbed the education ladder to getting my PhD.  Then moving to North Eastern Ontario in order to teach at Lakehead University.  Then to West Coast where I practiced as Clinical Industrial Psychologist for several years until I finally returned to teaching at Kwantlen.
          After teaching for 28 years at Kwantlen as it moved from being a Community College to a Polytechnic University and because retirement is different from just moving to another job I have been considering this move for the last couple of years.  Doing as I usually do when preparing for a new blog entry a searched the literature and found a qualitative study about bridge employment conducted by Lorene Ulrich and Pamela Brott[i] There are several places where I will make direct reference to their work.  First, “…retirement may be redefined by the options available to the older adult.” 
         Many persons since the mid 90’s are choosing bridge jobs that “…may be part-time work, self-employment, or temporary work often involving a combination of fewer hours, less stress or responsibility, greater flexibility and fewer physical demands.”
         In my case I have decided to use this blog and the retirement workshop as a bridge from part time teaching which I have been doing since I turned 65 until two years ago when mandatory retirement was abolished.
         I was tempted to return to counseling with a focus on retirement but while it might be more financially rewarding, there is a lot more regulation and requirements that I do not wish to undertake.
a)   Ulrich and Brottt’s paper was developed using a qualitative approach with a small sample of older adults.  Therefore we must be cautious of jumping to conclusions. Still they make some interesting points that those of you in a position like me might consider. Their respondents came from management, professional, office admin to those working in transportation and construction.  Each person was asked the following questions:
a)   Why did you retire?
b)   What role did the long-term career play in your life?
c)   What role does the bridge job play in your life?
d)   How do you describe the transition from long-term career or         retirement to bridge employment?

         I’m tempted to put my answers on this blog entry but no; I think I’ll leave     that up to you.
         First, participants in the research project reported that there lives were changing and they, they wanted to have control in what they did next and concluded it was time to retire. The changes were in their physical selves and life priorities.  In addition they wanted to work on there own terms.  The bridge jobs they wanted must include a meaningful use of time, gave them a say in what they were doing, kept them connected with their career, met financial needs and doing creative things without the burdens of bureaucracy. “Not just a job but something I really love.”
         They understood that there would be both challenges and opportunities. Listed next are categories of challenges:
a)   Financial challenges (i.e., lack of financial information or planning, pension restrictions, lower salary.
b)   Problems with switching jobs (i.e., no plans, limited skills
          or experience, retraining demands, outside forces, different          environments, or changes in status).
     c) The age factor (i.e., subtle age discrimination, direct age                             discrimination)
     d) Personal Challenges (i.e. self-limitations, relationships, time          management, emotional aspects, physical problems

      In the end, we all need to be able to understand  both ourselves and the situations we encounter. Hopefully this material will help.

[i] Ulrich, L.B. & Brott, P.E. (2005). Older workers and bridge employment: Redefining    retirement, Vol.42, 159-164.


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