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Re-Defining Retirement: The Social Dynamics of Life Planning

By Dr. Gerald House

TUE JUL 21, 2020

We think of retirement primarily as a financial issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Retirement, as defined by the new retirement generation called the baby boomers, is much more dynamic and requires considering several aspects of life planning. This new life phase necessitates preparing our aging adults for the final stage of their lives socially as well as financially. The next generation of planners needs to either set-up referral networks of individual behavioral specialists or combine into one business organization called life planners to carry out the needs of seniors.

We are inclined to accept something as being true after hearing the claims of it repeated over and over to us. Case in point: How many times do you hear the statement trust, but verify as originating from former President Ronald Reagan? Actually, this statement is an old Russian saying doveryai, no proveryai (Yahoo Answers, 2016). There is a marketing technique that states: if you repeat something enough times, people will believe it. We often fall prey to this philosophy.

Overview of Topic & Rationale

There is a proliferation of information on the subject of retirement. However, how much of this information is just marketing; getting you to buy-in to a philosophical or marketing scheme. How much of this information is factual? Does the financial service industry exploit the term retirement for monetary gain? Do we have a social responsibility to prepare for retirement or to ensure a comfortable retirement for those who failed to set aside enough money for their basic subsistence? Is our culture placing too much emphasis on the word retirement without considering the individual goals and needs of older adults?

How does one define retirement? Is the traditional and accepted definition of retirement based on false premises and demagoguery? Kojola and Moen (2016), surveyed 27 retired and working white-collar baby boomers in Minnesota and discovered the traditional one-way path to retirement is no longer the norm. As a matter of fact, this age group prefers continuing work in more flexible and less demanding roles offering more meaning. We term this employment as encore careers defined by Investopedia (2013) as:

A second vocation in the second half of one's life. An encore career seeks to combine a sense of purpose with public-service passion and a paycheck for people in their 50s and 60s, according to, a nonprofit organization founded by social entrepreneur Marc Freedman. While encore careers can be found in any sector, they tend to be clustered in five areas–healthcare, the environment, education, government, and the nonprofit sector. The term "encore career" is believed to have been popularized by Freedman.

If this definition is now the accepted norm in our society, why is the financial service industry still marketing the traditional model of retirement? Obviously, the option to continue working throughout one's lifetime, defined as bridge employment, is not as economically beneficial to the financial industry. What about the so-called social consciousness encouraged by many people in our society for the creation of a basic subsistence program such as Social Security to provide for those individuals less financially prepared for traditional retirement? Should this mindset also be revised?

Brief History

Retirement as a stage of life is a recent phenomenon. Up to the end of the 19th century, people still worked for themselves. It was the industrial revolution and urbanization, which brought about the idea of retirement (Ellis, Munnell, and Eschtruth, 2016). Older people in the factories struggled to keep up the workflow and pace as the younger generation. Therefore, pension plans came about to force older workers out of the workforce. Additionally, the Social Security system further defined the need for retiring by setting an initial date for receiving your benefits at age 62 (Anthony, 2014).

The Social Security Act of 1935 ensured a subsistence for older people to stem high poverty and unemployment of the elderly after the Great Depression (Ellis et al.). The government later established programs to promote saving for retirement by creating salary deferral through 401K programs. Naturally, corporations took advantage of this government perk by eliminating defined pension plans. Instead, they opted for contributing small amounts to the now government approved tax deferral 401K plans on behalf of the employee (Anthony).

The profession of personal financial advising got started in the early 1940s with the passing of the Investment Advisor Act of 1940 to clean-up the corruption in investment companies. The primary investments were real estate, mutual funds, and insurance. The International Association of Financial Planning did not organize until 1969, along with the College of Financial Planning, to establish standards and certification for financial professionals (Stomierowski and Lorette, 2012).

The financial planning profession is once again going through many changes as the industry confronts competing with robo-advisors and the need for a holistic approach to planning to encompass the complete life needs of individuals. These revised requirements will necessitate the combining of finances and other life needs such as health, Social Security, Medicare, family, and other relationships, housing, legal and estate planning, and time management-leisure and activities (Migliaccio, 2016).

Financial Planning has long stressed the need for social goals and financial goals. However, until recently, the need to incorporate the two goals was just rhetoric designed to show a level of concern not present with financial advisors. Today, the environment is changing, and people are not only looking to plan their financial life but also other life goals into a complete plan called life planning. It will require financial planners to bring together life planning firms with several types of planners who specialize in one aspect of the planning process or creating shared networks of different specialties (Migliaccio).


Anthony, M. (2014). The new retirementality: Planning your life and living your dreams ... at any age you want. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Editorial of The New York Sun | December 21, 2012. (n.d.). Yes, Virginia ... Retrieved from

Ellis, C., Munnell, A., & Eschtruth, A. (2016). Falling Short: The Roots of the Coming U.S. Retirement Crisis. Challenge, 59(2), 126-147. doi:10.1080/05775132.2015.1138061

Kojola, E., & Moen, P. (2016). No more lock-step retirement: Boomers' shifting meanings of work and retirement. Journal of Aging Studies, 36, 59-70. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2015.12.003

Laureate Education (producer), (2012b). Choosing your doctoral topic [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Migliaccio, J. N. (2016, January). Retirement's hidden agenda: from "money changes everything" to "money isn't everything." Journal of Financial Service Professionals, 70(1), 74-80.

Staff, I. (2013). Encore Career. Retrieved from

Stomierowski, P., & Lorette, K. (2012). How to open & operate a financially successful personal financial planning business: With companion CD-ROM. Ocala, FL: Atlantic Pub. Group.

Who made this famous quotation, "Trust but verify"? (n.d.). from

Investment and advisory services are offered through Herrington Financial Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm. This article's information does not constitute an offer to sell securities or a solicitation of an offer to buy securities. This article is for educational purposes only. All information in this article is the expressed opinion of the author and not Herrington Financial Services.

Investment and advisory services offered through Herrington Financial Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm. The information on this website does not constitute an offer to sell securities or a solicitation of an offer to buy securities. This site is for educational purposes only.