Four pre-retiree mindsets

Older people “believe that they can exert agency at the exact moment when it is needed.”

Sarah Holland Batt

As the quote from Sarah Holland Batt above says, the current generation of people approaching retirement age expect to do things their way, when they are ready. It is not only their decision, for many it is a decision they make more or less at the last minute.

Ultimately, some people decide to stop work, some decide to stay working and some decide to do a bit of both. Some have careful plans in place. Some are basically ignoring the very idea of not working.

In our research we have identified four different ‘mindsets’ that pre-retirees can have when they approach the conventional age to retire. These are the:

  1. Escapee mindset
  2. Will I? Wont I? mindset
  3. The Status Quo mindset
  4. The New Life Builder mindset

These mindsets might last for days, or weeks, or months, or years. They are fluid. Some people will go from one to another. People change their ideas and plans just as much in their pre-retirement years as they did before.

The escapee retiree mindset

People with an Escapee mindset want to stop work now because their work is physically difficult and/or unfulfilling.

“I have had manual jobs since I started work at 15 yrs old!!! I’m now nearly 56 yrs old climbing through ceilings in temperatures of 48c+. Only a person who works in a airconditioned office for most of their working life can say 67 yrs is a reasonable retirement age. Yes I can’t wait to retire.”

They see retirement as an opportunity to rest and to travel. As someone already retired told us:

“I love been retired. My previous job as a registered Nurse in a Emergency Department was impossibly stressful, busy and tiring. I never even had a chance to use the bathroom most shifts, or take a break to eat. 12 hour shifts under constant pressure got to me so I retired.

People with an Escapee mindset sometimes make impulsive decisions, just to get away from work. They have generally not thought much about the future, other than that wonderful first day of retirement!

What this means for retirement marketing: some people will need guidance and advice after they retire.

People with a Will I? Won’t I? mindset don’t know what to do.

“The idea of retirement is both exciting and unnerving.”

They become torn between the work they enjoy and the promise of a good life in retirement. Work provides their social life, so they worry whether they will be able to maintain that or build new connections. Then they worry if they will have enough money. All this can get very overwhelming, so they simply put off thinking about it. But one day, the desire to travel or escape work drudgery may win out.

What this means for retirement marketing: the likely key to success here is preparation – building social networks for the next stage in life, building financial capability for the day when it comes. Not ‘planning’ – that is too definite. It is more about building capability.

We find the Status Quo mindset among working people in their sixties, seventies and eighties who simply do not want to leave work.

I enjoy my job too much to think about retirement, I will work for as long as physically possible.”

At this point in their lives, they have stimulating jobs and work in an environment where their skills are valued. Their picture of retirement is of a life which would lack stimulation. In fact they want retiree life to be the same as work life with all the same things to spend their money on like travel and entertainment. Consequently they assume they will need a lot of money to maintain this lifestyle – and this is yet another reason to keep working.

Like all mindsets, this can change. For example, their plans can sometimes go astray when their partner decides to – or has to – retire.

What this means for retirement marketing: People witha staus quo mindset don’t plan for a retirement they believe will never happen. One day, this mindset will change. This is when they will need guidance and information.

“A chance to explore other facets of life.”

People with a new life builder mindset approach retirement with thoughts of the future. They see retirement as a time when they can learn a new language, volunteer, go back to the those piano lessons, maybe start a side hustle to keep earning money. This will be a life of activity:

“Trying to fit as much as I can into my day, continue to be fit in order to scuba dive, keep involved in tai chi, lobby local government to be responsible in their decisions, grow my own vegetables, protect the environment and lots more.”

The New Life Builders I have met in my personal life and in qualitative research are brimming with ideas, and willing to give things a go. There often isn’t a plan as such. They just think that one day they will quit work and see how it goes. 
One person successfully retrained as a hypnotherapist in her 60’s because she wanted to find something that she would find satisfying into her 80s.

What this means for retirement marketing: this mindset reminds us that not all retirement dreams are of rest and travel. This is another stage of life that people want to make the best out of.

We are here to help

We are specialists in research about retirement. Contact Sue to find out more.

Susan Bell Founder & Lead Consultant
Sue Bell, Founder & Lead Consultant

We would love to hear from you, and are always happy to talk through research methods and options with you, if you are not sure what you need. Why not get in touch for a free, obligation-free, and confidential conversation.

Find out more about Susan Bell Research.

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