Women….Plan For Retirement, Not Burnout


When chatting with a group of third age women recently I was struck by how few had consciously planned how they would leave the workforce. Indeed, some were struggling to deal with the reality of being physically or emotionally unable to continue in their roles and adjusting to premature retirement.

Work isn’t for the faint-hearted!

One woman had the misfortune to literally fall flat on her face, or rather her chin, causing significant damage to her cervical vertebrae and making it impossible to work (severe loss of balance, pain, some memory loss, anxiety).

Another said that she just come to the end of her tether as a gift shop owner.

A third was a cheerful, ebullient early primary school teacher who clearly loved her job, until one day recently when she walked into school and was seriously upset by the actions of an administration staff member.  At the principal’s suggestion, she took two weeks’ leave, and then decided never to go back.

Then there was a school counsellor’s story of extreme burnout following a decade of listening to a daily litany of human woes.

These stories begged the question: Accidental injury or illness is one thing but how had these intelligent women suddenly found themselves confronted with an unplanned retirement?

So many mature aged people are not prepared for retirement.

Brisbane career change consultant for over 50’s Jenni Proctor  says this is not an uncommon scenario. She said she finds it disturbing in her work with mature aged clients that so many are completely unprepared for the retirement stage of their lives. Very few have taken the time to create a plan for retirement.

Some baby boomers it seems want the dream retirement but forget to plan for it. Jenni says she often hears sentiments such as “This is not the way my life was meant to be” or “I want to do something about my financial future but I am afraid I will lose money,” or “I really want to do something different. I know I have skills and abilities. I just have no idea what to do.”

Baby Boomer women are particularly at risk of burn out.

Some baby boomer women, especially those in the helping professions such as teaching and counselling, could be particularly susceptible to this phenomenon. They work in emotionally demanding professions; they are generally imbued with the caregiver ethic which means they have often have significant family responsibilities (e.g. ageing parents, dependent adult children) and their professions do not allow enough time for self-reflection.

These conditions are perfect for burn out. The women know that but perhaps they don’t recognise the signs; perhaps they

  • ignore them;
  • think they must continue working because of their financial obligations;
  • simply have not made time to assess where they are in their working life.

And one day they wake up to the certain knowledge that they absolutely cannot continue.

Would it be too much to ask for workplaces especially in the caring professions to offer regular burn out assessments and support for their staff? The signs are usually not difficult to spot e.g. disinterest, lack of attention to detail, more sick leave than usual, lack of motivation.

Opportunities to plan for retirement

And how about some opportunities to plan for retirement in a meaningful way? Discussions with a professional career counsellor (not just a financial planner) could help develop a clear picture of the unique lifestyle and activities to take you into an exciting third age. Perhaps another income stream will be required…a good counsellor can help with ideas there as well.

Are you female? A baby boomer?  In the helping professions? How are YOU managing the transition to retirement? 

Guest Author: Renee Hills

Renee Hills has been writing ever since she won a prize as a country North Queensland kid for an essay about the future. By this stage she realised that she would never be a mathematician or scientist! 

She discovered English Literature as an undergraduate student  and honed her writing skills as a print journalist, editor and self- publisher after graduation. She diverted for a decade, give or take a few years, into psychology and school counselling. Now she is back to her first and enduring passion – writing. She blogs about life and shares her flash fiction at Renaissance Renee; journaling and studying the craft of writing children’s picture books.  She has recently released the delightful  book “Turtle Love”.

Published articles

Her articles have been published in The Queensland Times, Ipswich, Standard Newspapers, Melbourne, The Learning Exchange, (alternative lifestyle newspaper) Melbourne, Tech Talk (RMIT in-house newsletter), Melbourne,  Coming Out Naturally, a book on home birth; The Prepared Mind, a quarterly newsletter on innovation in education. 

Renee lives and writes in Brookfield, Brisbane in an octagonal, environmentally friendly house shared with her husband, two daughters and a cat. Follow Renee at: www.renaissancerenee.com | | Renaissance Renee Author on Facebook | Linked In@rlhills on Twitter  or contact her at: renee@brookfield.fastmail.fm

Republished Feb 22, 2019

Read Why You Should Rethink Your Retirement Plans

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Jenni Proctor

Hi, I'm Jenni Proctor from Boomers Next Step. Remember when the formula for success in life was simply to strive for good marks at school, gain qualifications, get a great job, work hard and save for your retirement? Yes, I believed it too! For years my husband David and I wanted to develop a business that we could operate anywhere in the world, but both of us were educated to be employees.  We had entrepreneurial dreams and ideas, but still had employee mindsets. 14 years ago I took the giant leap!  I left my job in Education to start a business as a Career Counsellor and Coach, helping mature adults transition from one career path to another, and particularly from employment to entrepreneurship.  I had studied long and hard to gain new qualifications but sadly I hadn’t learnt how to market my new business. About 12 years ago we realized that we were not tracking well towards having the sort of retirement we wanted. We’d saved; we’d invested; and like so many other people we’d also lost some money along the way. It didn’t help that my business was not bringing in as much as I had been earning as an employee. Our dreams of extensive travel and helping our family were being replaced by a growing concern that we would outlive our savings. It seemed that a traditional retirement would not allow us to maintain the lifestyle we wanted. I love helping people plan the next phase of their lives, but we realized that was not going to be enough.  We needed a way to create an income stream that would pay for the travel and other lifestyle luxuries we wanted, that would provide mental stimulation, and would interest us both.

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