Keyton | How to have an epic retirement

How to have an epic retirement

Wednesday, 06 March 2024

We sat down with author Bec Wilson to get her tips on how to have an epic retirement.

As an author and columnist, Bec Wilson is on a quest to find out what it takes to have an epic retirement. She has combined her years of research and conversations into her most recent book, aptly titled 'How To Have An Epic Retirement'. Here, she is sharing her insights and tips for turning any retirement into an epic one.

Close up portrait of author Bec Wilson

Close up portrait of author Bec Wilson

Bec WIlson is one of Australia’s most respected authorities on modern retirement and an expert on modern ageing and midlife. She’s the bestselling author of How to Have an Epic Retirement, host of the Prime Time podcast and creator of pre-retirement education programs run by businesses and superannuation funds. She writes a weekly newsletter as well as a weekly column for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WA Today. Bec also does regular segments on ABC radio shows throughout Australia on modern retirement.

She is the founder and was the CEO of Starts at 60, the award winning and number one digital media brand and online community for older Aussies and Travel at 60, the online/offline travel company that is dedicated to over-60s. She’s also a mother of three (plus two noisy and cuddly shih tsu poodles!), loves to travel and is dreaming of her own epic retirement - one day!

Can you tell us a bit about your bestselling book?

I wrote 'How to Have an Epic Retirement' with the intention to create a really practical, useful and easy guidebook for modern retirement that tells people how the whole process of retiring today works. The book walks readers through a big picture view of what modern retirement which can last as long as 25 to 35 years can be, then I dive down into the six pillars of what I’ve badged an epic retirement: 

  1. Time and longevity
  2. Financial confidence
  3. Health
  4. Happiness and fulfilment
  5. Travel
  6. Your home as you age

Each is crucial to understand if you want to live a longer, happier and more fulfilling life, I think.

What draws you to educate on retirement and retirement living? 

I just feel that modern retirement is poorly understood, poorly communicated on and that there is very few independent voices that the consumers approaching and in retirement can look to and trust the insights of to guide them. And even fewer who can communicate in a simple manner, to explain things the way they are, without a sales-oriented bias. 

I feel very keenly that retirement education needs to be something everyone has access to, and not just financial education, education that explains the systems, phases and common challenges of retirement. And I want to help people navigate it with greater confidence, so they really can make it epic.

What aspects of retirement living do you find most rewarding?

There’s a few really important things that make retirement more interesting, more rewarding and more exciting. I actually enjoy researching and analysing across all areas of retirement. Of course, I have had to master teaching people how to build their financial confidence in the lead up to retirement. That’s crucial. But there’s also some truly fascinating research going on around the world into what drives happiness, fulfilment and longevity. And the studies are pretty clear. Relationships matter, loneliness kills. Living within communities where you feel a powerful sense of belonging and can actively participate can help people live longer, better quality lives - which should be everyone’s priority I believe. 

"Relationships matter, loneliness kills."

The other area to watch is the science of modern ageing. There is so much scientific work going into how to improve our health spans and reduce our risks of chronic disease. The data in this area is pointing to some steps every individual can take to age better. 

Resident picking fruit at a community vegetable garden at Coastal Waters

What is modern retirement? Would you call moving to a retirement village an intelligent choice?

Decisions on where people live are very personal. A couple of things I like people to think about when they are considering where they want to live in the second half of their retirement, usually after they’ve lived in a lifestyle home, is to think about two things: 

  1. Where they are going to get ‘community’, activity and fulfilment in their lives in their later years. Remember that point above – loneliness kills. It’s proven. And set yourself up so you don’t get lonely in your latter years. 
  2. To consider whether they can age in place in their home without it becoming a burden and access services, support and home care to support them, minimising their risks of needing to go to aged care. Many people can avoid having to go into aged care simply by making smarter decisions about where they live. 

Retirement living is a powerful way to solve both of these considerations. We can make choices in our 70s and 80s that make a big difference to our quality of life in your 70s, 80s and 90s. 

"Many people can avoid having to go into aged care simply by making smarter decisions about where they live."

What are some of the challenges retirees face today?

Well, the first is that people are living longer, healthier lives but there’s no template for what life should look like, no rules to guide us through. That’s strange when you think about how significantly societal norms drive what we do in the first half of our lives. 

The second is financial uncertainties, particularly for those in their 70s and 80s today who didn’t get as much access to superannuation in their working years. The Age Pension is certainly a wonderful system, if you have superannuation to supplement it. But if you don’t, many people find they need to live fairly frugally. 

The third is their sense of purpose and fulfilment. If you give up work at 60 or 65 and you live beyond the average life expectancy for a 65 year old of 85 for men or 88 for women, there’s a real need to consider how you’ll spend this time and what you’ll do to keep yourself feeling stimulated and fulfilled. 

The fourth is that people are living longer and their ability to maintain larger or older style properties in the last third of their lives gets harder and harder. Families are busy with both parents working, so this older generation needs to look to services to help them. 

And the fifth is recognising their need to be able to age in a suitable home or retirement community and access homecare where they live. People need to recognise when their health is declining, temporarily or permanently and be proactive about accessing support when they need it, before their health creates an emergency that forces them into aged care. 

How would you look at the role of community in retirement living and its impact on overall wellbeing?

I love the whole retirement communities sector. I think it plays a really crucial role, and I think it really is coming into its heyday. The science of modern ageing points to the power of communities in ageing being some of the most significant factors in longevity and good health. And practically, it’s really sensible for people who are proactive about ageing well to live somewhere where they can live in what are becoming quite groovy modern facilities, often as nice as or nicer than modern apartments, access community services, age appropriate exercise, special activities and incredible facilities in place. It’s got to be having a positive effect on wellbeing. 

"The science of modern ageing points to the power of communities in ageing being some of the most significant factors in longevity and good health."

A resident community at Coastal Waters retirement village

What do you see as the future of retirement living?

I think we will start to understand this sector as a service industry rather than just a property sector solution and we will recognise the value we all get from being a part of a community that is well organised, accessing services that are well-run and living in a low maintenance home with access to support. It’s different to every other space in the real estate market and I think we need to think about it as a health and housing service combined.  This sector has the opportunity to really lead the way on how we all age better. 

"This sector has the opportunity to really lead the way on how we all age better. "

Can you give some practical steps to live a longer, better and financially confident life?

Always! I’m full of practical tips, steps and instructions! 

  1. Understand how long you might live and don’t underestimate how much fulfilment you can continue to get into your life, at every stage, if you stay curious.
  2. Be intentional about the people that really matter to you. Relationships matter – they really do. If you neglect them – they’ll neglect you. 
  3. Take the health and maintenance of your body, mind and senses seriously. Without them, your quality of life drops quickly. 
  4. Get your head around how happiness really works and be curious enough to keep looking for it, in every stage of your life. 
  5. Find a sense of purpose and seek out activities that have a higher meaning. And keep doing so. Learning doesn’t stop at retirement, or at any other age – it stops when you stop. 
  6. Get out there and travel – and take your toughest trips first. You just don’t know when your physical body will limit you from active travel. And even when you have limitations, look for ways to keep adventure in your life. 
  7. Understand how your home needs change through the different phases of retirement and how to prepare for a good later life. 

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