Columns
Never too old to work
Yeoh Guan Jin 
In Malaysia one could still go back to work after age 60, if the company agrees to extend his employment
advertisement[x]

RETIREMENT is a life-changing experience. After all, walking out of a 30 or 40-year career is not something we will do casually. Of course you're not the first person to clock out for the last time, nor will you be the last. Countless others have come - or rather gone - down that same path before you, and there’s a lot you can learn from them.

But let’s face it - not everyone experiences the same thing. Every individual is unique and the challenges he face will be different.

The more pessimistic among us will see retirement as a curtain call ­– the end of a long and useful life. They sit back not to relive a great and wonderful experience but to regret what they could have done but never did.

They let the failures overshadow their successes.

On the other hand, some people see it as a new beginning, a chance to really focus on new interests, or things that they had always wanted to do but were not able to because they were too busy chasing the next big deal or managing an ongoing crisis.

This is when they get to indulge in a new hobby or to finally visit the places they have always wanted to but never had time for. It could be a safari in Kenya, sailing down the Nile in Egypt or exploring the Catacombs of Rome.

But there is only so much one can do after retirement. What happens after you have taken that Alaskan cruise, explored the many temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia or simply drink yourself silly in a beer garden in Munich?

 

Invaluable experience

What if you don’t have to retire? What if your company allows you to continue serving in the same capacity, with the same compensation and benefits for as long as you like, so long as you still have the physical and mental capacity to perform the same functions?

After all, if you are still as good at what you do at age 65 as you were at age 30, why should you be forced to throw in the towel?

Advancing age also brings with it invaluable experience and that counts a lot for any company.

After all, we do elect people who are already in their seventies or eighties as our leaders, and that for a job in which they have no previous experience.

Donald Trump - known more for his business acumen than a knack for politics - was 71 when he was elected the 45th president of the United States. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is already 92. Not too long ago, some people even proposed he contests in the next general election.

Why should ordinary folk like us be any different? Why should we be made to stay home for good when we turn 60 or 65?

As a matter of fact, mandatory retirement is illegal in some countries, such as Australia and the US.

Of course there are exceptions, and rightly so. In Australia, soldiers are required to get out of their uniform at age 60. After all, we can’t expect a person in his 60s to bear arms and rush into the battlefield.

 

Retirement benefits

In Canada, the retirement age is 65. That’s the age when one gets to collect his retirement benefits. But he cannot be forced out of the workforce if he chooses to continue working.

In Malaysia one could still go back to work after age 60, if the company agrees to extend his employment. But that is mostly under newly-negotiated terms.

Of course with a more flexible retirement age or, in the case of Australia and the US where forced retirement is unlawful, one could end up with many seniors in the workforce.

In the US, several employees at Publix Super Markets are already in their nineties.

Workers just don’t want to check out of this employee-owned supermarket chain based in Lakeland, Florida, despite the great retirement benefits.

A stock-ownership plan ensures that those who choose to leave can retire worry-free. Over and above that are hefty holiday bonuses. Better yet, part-timers enjoy the same benefits.

But many of its almost 180,000 employees seem to want to stay on its payroll for life.

Looking at it objectively, if a person is still good at what he does, there is no reason to force him to stop. For a start, his experience will always be an asset to the company. He can even serve as a mentor to younger colleagues.

For the individual, being gainfully employed also brings with it some dignity.

But for businesses, it’s mostly a question of cost. A person with that many years in the company would likely be in the highest pay bracket. The company could end up paying a lot less by just replacing him with a younger worker who can perform the same task.

For the record, the oldest person still working full time is Anthony Mancinelli. In 2012, he made it to the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest practising barber. He was aged 101 that year, according to a May 17 article on businessinsider.com.

Mancinelli celebrated his 106th birthday in May, and he’s still happily snipping away in his salon in New York City.

He does not show any sign that he’ll retire anytime soon.

Yeoh Guan Jin, a veteran journalist, recently retired. Comments: editor@focusmalaysia.my



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 259.