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Is it realistic to expect the over 50s to have no need for paid employment?

paid work or volunteering in your 50s imageArticle by Ceri Wheeldon

I attended an interesting event last week where the main focus was to identify how to support people over 50 through the path to self-employment. Much of the day was constructive (apart from the imput of an economist from the EU who insisted on referring to the over 50s as ‘older people’ or ‘old people’ throughout-(but that’s another post for another time!) but there was one part which provoked debate and for me concern.

Should the over 50s volunteer and not be encouraged to do paid work

One of the panel discussions was hosted ‘by Esther Rantzen who took the debate off course as she started the session off by saying that the last thing we should was encourage the over 50s to work- as they were needed in the voluntary sector- and how would charities survive without them? Suggesting that those in their 50s had no need to work for financial gain.

I admire those who do work on a voluntary basis – I know many who willingly give up their time  – but personally I know very few who can afford to do so on a full time basis – certainly in their 50s.

It did strike me though how the reality of the life of someone in their 50s today, has changed from a generation ago. Looking around at my peers- most are in paid employment or self employment. None of us are in a position to give up work- nor do we want to. Is it realistic to expect any of us today to fund the remainder of our lives (we could live to be 100) through what we have earned in perhaps only 30 years of paid employment – especially when we have at least 15 – years before we can anticipate drawing any form of state pension?

We all like to give back – how much time we can give is all down to personal circumstances – but for most of us it is a financial necessity to continue to work – we are having families later than previous generations and with university fees and the high cost of housing, many of our generation still need to help finance their children – and often elderly parents too. Many of us have seen our pensions and investments plummet through the financial crisis – and so again have had to revisit our plans for the future.

Although I recognise that many charities relay on volunteers, I was worried by Esther’s presumption that the over 50s did not need to work.

Any thoughts?




Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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  1. Andrew Wilkinson

    November 21, 2012

    Presumably Esther’s comment was meant to be humourous as clearly to repay a student loan, finish buying a whole house and accumulate sufficient guaranteed retirment income for the rest of your life all by the age of 50, you would probably have to be a city trader, have floated your own business or be a top international sportsperson footballer. The new reality is needed to earn well into one’s 70’s.

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      November 21, 2012

      Thanks for your comment Andrew- I’m not sure she was being humourous- perhaps a little out of touch! Like you I anticipate working until at least 70!

  2. Jayne

    November 26, 2012

    I think if I had stayed in the corporate sector and started to save some of my salary (instead of spending it all!) I could have expected to fund retirement by 65. Certainly not in my 50s!

    Since I didn’t do that, but instead started my own business, I now expect to work until 70 at least.


    December 14, 2012

    I am shocked at Esther Rantzen’s comment. I thought she was more intelligent. How does she think people are going to pay their bills? Very out of touch! I am looking to work right up to 80! I have to. I lost EVERYTHING after a divorce, and had to start my life all over again at 50. I am now 55 and back in accommodation, and now fully furnished. Thankfully I do have a pension to come which is frozen at the moment until I reach pension age in 2022, as I worked for Hackney Council for 10 years, but even then I still need to make sure I have extra put aside. Unless I win the lottery, its work, work, work for me.

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      December 14, 2012

      I think so many of us are having to face a future of work and delayed retirement. Even if money has been set aside in private pension pots most will fall far short of providing a level of income to live off due to the instability of the financial markets. Nose to the grindstone as they say!

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