I arrived on the scene smack in the middle of the baby boom. I’m just one of the more than 5.5 million Australians born in the 20 years after the end of World War II.
The oldest of the ‘boomers’ have reached their allotted three score and 10. They are likely, having made it to 70, to live another 20 years. Some of them will become centenarians. At the other end of the boom, the youngest have celebrated half a century on the planet and are busy telling themselves 50 is the new 30!
More than 3.5 million Australians are retirees today and 8 million are over 50. In 20 years, even if they push the retirement age out to 70, all 5.5 million baby boomers will have reached retirement age. We are certainly witnessing a new phenomenon.
The marketers have a whole new generation to target. The baby boomers tend to be more cashed up than their parents. They represent a massive money-making opportunity. Just look at all the advertising now aimed at selling them everything from retirement villages to an overseas holiday.
If you haven’t arrived there yet you might be wondering what happens when you retire? Well, people approach you with suggestions, like writing for this newspaper. They could ask you to volunteer or join a social group they are involved in.
You may even decide you want to keep working. I did. My new role is as chief advocate with an organisation representing the interests of the over 50s, called National Seniors. It has around 200,000 members.
I started in mid-February after the holidays because we have two children both still at school. The eldest is in Year 9 and her sister is in Year 6. They seem to both prefer me to be still actively working rather than being retired.
And there is so much to do. National Seniors is a member organisation offering, among other things, financial information.
This year there have been big changes to pensions and superannuation, so I’ve been hosting breakfast seminars with one of our two financial information officers. We also have member groups in each state and territory who work with our policy office to make budget submissions to state governments. Then there’s the Federal Budget as well.
Changes to aged care and a new shift to consumer directed care are complex and require a lot of reading, understanding and interpreting. But perhaps the biggest issue that’s hit the headlines since I took up my new role is the range of concerns around retirement villages prompted by a recent Fairfax Media/Four Corners investigation.
National Seniors has long pushed for national legislation that would provide a simple, fair contract. We also want a complaints commissioner with national oversight. This is the situation in New Zealand and we believe it should apply here. We are lobbying the Federal Government and the states and territories to reform this area of consumer law.
Meanwhile, if you are considering a retirement village, the best advice is to obtain legal advice before you sign anything. The contracts can be complicated and confusing and you need to have a clear understanding of all fees and charges. The legislation varies from state to state and the contracts vary from one village operator to the next.
Remember the Latin legal phrase caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware, because you could be a long time retired.
Ian Henschke is Chief Advocate with National Seniors. www.nationalseniors.com.au