The Raski revolution

2013-01-14 00:00

A MIDLANDS online community aims to share and promote the skills of a group of retired people who are still active and able to share their expertise.

This phenomenon is a growing trend internationally where retirement does not necessarily mean the end of a career.

Traditionally, people would start looking forward to retirement at the age of 65. If they were lucky, they had a nest egg stashed away and could dream of a few years of care-free living.

But this is a pipe dream for many, who later face poverty and hardship due to bad investments and poor health.

Raski is an acronym for “Retired and Spending the Kids Inheritance”. T his tongue-in-cheek name is the brainchild of Peter Hall, who found himself looking for ways to supplement his income when he moved to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands nine years ago with his wife Cathy.

They bought a lovely country property just off the R103 Midlands Meander country route.

They opened a small, intimate restaurant named the Cooking Bear. This kept them busy and the profits kept them operating, but they often came across other retirees who had skills that were not being utilised.

“We met many people who had an abundance of skills, and we were all wondering about the future and the cost of living.”

Hall met a man who had been retrenched and had taken his love of restoring antiques to the next level and was doing it professionally. “His work was quite beautiful. He had the time and the knowledge. We gave him a writing desk to restore. He did a fantastic job and we felt that he was a true example of a Raski.”

Those on the Raski network are offering their skills to other members and the public in general, and Peter believes there are a lot of benefits to hiring the services of a retired person.

He says: “We have a huge knowledge base and are not the new kids on the block. We are likely to charge a more affordable fee than someone who is trying to make a killing. We are experienced and know what works. We have the time and the skill to devote to your project, and we won’t be juggling a corporate schedule.”

Peter says he and Cathy both have skills and services they can offer on the commercial market, and being mature should not be detrimental.

Cathy was a lecturer and a personal investment banker before taking early retirement to set up her dream of a country restaurant in the Midlands. Her delectable gourmet skills are all self-taught.

Peter is an IT professional and networking consultant. He has written a book of short stories and has helped Cathy run the restaurant. Both of them feel they have a lot to offer. “My wife and I are both Raskis. We work part-time because we enjoy it and because there’s a bonus — it helps to protect our pensions for another year or two. We are far too fit, active and innovative to retire full-time.”

Their website www.raski.co.za has a magazine format and offers various topics of interest. Many retired people write articles for the website. Peter says it costs nothing for members to join the site and to list their skills or services.

They have members from other provinces on the site. Peter says pensioners need to raise a united voice against issues that affect them. He says the rising cost of food prices and the bizarre Eskom tariffs are cause for concern. He says most pensions are not adequately linked to inflation.

According to Old Mutual’s Retirement Monitor, an estimated 58% of South Africans are expected to continue working after reaching the retirement age of 60.

While most of them probably will not mind working, this will be dependent on their health.

A key factor in their work suitability is their ability to keep up with technology and trends. Those who have been doing physically demanding work will find it the hardest to keep up.

Martin Godfrey, a Pietermaritzburg financial adviser with Hereford, says the biggest problem is that too many people tend not to think of retirement in their younger years.

He said: “A lot of older people don’t have retirement annuities in place and, even if they start later in life, they can’t always afford the premiums required to make up the shortfalls.

“While most companies have a retirement age of 65, we are finding more and more, that potential retirees are not ready for, or wanting to take their retirement. Often, the pension they are to receive on retirement is totally inadequate and can often be as little as 25% of their last earned income. I am finding that it is more often out of desperation that the majority of retirees continue to work, as many still have bonds, hire purchase finance and even children at school.

“Many clients aged 60 to 65 have children at university (often as a result of a late marriage or a second marriage that has resulted in more children).

Some years back, the insurance industry relaxed the rule that retirement annuities must be cashed in at age 70. Now, one can continue to pay into, or leave as paid-up, a retirement annuity until it is actually needed. The bottom line, however, is that the cost of living has escalated to far higher levels than we anticipated and company pensions are just not cutting it.”

Roughly only one in 10 South Africans retire financially stable and unless the mind-set in the younger generation changes as well, this trend will get worse.

For active pensioners, the Internet offers an opportunity to support others in the same situation and to showcase their skills.

United States surveys have found that baby boomers from the fifties are the most likely to start some form of self-employment or entrepreneurship after they reach official retirement age.

Two factors come into play. The first is that someone is forced to work after they have retired because they have not made enough financial provision, and the second is that they are not ready, emotionally, to give up the thrill of work.

Research has already indicated that most people will have three to four different careers in one lifetime. Another advantage for retired people is that they don’t have the responsibilities of having to provide for a young family or pay for their children’s education.

Age brings with it wisdom and confidence, and, therefore, a greater chance of success. They may also have the money needed for start-up capital. Retirement can be the perfect opportunity to follow your passion.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

SOUTH Africa has been experiencing a loss of experienced professionals due to emigration and also those who are least likely to emigrate are of retirement age. Many professionals have gone into retirement.

The eThekweni Municipality is one of those organisations that has tried to recruit retired, skilled staff in a bid to rectify skills shortages. It has a massive shortage of electricians, technicians and engineers.

In 2012, it requested a budget of R18 million to pay retired contractors to return to work. The contractors would be brought back on 12-month contracts and they would be paid to train novices in the necessary skills.

“The recruitment of retired, highly competent and experienced scarce-skills personnel on short-term contracts will greatly assist the electricity unit in the mentoring, training and developing of new recruits,” said Sandile Maphumulo, head of the eThekweni electricity unit.

He said the fruits of these endeavours would fully manifest only in three to five years.

“Even though the electricity unit has made great strides in filling vacancies, there is a large number of new engineering staff who are young and inexperienced,” Maphumulo said in the report.

WHILE the recent census shows South Africa has a very young population, with the majority of the population being under 14 years of age, the opposite can be said of Britain where the top-heavy aged population presents a problem for economists.

Figures from the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that most people are living six years longer than before.

A man is expected to live to 79 years and a woman to 83 years. However, for the first time, the ONS has looked at the most common age for people to die.

Men will probably live to 85 and women until 89. Dr Jonathan Cave, an economist and population expert at Warwick University, said the rapid growth in the numbers of people living into what was once considered extreme old age could create a “tug of war” for scarce resources.

“The actuarial assumptions built in to national insurance and pension plans do take into account the risk that people might live long — but not extremely long,” he said.

Longer-than-expected life spans could also force a rethink on how fast to raise the retirement age, according to experts.

George Osborne announced that the future pension age would be linked to average life expectancy, which is set to increase to 67 by 2028.

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