Time to Smell the Roses
Not everyone, however, holds ambitions of a seat at the board table or a late-life career. Some want to shift completely out of the corporate arena, bound for a more conventional form of retirement.
For the past 42 years Malcolm McCowan has steered a steady course. The company he worked for endured several ownership changes but he remained a fixture. Since 1977 he has been the manager of information technology for what is now Dana Automotive Systems Group, which makes rear axles for Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons.
However, a decision by Holden to shift suppliers, coupled with the US parent's financial problems, led the company to announce plans to retrench 160 of its 500 employees at their Yennora, NSW, plant in July. For McCowan, the timing was good - if he could convince the company to pay him out. "I turned 64 on the first of May," McCowan says. "Financially I had to put my hand up as the tax benefits [of retrenchment] disappear at 65."
He did not expect to have his application accepted - but it was. And on July 1 McCowan left the company with a golden handshake comprising three weeks pay for every year of service, plus a further four weeks, topped up with his 10 months of long service and accrued leave. "As the tax accountant said: 'You've won the lottery'," McCowan says. "Ideally I'd have liked to go a few more years - perhaps part time - but that's not a part of the philosophy of this group."
Without the prospect of part-time work McCowan has been planning how he will spend his time, spurred by his wife's remark that "she'd married me for better or worse, not for lunch". He will continue his daily swim, luxuriating in a 6.30am rather than 6.00am start. He already has a series of projects around the house that he wants to commence or complete, and spend more time with family. Then there is his letter writing.
For the past seven years McCowan has been penning letters to prisoners in Texan jails, many of whom would otherwise get no correspondence. He is planning to step up the letter writing, and possibly also travel to Texas to meet his pen pal inmates for the first time. "I can imagine my friends here asking what I will do there, and the looks on their faces when I say: 'Well, I am going to prison'." He is also planning to spend more time doing voluntary work, and writing articles for publications and letters to other contacts around the world.
Will he miss the IT? No is the short answer. He is going to redirect his Web addresses and news feeds to his home PC, but he will not be craving any of the IT responsibilities. "No, I won't miss anything. I tend to look forward - I don't think I've got any regrets."
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