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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Get on board to enjoy the ride with the Third Age Economy baby boomers

Expats that put enough money aside during their working lives can enjoy the fruits of their labour during retirement 

Illustration by Gary Clement
Illustration by Gary Clement

"I was expecting holidays, experiences, fun - instead there were Zimmer frames and stairlifts," a woman told her friends, as much laughter ensued.

I was sitting behind a gaggle of grey-haired poster girls for the Third Age Economy. They had occupied the coveted front row atop a London double decker red bus, and were catching up while winding through the capital, on their way to a chosen spot for lunch. I wasn’t eavesdropping - no need - they were very loud as they talked about the trips and experiences they’d had since they last met.

The one doing the talking was reporting back on an exhibition she’d been to recently, aimed at the salt and pepper dollar. Except, they got it very wrong. Baby-boomers have grown older yes, but they’re healthy, wealthy, and living life to the full.

The third age is defined as: the period in life of active retirement, following middle age.

Two concepts need to be revisited in that one sentence - ‘retirement’ and ‘middle age’.

Haven’t you heard? Sixty is the new 40.

Mandatory retirement age aside, the money is with the mature crowd, and there will be more of them about.

According to the World Bank, the UAE is one of the top 10 countries globally that will experience the largest increase in the share of people aged 60 and over between 2000 and 2050 – with a rise of more than 22 per cent.

We’re all getting older, so what does this mean for you?

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Will you be starting new experiences during your third age, or worrying about money? Three out of five expats in the UAE won’t have enough funds to maintain their desired lifestyle in retirement. This according to a survey conducted by Guardian Wealth Management, released in 2016.

My hope is that you’ve been putting money aside to spend when you no longer earn and, to encourage you to keep it up, I’d like to share the stories of a few people I know, and what they have done to set themselves up for their lifetimes.

Greg owns mooring alongside one of London’s boroughs. He has amassed six floating homes - they include Dutch barges, a fishing boat and a curiosity that he’s converted into two studio flats. He owns everything outright and earns around Dh550,000 a year from rent. He has no outgoings other than council tax and upkeep, so he’s sorted. If he chooses to sell up, that would be around Dh10 million in the bank, and that’s just for the moorings. He had to pay cash for everything over the years, as this isn’t the sort of thing banks like to lend money for.

Others I have spoken to are not so adventurous, but are in the black; one has three separate pensions kicking in, he’s done everything by the book in terms of paying into funds, and maxing out what his employer will contribute towards pension funds, and is now sitting pretty.

Another is selling his share in a business – a hugely risky route to take as a retirement plan – but the structure of the business he co-owns means he didn’t have to rely on a payout as he had dividends for years, and would have continued to receive them had the company not sold.

This last person is fortunate in terms of personal timing too, he has just crossed 60, and this means he’s free to do as he pleases. But instead of a lifetime of holidaying, he has consultancies lined up – he wants to stay active and involved.

If you’ve played it right, you’re on your way to being able to do as you wish once your legal working age passes you by in the UAE. Elsewhere in the world, those relentlessly chasing of youth spend are waking up to the fact that they are often broke and that spending power resides with the over 50’s. It’s not just about spending more, but doing more too. Like becoming an entrepreneur, with the money saved up for ‘later on in life’. After all, if you’re fit, financially astute and adventurous, you won’t want to while away your years on a cruise to nowhere.

A friend of the women I was listening to on the bus has started up an exquisitely furnished holiday let business. The one complaint from her friends was her attention to detail, like having a beautiful poem left open on the bedside table, meant they were too scared to truly let go incase they damaged something. A tea-stain on a tablecloth, or the poetry book, was to be avoided at all cost.

She is one of a growing band of older entrepreneurs. Some taking on more conventional routes of becoming landlords and buying properties to let out - all the while learning, doing, creating, and earning too.

The Third Age Economy is an economic powerhouse. Companies and governments are learning to ignore it at their peril. I hope you realise this too. Save up for the fun you’ll be having later on.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist and blogger. Share her journey on finding-nima.com