Bruce Manners talks retirement—and planning for it

" . . . many people spend more time planning a two-week holiday than planning their retirement."

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Retirement: you may be willing, but are you ready?

Dr Bruce Manners is now an experienced retiree, a former church pastor and editor, and an active writer and speaker. He talked about his work, research and experience on and around his most recent book, Retirement Ready?

Why would an Adventist pastor write a book about preparing for retirement?

I see it helping baby boomers—the largest demographic in Australia and New Zealand—gain a better, more fulfilling retirement. As a church, we are not doing a lot for this demographic. In writing this book I rank myself with pastors who involve themselves in community health programs.

What are the unique aspects of Retirement Ready?

There are four: 1) It’s partly my personal story of discovery about retirement. 2) As a non-expert in the area I was forced to interview a range of experts and research widely. I think this gives strength to the book. 3) The book takes a broad look at preparing for retirement, while the majority of similar books focus only on finances. 4) There are a number of practical exercises to help individuals plan their best retirement. Among them is a rate-your-resources survey, allowing readers to rate themselves on financial, health, social and other resources for retirement. 

" . . . having enough money is not the most important part of preparing for retirement."

What do you consider the core Adventist values that underpin this book?

It’s a whole-of-life approach to preparing for retirement, which is very Adventist. You also see this approach in Jesus’ ministry. His ministry included healing the body and the mind, as well as touching the spiritual side. Retirement Ready? is deliberately written for a secular audience to be helpful to a wider readership.

What was your most surprising discovery in researching retirement?

Actually there were two. First, that having enough money is not the most important part of preparing for retirement. In fact, research shows being financially prepared is rarely the main reason for deciding when to retire. Second, that many people spend more time planning a two-week holiday than planning their retirement and retire with only vague notions of what they will do. It needs more thought than that.

How has your experience of retirement differed from the “theory”?

I had finished writing the book when I retired, but it wasn’t yet published. I was confident that I had most things in place when I retired. What I wasn’t prepared for was the absolutely tired feeling I had. It was as if my body knew I could stop—and forced me to. That lasted about four months. I’ve discovered from other retirees that this is not unusual.

In the book and presentations, I talk about retirement giving you more time to do the things you want to do. That’s true, but I’ve discovered that you still have to structure your time or you don’t get to do the things you want to do.

Dr Bruce Manners.
Dr Bruce Manners.

You have talked about the book and the information in quite a variety of settings. What responses have you received?

These talks have ranged from radio interviews and 15-minute Rotary talks to longer workshops. There’s usually surprise at the broadness of preparing for a successful retirement. The longer talks include how to plan; finances; physical and mental health; working out where to live; retiring as a couple; sex; regrets and more.

The response does depend on the audience. An Adventist audience merely nods when I talk about the value of a plant-based diet for health. There was a different response when I talked to a group of Rotarians who’d just eaten a thick steak. Most are fascinated by the principles involved in working out where to live in retirement. A couple of radio announcers seemed fascinated by the chapter on sex and had several questions about it.

How do you suggest this book might be used by individuals or local churches?

Retirement Ready? will help individuals plan their best retirement. And it would be easy to lend to people in their 50s and 60s. Perhaps a book-club approach—reading a chapter at a time and discussing it—would work among friends within and outside the church.

Retirement Ready? is available from Adventist Book Centres. Visit <RetireNotes.com> for more information and to subscribe to a free weekly newsletter.