How to Have an Epic Retirement

A book review by Eamonn Murphy

Last year, the streets of France were full of protestors, all in opposition to the French government’s increase of the retirement age from 62 to 64. Closer to home, Australia recently lifted its retirement age, entitling only those aged over 67 to the pension. When the Australian government released its 2024 budget, the media’s focus was on digits: a $2.2 billion increase in aged care funding, an additional $3.4 billion for new medications on the PBS, $882.2 million for access to essential services.

However, what these numbers neglect to address is the reality of retirement. Practically speaking, what does a successful retirement look like?

This where Rebecca ‘Bec’ Wilson’s How To Have An Epic Retirement steps in. Wilson, the founder and former CEO of online platforms Starts at 60 and Travel at 60, is well respected as an expert in retirement. She has not only engaged directly with the over-sixties community through her digital media empire, but also been consulted by companies developing services and products for retirees.

Wilson is a weekly columnist for the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, and her credentials as an authority for retirement advice are self-evident. She is a frank author, unpatronising but informative, and she provides the necessary advice that empowers readers to take charge of their retirement journeys.

Wilson considers a successful retirement to have six ‘pillars’. The first essential pillar is ‘time’, and Wilson encourages readers to understand how long they might live: given constant improvements to modern medicine, the length of retirement is ever-increasing.

This understanding of time then influences the second pillar: money. Wilson covers the more obvious examples of saving the amount necessary for leading a comfortable retirement and accessing your superannuation fund. She also addresses pension and concession entitlements, the question of continuing to work in retirement, and the often daunting topic of estate planning.

Not all, however, is daunting. Wilson encourages readers to maximise the happiness and fulfilment of retirement – the fourth pillar – and find meaning and purpose in what inevitably becomes a quieter lifestyle. At the same time, she cautions that the third pillar, health, is essential for an ‘epic retirement’.

Where travel comes in as the fifth pillar, allowing retirees the joy of ticking off the bucket list, home is the essential sixth pillar. Wilson speaks not only to the decision of whether and when to downsize, but also to the difficult adjustment of moving into aged care or assisted living.

The book’s title, and the tropical beachside chairs on its cover, may lead a reader to dismiss How To Have An Epic Retirement as light fodder. This would be a mistake.

Wilson is careful not to forget the ‘tough stuff’ — the possibility of health forcing an early retirement, the loss of cognitive capacity, and the risk of elder financial abuse — and she doesn’t couch this material in euphemism and fluff.

Instead, what Bec Wilson does – and successfully so – is discuss retirement in a comprehensive but approachable way. How To Have An Epic Retirement is an essential manual for planning the twilight years of life.