My Story – Raymond T

I’ve been retired for a few years now. It was made official when I received an “Employee Separation Certificate”! I’m a self-funded retiree in my mid-50s, with intentions to keep my cognitive skills going, keep myself busy, be intellectually motivated and socially connected.

Prior to retirement I was mentoring grad students on a volunteer basis as alumni of a university. In retirement this evolved into mentoring former colleagues. I was at the stage in life where I had experience, knowledge and a nuanced ability to navigate some of the more complexed situations; I could share the situational constructs and pass onto others. I wanted to help others so they could develop their capabilities, create an independent aptitude and develop their own professional toolkit. The outcome, make myself redundant; again. I do hear from the ‘mentees’ from time-to-time which is nice from a social point of view, but is usually about a complex professional situation. Mentoring was a great way to broader my network of connections.

Once retired, I started contributing to community ‘not-for-profit’ organisations where I could help develop procedures, policies and governance documents, that would enable them to meet grants requirements and improve their funding and revenue base. My public sector/government experience is very valuable in helping them to figure out who to talk to and what protocols to follow, and what language to use. Many of these organisations have their hearts in the right place, but struggle with the bureaucratic elements when they need to interact with government. And that’s where I can contribute.

I treat the work like projects, I start with a conversation to find out what their critical milestones are, what skills they need, what tasks they need done, and what timelines they are working to. I like to see where the gaps are and how I can help address these. Then I offer myself to do a scope of work with some constraints on my availability. I don’t want to commit to something I can’t deliver so I take some time to manage expectations. I have other things I want to do – this volunteer work is one part of the picture where I can cognitively entertain myself. I also get to use and apply skills that I learnt over many years – there’s no point in having them go to waste. I want to help them make progress, and lend a hand.

I do this pro bono/100% volunteer, though from time to time someone buys me lunch. I like variety and getting to meet different people. I like to challenge myself. I don’t want to diminish my wellbeing or my life. I need to look after myself, I’ve got quite a few more years to live!

I really enjoy seeing community do well, for individual organisations and as a whole. I think there’s a balance to find, even an obligation to meet, between profit maximising and taking care of people. A sense of community is quite fundamental to how I see myself and how I position myself. I’ve always been involved in some extra-curricular activities across my working life where I could contribute to community. My social ethos is that I don’t want people to be “left behind”.  My parents influenced me strongly, as they migrated to Australia from Malaysia with a young family and faced many challenges in establishing themselves into a new country, culture and community.

I come to these opportunities because people ask for me through their networks, and also because I find them. I treat it serendipitously … well I did before the (COVID-19) pandemic!

In the pandemic I have taken a different approach. I’m working with a financial organisation as a paid employee – an entry-level employee. I   assist people with financial difficulties arising from pandemic, bushfires, floods etc. This has filled a void, as the community projects seemed to “hurry to stop”, and the interactions where I could contribute diminishing. I’m enjoying being an entry-level employee because– it means less responsibility. I get to do a lot of customer contact which is really good from a social perspective. I get to be an incidental mentor to the younger peers I work alongside, given my mature life experience. I’m also learning from them – the team I work with is very diverse, very astute and happy to share their knowledge!

It was a complete change for me, after working in government for so many years, the private sector seems different but sometimes the same. The current work of the financial organisation is driven by the outcomes of the various Royal Commission findings (into financial institutional practices) and it’s nice to contribute to positive change remedies and outcomes. It was really easy to get me onboard in such a situation where I can do what’s best for the customer. I get really good vibes, a positive euphoria from the outcomes we’re able to achieve; it’s really rewarding!

As money is no longer the motivation, I can choose each organisation that I work with on the basis of my contribution and their values set.  I often think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. My hygiene needs have been met, and now I’m able to work on higher levels towards the elusive “self-actualisation”. I also think of Maslow’s Hierarchy in terms of where I can help others – as in organisations and community programs – get beyond the basics to do better for the people they serve.

I’ve observed former colleagues not plan their exit strategy for entering retirement. I was thinking about my own transition about 12-24 months before the point of separation. I was keen to take some steps to prepare (not in any big way), being a volunteer, consulting work with community organisations and plenty of holidays. I’m a planner – I love a good spreadsheet!  I really felt that because I’m 54/11 (i.e., an Australian Commonwealth Public Sector retirement financial strategy) funded, that I’m still being paid by the taxpayer, and should continue to contribute to community.

Before I retired, I was seconded to a Commonwealth Government program called Jarwun for public and private sector organisations to work for 6 weeks with an indigenous community organisation and then some post placement support. I saw being part of this program as an opportunity to build connections with indigenous organisations, and a build a broader network of people for present and future. When I retired, I reached out to the Jarwun alumni, and let them know I was willing to offer my services for volunteer work.

My path for the next few years includes making sure my children are set and feel financially secure. We have some carer responsibilities for my mother-in-law. My darling wife has a few more years to go until retirement, so I had managed some “short overseas excursion” with other family members, although this strategy was wearing thin. Our significant European Holiday never “took-off” because of COVID, but by comparison to how so many others have suffered, through this pandemic, our holiday plans are insignificant. We’ll see how long I stay with the financial organisation or go back to community work – so much is unknown right now. Although if there is an announcement of an arrival of grand-children, I’ll have 9 months to re-arrange ALL the plans.


Raymond’s workscape is 39 years and counting as he’s not ready to stop helping others and making a positive difference in the world.