When Is the Right Time To Call It A Day?

Choosing the right time to retire can be a hard decision and will depend on your finances, work enjoyment, health and many other factors.

With judges, the retirement age is determined by legislation. Judges in SA have to retire at 70, although there is scope to sit on a part-time basis as auxiliary judges.

There have been substantial changes in life expectancy since the settlement of SA.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a male born in Australia between 1881 and 1890 had a life expectancy of 47.2 years, in 1960-1962 it was 67.9 years, and in 2013 it was 80.1 years. Females have had similar increases.

While people age at different rates, I have known many judges who could have continued to work competently for much longer than 70.

If, however, you do not have a compulsory retirement age then some judges may sit well past their "use-by" date.

The High Court of Australia did not introduce compulsory retirement at 70 until 1971. In the 1970s, one judge had been on the bench for 46 years. Apparently, at 84 he still had no intention of retiring but broke a hip while chasing a cricket in his hotel with a rolled up newspaper.

But then Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, refused to include a wheelchair ramp in the design of the new High Court building, prompting the elderly judge to retire.

Sir Garfield stayed on until he was 77, even though new judges had to retire at 70.

In the US, a sitting District Court judge was still hearing court cases at 104. Personally, I think that was a bit too long!

In the practice of law there is no compulsory retirement age, but the market place to some extent may determine when it is time to hang up the (metaphorical) wig and gown.

As the number of business contacts who are working – and hence referring work to you – diminishes, it makes it more likely that your partners will point (or push) you towards the door.

I suspect the situation is not that different with farming, although there is no statutory retirement date, nor the loss of clients. A farmer may, however, find the physical ravages point him or her toward retirement. After all they are not sitting at a desk most of the time.

If you have outside hobbies such as fishing, walking, reading or travel, you might not be able to wait to get out the door, but for many that is not the case.

At least in the law it is not the family who might be waiting for you to retire, as your workspace is usually separate from your family life. Anecdotal evidence among lawyers suggests the other half often looks at the idea of the spouse's retirement with horror!

In farming, the issue of retirement – or refusal to retire – can be the source of great tension, and potentially lead to destruction of the family unit (and the farm) as the parents and the children remaining on the farm may have a different roadmap, and different expectations.

The courts continue to deal with these succession issues which can be incredibly expensive, time consuming and destructive.

The best way to avoid litigation is to plan well ahead, and seek the input of your accountant and lawyer, which will cost much less than litigation, both financially and emotionally.

By Andrew Goode, Managing Partner, Mellor Olsson

This article was originally published in the Stock Journal on Thursday 13th August 2015.

Practice Area: Farm Law

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