A conversation with David Stocks and Stuart Wood, founders of Retirement Works
Retirement Works is a virtual marketplace that allows the older generation to sell their professional and life experience to the younger generation. For David and Stuart, this idea came from quite a personal place –
“Each of us saw first-hand how our parents struggled when they retired. Boredom, anxiety and even depression in what should have been a time when pressures and stresses are lifted. Society suddenly saw them as “old” and “expired”, when this was far from the truth! They were at the top of their game but through inactivity lost their sense of purpose, along with the social interaction and mental stimulation that work used to provide. When you see someone you love struggle, you want to do something about it. And let’s face it, we all get old. So we all win if we can make retirement the positive, productive experience it should be.
We realized that this problem was bigger than just our parents. The world sees the ageing population as a problem not an opportunity. Our vision is to unlock the value of the older generation’s experience – by creating a marketplace for their advice. We think Retirement Works fills a big gap in the labor market: allowing retirees to keep working on their terms – rather than on the terms of whichever employer is willing to take them on. And it’s only right that people are able to earn a fair retirement income – at least 2.5X national minimum wage (£20 per hour) on our platform.
Do you think how old you are today, is relevant to how you think about yourself and why?
For me, age is a weird thing. It’s like this invisible pressure constantly checking that you’re measuring up to where you should be by a certain number. That you’re behaving appropriately. You’re 32 so don’t act like you’re in your 20’s... But hey you’re only 32 so don’t take life too seriously yet. Personally I find that with every year I understand myself better and feel more comfortable. But I am always checking myself. Have I achieved as much as I was supposed to by this age? I hope so. But I also think we should stop asking ourselves these questions. Age related milestones aren’t helpful.
"We reinforce age stereotypes by behaving how we think we’re meant to. Even if those around us couldn’t care less! We should try to get over that and go wherever we want, and behave however we want. Whatever our age."
Stuart Wood and David Stocks, Retirement Works.
Do you think how old you are today, changes how people think about you and why?
It’s all relative. So family and friends? No it doesn’t. I will always be as much younger or older than the people I already know. But it does scare me a bit. As my parents get old, will we see each other differently? Will it feel like there’s more of an age divide between us? And what about my son? He’s only 3 months old now, and (I hope) he’ll see me as his strong indestructible daddy. But over time I know that will change. Which again is a bit scary. I remember when I saw my own dad lose a just-for-fun race to one of my teenage friends. That was a sad day.
As for work colleagues and contacts - yes it does. Now I’m a little less fresh-faced, I’d say the people I meet across the table take me more seriously. It makes sense to a point - the older I get the more professional and life experience I gain. But I do remember not having a voice in my earlier career in certain rooms where hierarchy trumped good ideas.
Is there a difference between people who know you and people who you have just met? Could you give us an example?
I find meeting new people very liberating. There’s no baggage. No insecurities that influence how I act. It’s why we feel so free when we travel alone. You can be whoever you want to be. Perhaps every time we meet someone we should act like it’s the first time we’ve ever met.
What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?
"We should be as happy and productive in our 60’s and 70’s as we were in our 20’s. Perhaps even more so, because as we get older we become more efficient, less insecure and more resilient."
Stuart Wood and David Stocks, Retirement Works.
Life is pretty tough for both younger and older people right now. Pay growth is sluggish, prices are rising, and professional opportunities are limited. Again we think this is part of something bigger. If the older workforce had opportunities like Retirement Works there would be more opportunity and prosperity for people in the younger workforce like us. According to PWCs Golden Age Index study in Sweden, older age employment is far higher than the UK, with 69% of those aged 55-64 employed versus only 50% in the UK. If the UK had the equivalent level of older age employment as Sweden, it could mean an additional £100bn (or +5% GDP) to the UK economy. Keeping more older people in work actually improves employment prospects for younger generations. As the number of workers aged 55 and over increases, overall employment rises and unemployment falls, and there is even some evidence that younger peoples’ wages also increase. So it is in the interests of all of us to enable more older people to stay in work.
Is there one thing which makes you happiest right now? Do you think this has to do with your age?
Seeing my boy smile. Being a new dad is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. And there’s no happier moment that when my son feels so safe that he falls asleep in my arms. Or feels so happy that he smiles and chuckles while he’s flapping his arms and legs like a chicken. And it has everything to do with age. His age and mine. He’s brand new to the world and discovering everything for the first time. So innocently and beautifully naively. And I’m old enough to realize that these interactions with him are the most important things in the world. As a younger, more insecure person I may have had my attention on other things.
What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?
think a lot of it is down to self-imposed pressure. It’s not just that others
have certain expectations of people in different age brackets. It’s that we set
ourselves milestones. Create rules to follow. And we scold ourselves if we
break them. I’m too young and inexperienced to do this. I’m too old and old
fashioned to be here, around these people. We reinforce age stereotypes by
behaving how we think we’re meant to. Even if those around us couldn’t care
less! We should try to get over that and go wherever we want, and behave
however we want. Whatever our age.
What can you learn from people who are older?
Everything. Like many young people I was filled with bravado when I was starting out in my career. I felt like the world was changing so much, with the rise of technology, that experience was becoming obsolete. No one had been in the situations before because they hadn’t existed before. It took me a little while to realize how wrong I was. As humans we tend to go through the same fundamental challenges over and over again. The scenario may change, the technologies may change, but how you work with people and get to solutions requires the same skills it always has. And the more challenges you overcome professionally, and personally, the better you get at doing it. Our service is intentionally very broad. Because there’s an enormous amount to be learned from older people in every professional field, and aspect of personal life.
"Let’s face it, we all get old. So we all win if we can make retirement the positive, productive experience it should be."
Stuart Wood and David Stocks, Retirement Works.
What can you learn from people who are younger?
It’s easy to forget to act young. To keep exploring and asking “silly” questions. The most inspiring people I’ve met have remained open minded and fought the temptation to become cynical. To refuse to believe that history repeats itself, and there’s not much you can do to change it. The world can be changed for the better but only if we believe it’s possible. If we believe that everything’s getting worse, everything probably will get worse. Or more positively, if we think there’s a chance at an open, inclusive, optimistic world, then there’s nothing stopping us from building it.
What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?
If age vanished and people were all just alive, I think they would remember to enjoy it more. The conventional wisdom states that your best years are when you’re in your 20s, and from that point forward it’s all downhill. I find that maddening because that’s only 10-15% of our lives. We should be as happy and productive in our 60’s and 70’s as we were in our 20’s. Perhaps even more so, because as we get older we become more efficient, less insecure and more resilient. We know what the short cuts are, and we know how to avoid blind alleys. Currently those people are left feeling like they have the least to offer, when in reality they have the most. This is what Retirement Works wants to change.
Retirement Works has a Kickstarter campaign live right now to secure £40k in order to build a prototype platform.
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