4 reasons to work in retirement

Tom Sightings


If you are working in retirement, or even thinking about it, then join the crowd. According to a survey from Merrill Lynch, almost half of retirees have worked, or plan to work, sometime during retirement. And almost three quarters of workers over 50 say they will likely work in some form after they retire.

Some retirees go back to work because they need the money. But today, most people can look forward to longer lifespans, and they may not want to spend all that time in retirement. So many people keep working, or they retire and move on to another job. Other people don't view retirement as an extended vacation, like their parents may have. They want to stay engaged in a purposeful activity that contributes to society.

[See: 10 Alternatives to Full-Time Retirement.]

To be sure, working in retirement is often associated with people who have interesting jobs in the arts, education or business. They often possess special skills that allow them to stay on the job or retire to a part-time consulting position.

But professionals are not the only ones working in retirement. Many people quit the rat race, then take a lower-paying but less stressful job – sans the office politics. You may have to swallow a little pride because you no longer get invited to power lunches, but you can work at your own pace and enjoy the flexibility of a scaled-down schedule.

Here are four issues to keep in mind as you consider working in retirement.

Retirees are not necessarily slowing down. Age 65 is the traditional retirement age. But life expectancy has increased over time. Americans can now expect to live well into their 70s, and many of us will keep on ticking through our 80s and into our 90s. Our extended lifespans often come with additional years of good health. In addition, despite lingering age discrimination, studies show that our mental capabilities do not decline significantly until we become quite elderly. What we lose in quick thinking we make up for with more experience and better judgment.

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[See: 10 Places to Retire on a Social Security Budget.]

You're no longer expectedto retire. A century ago, retirement was almost unheard of. But Social Security, pensions and the post-war economic boom allowed more people to retire. At the same time, medical advances ushered in a longer life span, and many people can look forward to 20 or 30 years of retirement. For many retirees, this is too much time with nothing to do. They want to continue to contribute and be useful. Then there's the issue of financing retirement. It's one thing to spend a few of your twilight years without a paycheck, but quite another to finance two or three decades with no salary. And for better or worse, the government has recognized this new reality, raising the full retirement age for Social Security from 65 to 66 and soon to 67. If you retire at 65, you may be lonely because your friends are still at work.

Retirees work because they want to, not because they have to. Few people will turn down extra income, but many retirees work more for experience than money. Not everyone can afford to work for nothing, but many retirees say they work more for social interaction, mental stimulation and a feeling of self-worth. They volunteer their services to a cause they believe in, or work for an organization that may not pay as well, but offers them more self-fulfillment.

[See: The Best Places to Work in Retirement.]

You have a dream. Some people just keep on doing what they've been doing all their lives. But others have a long-held dream they can now pursue. A marketing executive goes to work in his hometown as a real estate agent, or a college athlete retires from business to coach a school sports team. Many others take time off to rediscover what truly holds their interest. They may supplement their income by reviving a forgotten talent, or they learn a new skill, meet new people and try something they never would have considered when starting their career. When you work in retirement, you don't have to feel pressured to work for the highest bidder. You can truly work for yourself.

Tom Sightings is the author of "You Only Retire Once" and blogs at Sightings at 60.

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

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