Why would anyone want to work after retiring from a full time job or career? Didn't you spend all those years commuting, toiling away at a desk or factory floor, teaching kids who would rather be on the playground instead of a classroom, or dealing with insensitive customers so you could walk away from all that and enter that magic time of life called retirement? Isn't a satisfying retirement lifestyle all about never getting a paycheck again?
For an increasing number of Baby Boomers the answer is a resounding, "No!" The long-held image of retirement being a period of total leisure, only broken up by a round of golf and a nap, is really a cliché. Now, many of us are seeing retirement as simply another phase of our life that probably includes some form of work.
A satisfying retirement seems to mean something very different for those approaching or just entering retirement age than it did for earlier generations. True, retirees have always volunteered in droves and taken classes in art or photography. They have flown to Las Vegas or Paris and explored the world. They have helped raise grand kids. But, by and large, what they didn't do was work.
Welcome to a new retirement. While reliable figures are hard to come by some studies suggest up to half of all Baby Boomers plan on working ....after leaving work. Is this the new normal of retirement? The reasons are as varied as the people, but some common motivations are evident:
Want extra money/extra income. It isn't news that the economic mess of the last few years did a real number on folks' retirement accounts. Investments and home equity have disappeared faster that the Cubs' hopes of winning the World Series. Many boomers have left themselves in terrible straits with an average of less than $50,000 saved for retirement. That means many must work to make enough money to supplement an average social security payment of $1,200 each month. Even without $4 gas that doesn't stretch very far.
For others, the extra income is the "extra" that allows for a nicer lifestyle, vacations, giving money to children and grandkids, the latest iPad, a nice meal at a fancy restaurant once a week...all the things that make someone happy but would bust a budget without some additional income.
Want the benefits that come with working. For a lot of retirees, the benefits that come with certain jobs are either essential, or a welcome perk. A decent health insurance plan is the new gold standard of job benefits. It is likely you know someone, maybe even yourself, who has taken a job strictly for the health insurance.
Want the social interaction that can occur while working. A lot of folks miss the daily contact with others. "Water cooler talk" isn't just a clever phrase, it is an important part of staying connected. Even with a fabulous relationship with a spouse or partner, having the larger universe of co-workers can be a real attraction.
Want to stay physically and mentally active. Of course, working doesn't guarantee a stimulating environment. There are folks who are at a job simply to pay the bills. They may find the working life deadly dull, but necessary. For others, the physical boost and mental stimulation that comes from some type of work is a real plus. My part time job as a tour guide for visiting business people to the Phoenix area allows me to be outside in beautiful places, helping others enjoy something new and exciting in their lives.
Want to give more structure to the day. Humans crave structure. We gravitate to social structure in families or relationships. We live with a governmental structure and the rule of laws because pure anarchy doesn't work. We divide our day into artificial units of measure we call time. For many, when a regular schedule based on employment ends, chaos begins. Minutes, hours, even whole days seem to vanish without us being able to remember what we did. Having a job, even a part time one, can reestablish a structure to the day. There is an obligation to be somewhere, doing something that others count on.
Want to use knowledge and experience in a positive way. For many, leaving the work world means no more chance to share what you leaned over your working years. Whatever skills or knowledge you gained will stop when you do. True, volunteering is a valid way to put your skills to very good use. But, if that isn't enough for you, then re-entering the work force can give you the opportunity to put your years of experience back into action.
I find it fascinating that this whole area of working after retirement has become so important to so many. This interest is yet another indication that old stereotypes of what makes a satisfying retirement are undergoing a radical adjustment.
There have always been folks who retired and then got another job to help stretch pension checks or to stay busy. But, as this post notes, today the reasons often have less to do with the money and more to do with the satisfaction that holding a job brings. In the next post of this series I'll look at various ways a retiree can re-join, re-work, and re-occupy his or her time.
Where do you stand in the re-work world? Have you retired only to un-retire? Why did you find employment again? Has it been good or bad for you? What do you think your future will look like?
If you have yet to retire, do you think retirement is a concept that is no longer valid? Do you plan on working until you drop? Why?