May 17, 2011

You Can Retire- Can You Rework?

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?

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  1. Good post Bob. I think you covered most of the bases here. According to the statistics I have seen most people go back to work after retiring because they realize the money won't be there if they don't. I was one of the last group to get a defined pension plan instead of a lump sum out the door thing so maybe I am more fortunate than many in that area.

    If it is not a money thing then I would encourage anyone wanting to accomplish almost any of the other things on your list to consider volunteering. Given today's tough times most helping agencies such as the shelter/soup kitchen where I volunteer twice a week are really struggling with less resource and more clients. I can tell you that an hour spent cooking food and service it to the financially challenged in my area is more fulfilling than a week spent earning a paycheck. And the people who I work with there are such a joy to be around.

    The final thing is your use of the words re-work. In the engineering world that I left re-work is what is required when you didn't do it right the first time. It was by no means considered a good thing ;)

  2. Great topic.
    I am still thinking about another word for what this generation is doing. "Retirement" does not cut it.
    Maybe, I left full time work to ... (in your case writing is one of the many things you could put here).
    I have retired and reworked once already. I have only been retired a year! My husband finds no need to rework for a paycheck right now. He is building furniture, shoveling snow and mowing the lawns. All things he loves to do!
    I rework for the extras it brings me. Pay helps me buy some fun things for the kids (mostly trips with us). The stimulation of others helps me keep my mind clear and eager to learn.
    I found, quickly, that volunteers here are seriously treated as if they do not have a mind and could not handle real work. So, I work for pay.
    I need to transition though. It is time to really think through what I want the next 40 years to be like!

  3. Hi Janette,

    Seeing the word "rework" used several times in your comment is starting to make me feel comfortable with that as a viable word for what is happening.

    I just took on a new additional commitment with the prison ministry organization I serve and that is a lot of "work." But, when I get a check for the part time guide work I do it does feel different.

    What's nice is I can do both, something I couldn't do when I had to support my family and save enough to retire the first time.

  4. Morning RJ,

    Google's blogger posts comments by the time stamp so by the time I got to the computer this morning after Bible study to react to what had been said, I have to do it out of order.

    I understand the negative connotation of the re-work word in the way the business world uses it. But, just like retirement has had a certain meaning that no longer fits, maybe we can redefine the "concept" of re-work!

    As I noted in my response to Janette I am a firm believer in volunteer work. I know that it is something that allows me to use a part of my gifts to serve someone else. I believe I am helping the prison community with my efforts which is why I added a new commitment a few days ago. At the same time all of this makes me feel good.

    This type of work actually costs me money, in gas, in buying someone lunch, or in buying clothing or supplies for someone who can't afford it. But, the gain is priceless as far as I am concerned.

    Volunteer "work" and "work" for pay are both important parts of my satisfying retirement!

  5. I am only retired one year. At this point,I can't imagine returning to the work world-still enjoying the unstructured time spent gardening,reading,going to museums etc. I am very grateful to have a pension and good health insurance-without that I would definitely be motivated to work.

  6. Life -- and its living -- may actually be a continuum. Just an unscholarly empirical guess here. But, the distinction and transition between work, retirement, fulfilling responsibilities, recreation, living life, etc. for some let’s say fortunate individuals (or even mated couples) might not be so very much associated with red-circled calendar dates that set clear start/stop periods. Perhaps more setting a balance of realistic need with available capability.

    To your point, the retire then rework cycle may in fact exist in many individual and couple’s lives -- many times. The ‘passage’ and adjustment of lifestyle may be more clearly viewed in retrospect then during the diligent accomplishment of day to day responsibilities and activities.

    Again, just a guess based on perhaps jaundiced observations of some people’s lifestyles. Some successful and some not so much. You have brought up a great area for thought


  7. I never thought I would want to work again when I retired. But now I am working part-time and am really enjoying it. I can tell you, though, that I only picture myself doing this for a little while longer, not indefinitely. So I could see myself as one of those retirees that cycles between extended periods of working and extended periods of not working. I'm beginning to crave an extended period of not working . . . I'll probably be ready to start one of those next year or so.

    As far as finding a job--I would be perfectly happy if the next period of extended working was a volunteer gig.

  8. I see I better stick close to the laptop today or I'm going to fall seriously behind on comments!


    I was very comfortable doing what you did..taking some serious time off after closing my business. I had no interest in rejoining the working work until 4 years ago when the part time guide work became available.

    To everything there is a season...including work and re-work!


    I think your point is that many are agreeing with: our lives are a continuum. The clear "breaks" between this phase and that are becoming increasingly blurred. Personally, I have found it much more invigorating to not have to be locked into a certain expectation.

    As an aside, my next post will deal with gardening and habitual behavior. I love the picture of the Guzmania Bromeliad on your blog. While I have a hard time keeping them alive, that is one of my favorite plants.

  9. Hi Sydney,

    The concept of cycling in and out of various lifestyles and employment is very much in tune with what QwkDrw is talking about in her comment. It is a cliché, but a static life is a dull life and not truly living. Also, our physical and mental capabilities change over time. That affects what we can, and even want, to do.

    Work for awhile, then not work for awhile, live in a foreign country or an RV for awhile, volunteer, then write, than cycle back to the end of our run here on earth I think most of us would rather not look back on a life that was unchanging and predictable.

    Your piece on part time work in your USN&WR post has been helpful to me in structuring the next piece in this series on the types of work that may be appropriate. Nice timing! Thanks.

  10. Note: QwkDrw is a man, not a woman. I know that but the spell checker doesn't. I apologize for the "her comment" reference above!

  11. I plan to keep working, but will enjoy more control over my schedule. Earning the extra rainy day, and/or fun money is great, but I think the draw is more about contributing something positive. Old habits die hard, I suppose, but better than fading away in a rocking chair.

  12. Hi Adam,

    Contributing something positive with your knowledge and skills is an important reason to rework or reset your life's plan.

    And, yes, anything is better than the rocking chair choice!

  13. I am very interested in this topic since, as you know, I'm retiring right now. In fact, I spent today cleaning out my office.

    I don't plan to work again in the legal field. I recycled years worth of files because I don't expect to need tham again.

    However, I hope to teach my 10 Steps program, as I am doing now. And I hope to do more writing. I am not looking for another source of income. If I happen to make any money with these other activities, I have pledged the money to a nonprofit I support.

    So that's the plan. How will I feel about this in a year? I'm reading with interest the comments from those who have been retired for awhile. Right now, some unstructured time sounds pretty good!

  14. Galen,

    If I remember from previous comments you are retiring before the end of the month so your feedback on how you are feeling is a great addition.

    It will be interesting to see if, after some time, you find yourself wanting to use your legal experience in some way. But, like you, when I closed my radio consulting business all the files, memos, and audio tapes of the station were disposed of. I wanted a clean break.

  15. I am approaching my retirement and I found a very interesting book by Robert A. Johnson and Dr Ruhl called "Living my Unlived Life" middle years and later..Encouraging us to seek out those things we never got to try on. Coping with unrealized dreams in the second half of life! Jacquie Brzezinski 62 1/2 retiring June 29, 2011 after 23 1/2 years in information systems.

  16. Hi Jacs,

    First time commenter? If so, welcome.

    Thank you for the book reference. I checked and it is available on Amazon and as a Kindle download for those interested.

    You are rapidly approaching an exciting transition. I'd be fascinated to know what you are thinking now: scared, worried, excited, can't wait to get started? Do you have a plan for your new life? A passion you want to pursue? A long, lazy summer relaxing in a hammock?

    Readers are very interested in how others feel during this phase of life. If you'd care to share, I'd love to have your input.

  17. Wow, finally some other blogs that speak to non-financial matters. Please go to retirement-are-us blogspot for other concerns and issues around retirement. I have been retired for over 3 years and am seriously considering a small part time low responsibility job to take up some time and to get some funds.

  18. Hi Gloria,

    Welcome! I'm glad you found me. Yes, I noticed too many financially-oriented retirement blogs when I started this one almost a year ago. Finances are vitally important and I do deal with those issues. But, retirement is so much more.

    Gloucester is a pretty town (I lived in Lynnfield for a time) and probably the entire Cape Anne area is good for part time work during tourist season. So, I say, go for it! I work part time and it is a perfect fit for my lifestyle because it occurs from September-April, leaving summers free.

    I will certainly check out your retirement blog.

  19. The idea of a “phased retirement” has been around for a while. That’s where you and then your spouse scale back hours at the office or find a part-time job, gradually adjusting to the lower income while exploring what you’ll do with your increasing amount of free time.

  20. Hi GE,

    Thanks for the visit from the UK. I moved your comment here because it fit this post.

    Yes, gradually phasing into retirement is a common and legitimate way to test the waters of retirement for those able to do so. It is a smart way to begin to adjust to a new way of living.


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