November 15, 2013

Going Back to Work After Retirement: Fact or Fiction?

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal had a special insert in the daily paper that dealt with retirement. It was entitled, Encore, Planning and Living The New Retirement. Besides the piece on the back page by blogging buddy, Sydney Lagier, I was quite interested in the results of the "So You Think You're Ready To Retire Quiz."  The responses to question #6 seemed to be a good one for this post.

The question asked, "What percentage of surveyed workers say they plan to continue working for pay in later life, and what percentage of current retirees say they have worked for pay?" 



The results mirrored what I found in my survey that is included in Living a Satisfying Retirement. There is a significant difference between those who think they will earn money after retirement and those who actually do. 69% of pre-retirees figured they would be earning money from a job or profitable endeavor. Only 25% of those who are retired have done so.

That is a very important finding. It shows a real disconnect between wishful thinking or intent and reality. It exposes a serious gap in understanding that what you may want doesn't mean it can happen.

What causes this disparity and why does it matter? I can think of a few possibilities:

1) We tend to not acknowledge the inevitable effects of aging on our ability to get and keep a job. The reality is age discrimination, being over-qualified, health issues, or a simple lack of appropriate job openings can doom this strategy.

2) If someone "plans" on working again after retirement that may mean there is less incentive to save properly before retirement. The belief that "I can always get a job if money becomes tight" could give that person an unrealistic feeling of security.

3) Once retired someone is much less likely to want to give up the freedom and control over time that comes with a satisfying retirement. The thought of getting back into that world hold little attraction, regardless of the monetary benefits.

4) With retirement often comes a scaled down lifestyle. Until then, predicting the amount of money needed is just an estimate. Once retired, the need to generate more income may not exist. A simplified and less consumer-driven lifestyle can be supported without going back to work.


Of course, there are two situations where this survey is meaningless:

a) to someone who has not saved enough or through unforeseen events must continue working or find something, anything, after primary employment has ended.

b) to someone whose life circumstances change dramatically enough after retirement to force a change in attitude. A major health problem for a spouse, the need to help support a child, or even raise grandchildren can make working after retirement essential.




My suggestion is you take some time to realistically analyze your post-retirement employment status: its likelihood, its motivation, and its costs to your retirement lifestyle. There is no right or wrong choice but it is important to understand why something is happening.

38 comments:

  1. Wow, spot on. After I retired from teaching in June, I fully expected I would need and want to substitute at least 3 days a week, primarily for the money. I did work 8 days in September but only 2 days in October and none this month. What I didn't realize before retirement is exactly what you said in #3. The first day subbing, I remembered why I retired! I have too much to do! Number 4 is so right, too. We just don't need or want lots of new stuff. My clothing needs are simple and few. We are just as happy eating a simple lunch and dinner at home as spending $30+ at a restaurant for one meal.
    So much misinformation is circulated through the media; truth and reality is often not on the agenda. Thanks for being a calming and reassuring voice.
    Jeff in OK

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    1. You are so welcome, and thanks for adding your perspective after living through this situation.

      I worked at a part time job in my 5th through 8th year of retirement and could never go back now. The money just isn't worth the time or complications.

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  2. When Ken first began chewing on how retirement would be, he felt he would "need" to somehow still work "a little" (A hard thing to do in his profession..it's kind of an all or nothing proposition..) But he did have some offers to continue to work part time (accompanied by the full time headache of still owning a business) and one by one he has turned them down.As we inch towards our "DONE WITH WORK " date (January 31.. Ken has begun to savor the feeling of FREEDOM more than anything else. We have decided to move to a small mountain town, as a perfect house came available, and now, TIME OFF ,TIME TOGETHER, and maybe even exploring the West in a tiny Casita RV have all come into the picture.. it just took some time to explore our feelings, our options, our fears, and get the ball rolling!

    Even in our tiny mountain town there may be a chance for Ken to continue to work part time if he chooses, but it doesn't seem so important to him now!

    Time will tell.. your blog is such a helpful and joyful reminder of all the possibilities!

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    1. Isn't it nice how things begin to fall in place as you work through your plans and options!

      Living in the White Mountains will be like a tonic to you both. Traffic and stress will be gone. The summer heat will be gone. Enjoy!

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  3. This blog hit home for me as I contemplate the big "when" of retirement. I am counting days and it is realistically over two years from now! I enjoy so many aspects of my job not to mention the security of another years worth of living for every extra year I work and save! Scaling down, simplifying my lifestyle, and staying engaged in living without working are all part of the plan. Working on that last one soon - volunteering? contract work with a charity with little pay? travelling cheap!? I still want it all! Love your blog. It is so real!

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    1. It is a "real" glimpse at my life and experiences along with the tremendous insight of others. Thanks, Eileen and enjoy the ride.

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  4. I always knew that I would not want to go back to work after I retired-I love the freedom and live a simple life.
    But some people like to stay connected to the work world. She retired at 65 and still works 12 to 15 hours a week at 80. She always wanted to work in a library and that is what she got. When she asked for a job, there was no job available. She asked if she could volunteer and they said yes. When a job became available they gave it to her.
    If you think you want to continue working after you retire, it would be easier to find a job if you apply for it while you are still employed.


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    1. There are certainly opportunities after retirement for many folks. Combining a passion (library & books) with a job is the best matchup possible. It is when someone expects finding an appropriate job and bases retirement income on that expectation that trouble may develop.

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  5. I'm one of those who thinks I may work "a little" after I retire, doing freelance work in a business that I'm currently working in. If nothing changes in the industry then my plan is realistic. But the truth of it is that changes are afoot, and a major change in the process or the technology of the business is going to leave me behind. Yes, I could invest in the training and equipment to keep up, but I'm probably not going to be willing to do that for what I expect will be only about $5,000 a year.
    There are other retirement jobs (there's an oxymoron!) that I would enjoy, but I think it's very hard to get a job in an unfamiliar profession when there are many experienced and trained individuals competing for those same jobs.

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    1. Your situation is like mine 12+ years ago. I could have invested a substantial sum of money and energy into keeping my business alive, but the costs just were not worth it. My wife and I decided to pull the plug and make it work. So far, so good.

      The competition will only intensity for decent jobs. With the middle class a declining breed and too many young people looking for too few jobs, the odds of a 55+ person being chosen are not good. It happens, but not the way it once did.

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  6. I have two thoughts. I would suggest that number one is the biggie. the job market has changed and many of those Walmart Greeter, Home Depot part time jobs no longer exist-for people at any age as my son can attest. During the height of the boom, those kidns of jobs were available for a few hours a week for all.

    Secondly, while I have not read the article itself, you don't discuss making money alternatively. Seniors account for something like forty percent of the self employed-probably because once retired number three is important but keeping busy or earning money are equally important. I would be curious how the numbers worked out if you considered all those small businesses (many of which probably make just under that 14 thousand social security requirement into the mix.

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    1. Your point is absolutely correct: making money through your own efforts or skills is really the best bet. Obviously, that takes time and a marketable talent and product, but being your own boss has so many advantages.

      Since it was a survey conducted for the Wall Street Journal, I will assume the people interviewed were thinking of traditional employment in established companies or firms for their after retirement work.

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  7. Much of this revolves around savings and how much people have prepared for retirement. It is one thing to want to work but don't have to; it is quite another to want to work because you have to. If you are in the former category the # of jobs available is less material, whereas it is very important if you need to work. There is no easy answer for the "need to work" people. As you have rightly pointed out, physically many will deteriorate quite rapidly as they age. But regardless, those of us who have done everything right should not have to shoulder the burden of those who have not. Yes, there will be some through circumstances that need help, but I think you know who I am referring to - those who chose to live beyond their means while the rest of us did the opposite. As far as I am concerned, they made their bed.

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    1. Because the study doesn't ask the question in a specific enough way, I don't know if those who are yet to retire and say they will get a job need to or simply think they want to.

      The important point is there is a major difference before and after retirement to this question. The "why" is unsure, but I suspect it is either a financial need or thinking that they would get bored without work. Those of us who have been retired for a while know that boredom is rarely the problem!

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    2. I agree, folks thing they will be "bored" and I am sure some are without work. But for many, they realize they hardly have enough time now. Sigh.

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  8. I have been working with the http://www.mutualfundstore.com and it seems that they have some very good financial advice to give. Your advice has me wondering if I should have another Advisor on the side. Not that the MutualFundStore isn’t good, but having more than one advisor can’t be all that bad either. Should I do this?

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    1. I will assume that you don't work for the web site cited above and have a concern about advisors. My short answer would be I would never depend on just one source of information and advice. Particularly in the area of mutual funds, there are plenty of reliable sources to consult to compare opinions and options. Plus, you are able to do your own research on the Internet and educate yourself about the critical issues involved

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  9. I have been retired for eight years now and was fortunate to be able to retire early at 53.....I had intended to work until 55 but the opportunity arose that made it possible with just a small hit to my pension. Our plan included my working part-time for awhile....which I did. I had two different jobs...at different times during the next two and half years. Each were very different from what my previous career had been. It was a learning and growing experience for me that I am thankful for.....as well as helping our financial situation in the long term. However, there were a few things that I was perhaps a little surprised by. First, part-time jobs are not that readily available in our rural area....especially ones with any flexibility. You are at the bottom of any seniority, therefore you will work hours that you probably weren't working pre-retirement....a lot of times weekends and nights...and I was fortunate to have jobs that were during the week and during the day. But that limited what I had to choose from when I did take a job. You will be amazed at how often you bite your tongue as it seems the workplace is constantly reinventing the wheel...after all you have spent years doing what you did and now you just do what you are told but see lots of ways things could be done so much more efficiently, etc. Could it have been that I was used to being the boss before and now I was the employee?:) So, I came to decide that I really liked being "my own boss" and once we had completed a couple of things financially that we wanted, I resigned and have never looked back. I tell people one of the things I so love about being retired is being able to say "Yes" when I want to....meaning I am not bound by a job schedule and can help out others, volunteer, be with family, travel at our own cadence. I am so thankful that I did have the part-time jobs...it helped me have the closure I needed. But it was a real learning experience also. Now I find I can save so much money by being home and being a good manager of our assets....as someone said, our needs are few. Plus, it costs to get to a job, have a wardrobe, etc.

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    1. I had the same experience, Linda. In one instance I was a tour guide, basically just taking people from one location another. It was boring and frustrating to watch the waste of money, time (and food) involved in large groups of people who aren't paying the bill...their company is.

      In another, short-lived situation I worked for a local research company setting up evening focus groups. Since I ran my own company doing the same work for 20 years I had a fair amount of experience in what people want and don't want.

      My 23 year old boss didn't want to hear any of it. She insisted that the clients cared more that there were 9 sharpened pencils (not 8, not 10, but 9) lined up in a row and that the cheese tray had an equal balance of types of cheese slices arranged in a particular pattern.

      If it weren't so petty and silly it would have been funny. The clients could care less, and so could I. That part time job lasted 2 months!

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  10. This post comes at a rather sensitive time for me. I retired two years ago due to health problems. At the time I retired, I thought I would recover and then return part time. My health has improved but not enough to work again. But the thought has been that if I needed to, I could go back. Well, the renewal form came for me to renew my pharmacist license. Do I pay the hundreds of dollars to renew the license when I know that I will not use it just to keep the possibility open? I don't think so but it is a hard decision to permanently close the door.

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    1. That is a tough choice, Florence: paying some money now that is probably wasted but might be insurance for an unknown future. I don't know enough about the pharmacy business to know if it is one of those professions that you get out of touch quickly if you aren't dealing with new drugs constantly.

      But, if not maybe you think of it as insurance just to keep the door slightly open. That is a toughie.

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    2. Florence, can I just say that I have a seventy year old friend who works as a relief pharmacist in Dallas-mainly at hospitals and compounding pharmacies and she has work any time she wants to say yes. No help to your dilemna I am sure, just a comment.

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  11. My husband was in education for 35 years and an administrator for the last 10. He retired 2 years earlier than he wanted because of a variety of issues but was recruited to work for an education support firm. We had planned for retirement and were in decent financial shape. After one year he decided that he really did not want to work in the education field and retired completely. This was a major change in his attitude and it did take him another year to figure out what retirement looked like for him and to adjust. Working involves a lot of stresses from getting up early, to dealing with personalities in the work place, having to adjust to new ways of doing processes, following orders from less experience people and in today's world increasing use of technology and reduced staffing levels. The world of work is not the same as it was in 1970, 1980 or in 1990. it just seems that wanting to continue to work and physically and mentally being able to continue to work may be in conflict as we continue through this decade and into the future. My husband is now happier doing the things he loves on his own schedule and is healthier. Thank you for the topic.

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    1. Your husband's path mirrors the survey, my book, and the tone of these comments. Once we are free of all the negative baggage that comes with work, the extra money just doesn't seem worth it.

      I know that even within a few years of leaving my career in radio station consulting I could not have gone back. I would have been too out-of-touch and frankly, too old to relate to the 25 year old DJs and 35 year old managers that I had to convince to hire me. My peak years of influence were in the 1980's and 90's. Heavens, that was 20-25 years ago. It has been at least a decade since I even thought about radio, except being glad I am very far removed from it.

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  12. Timely topic for me as well.
    I substituted in fifth grade today for pay. By being in the school I can volunteer to tutor kids who need a boost.
    It really isn't about the money anymore, it is about the use of my talents and mind.
    I hope to be like your mom Bob, and volunteer in the schools for many years to come.

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    1. What a sweet thought! Yes, mom's volunteering in schools was a very important part of her life as it appears to be in yours. There are few things that are more important than working with kids in school.

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  13. Hubby and I both retired almost 9 years ago. A couple of years after retirement we started a little business that did very well for a couple of years before the recession hit. We did not need the money (though it was nice) but it was a challenge. We learned so much. It was fun working together and the extra income was a way of keeping score in our little "sport". It was very flexible as far as the time we were willing to spend. When it was no longer profitable we quit with no regrets. I would like to find another niche and do it again. We would really like to make enough to contribute to grandkids college. Making money can be fun if it is not ruling your life and if it allows you to contribute to something dear to your heart.

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    1. Your approach to working after retirement sounds perfect: doing it for the excitement and learning, with money as nice side benefit.

      Thanks for that perspective.

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  14. Interesting post! When I retired 19 months ago, I really didn't think about working again. I'd put over 28 years into my job & while I loved it, I recognized that I had a tendency to let it overwhelm my life. When non-life-threatening health issues hurried that retirement, I decided that someone else could have the job. I am blessed that, although we don't have a lot of money, we do have enough to enjoy life & my justification for not taking another job, besides that I didn't want to(!) was that someone else could use it. In our area that is true; we have more folks wanting to move here & looking for jobs than there are jobs (even part-time ones) available.

    I am content with the fact that I did a difficult job well & now I get to choose what I want to do with my life, but the obvious blessing is that I HAVE enough financial support to say this: I DON'T have to work to make ends meet & I am interested in enough subjects that I don't have to work to avoid being bored. Retirement is awesome.

    pam

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    1. "Retirement is awesome" is exactly the message of this blog, most of the time! Thanks, Pam.

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  15. I was forced into early retirement at age 53. Didn't want a new fulltime job. I tried my hand at a few new things and made a little money, but nothing really clicked. Ironically, now my only steady earned income is from my old employer who sends me work now and then. That's just fine by me, because I never liked the employer but always liked the work itself.

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    1. Sounds like a nice blend of interest and payoff without the messy on-going hassles of working with or for someone you dislike.

      Being able to still use your skills but under your control is the best of all possible worlds.

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  16. The article certainly posted food for thought. I didn't seem to fit in any of the categories. As a single, retired teacher I chose to keep working. Not as a substitute as I was ready to let that career go! I work 2 days of my choice for a major car rental company. I do it for several reasons. One, I want to put the maximum in an IRA account so I can withdraw the required amount from this account to leave another IRA untouched until I can transfer it without losing money on cashing it in. I can do this for one more year. Also, I get a great discount on renting a car for me and my son when he comes in to town. It is a very low key job but it is nice for socializing and I don't sit all day, nor do I stand all day. My lifestyle is not compromised as I still have time for reading, gardening and volunteering. I'm a homebody and don't travel much but if I did I would be allowed to do so. Financially I do not need this money, but I like it being entered into its own account and growing. When I turn 70 I will rethink working, but for now, I enjoy what it adds to my life.

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    1. You have described what is so freeing about being retired from your primary career. You work for who you want and as long as you want with no real pressure beyond the basics of being a good employee.

      I had never thought of being a car rental agent and the perks that come with it...that sounds like a perfect match for you. You haven't compromised your lifestyle but you've added to it.

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  17. I realize that I fall into category #3: reluctant to give up the freedom and control over time. I retired 7+ months ago. At the time, I decided to give myself 6 months to declutter my mind, then reassess. Now I realize how much I value the freedom and control over my time. Boredom is not in my vernacular. I decided not to renew my professional license. I do realize that the next 5 years are probably my best earning years in terms of physical ability and probably the most "necessary" in these "go-go years" before the slow-go and no-go years hit. The only incentive I have now to return to a paid job is to supplement the travel fund.

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    1. The part time jobs I held for a few years after retirement were used the same way: for our travel fund. That was the only way I could motivate myself to rejoin the working world.

      You have made an important decision regarding your license and your future. If you feel comfortable with it and have solid plans, then you have made the right choice for you. Good job.

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  18. I really like your blogs, especially the one on "How to know WHEN to Retire" (http://satisfyingretirement.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-do-you-know-when-to-retire.html). It was excellent and spot on.
    Regarding post-retirement work, this helpful Kiplinger article highlighted "encore" (aka bridge ??) jobs in the non-profit sector that offer satisfaction and significance, tho likely fewer hours and less pay. http://satisfyingretirement.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-do-you-know-when-to-retire.html Thank you!

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    1. Ron, the link to the Kiplinger article is incorrect. If you still have it available I'll be glad to post it.

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