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To Work or Not To Work (After Retirement), That Is the Question!

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 16: 23
Written by Joni B. Bailey
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Carole-1.jpg

Retirement does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. It does not necessarily mean the end of a vibrant, fulfilling vocation.  It does not have to be a sentence to life on a limited, fixed income.

Many people continue to work after retirement age—some because they want to, some because they cannot afford not to.

How many people are “retired?”

The answer to that question depends on how you define the word, “retired.”

In July 2016, 40.8 million retired workers in the United States received an average of $1,350.00 per month from Social Security Retirement Benefits.  This represents approximately 12.6% of the 323,889,854 people living in the United States at that time.  

In Illinois, 14.2% of the residents are age 65 or older.

If you consider the people who have retired before age 62 and are drawing private or public pensions in Illinois, the number of retirees in an Illinois community might be even higher than these statewide and nationwide numbers suggest.  For example, in 2015 52,000 retirees from the State University Retirement System (SURS) (a big part of our local economy) were receiving pensions, averaging $5,966.00 per month, and half of those recipients retired before age 60. 

Tens of thousands more receive pensions from 4 other state pension systems for public employees as well as military pensions. 

Why would someone choose to work after retiring?

In Jill Schlesinger’s excellent blog, “Jill On Money”, she describes four trends she has observed that back up her advice to her clients to strongly consider continuing to work after retirement age:

  • They have fewer financial problems;
  • They seemed more content as they aged;
  • They lived longer than those who did not continue to work (or volunteer); and
  • Work or volunteer activity seemed to slow the cognitive decline that comes with aging.

What types of jobs are people most likely to have after retirement age?

In another great blog, “NewRetirement.com”, you will find a list of 7 possible second career ideas for seniors.  The author of the New Retirement blog suggests the following questions to help seniors find the right job if they decide to work after retirement:

  • What is motivating you to find a retirement job? Money? Boredom? Both?
  • How much money do you need to earn?
  • What do you want to spend your time on? What kind of activities would you like to engage in at work?
  • What kind of work would you find fulfilling?
  • How much time do you want to spend on the job? Will you work part time or full time?
  • How much responsibility do you want?
  • How much flexibility do you want?
  • Would you consider working for yourself?
  • What kind of retraining are you willing to engage in?

What do retirees who work after retirement say about the reasons they chose “To Work” instead of “Not to Work?”

To find out the answer to this, I asked two very important people in my life, my Pilates instructor, and my administrative assistant.

My Pilates instructor teaches a variety of fitness classes to adults nearly every day of the week.  She retired from a career as a special education teacher. 

I discovered her class 4 ½ years ago when I saw it on a Carbondale Park District sign. 

She gave these reasons when asked why she decided to work after retirement:

  • Work adds structure to her day;
  • Work fosters connectedness with other people; and
  • Work gives her the extra money to pay for her health insurance premiums.

My administrative assistant, Carole, has worked in my office for over 8 years.  She retired in 2004 from a full time job of 30 years in a local physicians’ office.

I got Carole’s name from the world’s best source of information, my hairdresser!  She started working in my office 2 days a week and gradually moved up to nearly a full time schedule.

Carole explained that she was not sure at first whether she would like being committed to a regular work schedule, but with time, she has adapted and learned many new skills.

She gave these reasons for her choice to return to work after retirement:

  • She enjoys being around people;
  • Work keeps her brain active;
  • She enjoys starting the day getting dressed and doing her hair, makeup and nails instead of just hanging around the house; and
  • Work gives her extra money to visit family members in Minnesota, buy gifts for her children and grandchildren, and attend NASCAR races with friends.

I told Carole just the other day, I don’t want her to EVER leave!

What about hobbies and volunteering?

If the financial benefits are not as important to you as the social and cognitive benefits, other activities can provide many of the same benefits as work.  Consider joining a local club that discusses issues that are important to you, being active in a service organization in your community, pursuing a hobby, taking a class through a local college or university, volunteering for a good cause, joining a recreational league, or traveling with other retirees

Whatever you choose, “To Work, or Not to Work,” stop and be mindful of your good fortune-- you are blessed with the opportunity to live out your dreams in your golden years!


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