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To Work or Not to Work…In Retirement

Jan 11, 2017 | 6 min read


The decision to work in your retirement is not a small one. While you consider the tax and healthcare implications of doing so, you also need to think about your emotional and physical well-being. Are you the kind of person who relishes free time, or do you prefer the time and social structure of employment? If you like to work, you’re not alone. As recent as 2015, a Federal Reserve study found that 27% of Americans declared their intent to work post-retirement.

Retirees and seniors have many great job options these days. Enjoy working with people? Taking a part-time job in retail will afford you the opportunity to connect with shoppers during your shift. Feel the need to stay active? Consider taking on a delivery route (mail, food, flowers, etc.). Want to engage your noggin? Check in with small, local businesses to see if they need help with bookkeeping, marketing or public relations.

If you are thinking about retiring from your career and starting a second career during your retirement years – or supplementing your retirement savings with a part-time job, here are some considerations, besides the obvious financial concerns.


It’s not always about the money

If your retirement planning has been thorough and you don’t need to work for money, you might decide to keep a job for your identity’s sake. A Gallup poll found that 55% of workers in the United States derive a sense of identity from their jobs. Perhaps that’s why we see political candidates running in local and national elections well into their “golden years”. (Hillary Clinton was 68 and Donald Trump 70 during the 2016 presidential election, for instance.)

If working for money feels vital to your perception of your own identity, you can feel confident your age and experience are positive assets to bring into any new professional environment. Entreprenuer.com lists 12 reasons older workers are great hires: from their tendency to be more dedicated, punctual and mature, to their advanced communication and organizational skills. These are also 12 reasons to feel good about yourself as a senior or retired member of the workforce.

Make sure that working after you retire is right for your mind, body and soul…especially if it isn’t necessary for your wallet.


You might need some new skills

Though armed with the knowledge that you’re a job-friendly rock star retiree, you’ll likely need to brush up on several skills. You might be organized and able to write or communicate well, but the modern workplace and your new job will likely require either digital knowledge or the ability to handle ever-changing technology.

For instance, if you were a copywriter for a magazine during your career, you’ll likely need to beef up your ability to write for websites and search engines for your retirement writing stint. Likewise, machines – from cash registers to medical devices to automotive tools and beyond – have become increasingly digital and decreasingly manual. It won’t hurt to take a course or two in technology, during your preretirement years, in order to prepare for your new work life after retirement. Not all training will be given on the job, especially by small businesses with minimal resources.


This kind of work is ‘normal’ for retirees

There are no rules about what you can and can’t do during your retirement. Again – assuming money and medical benefits are not an issue for you, you can apply for and, if it’s in the cards, perform any task that suits your emotional, physical and mental state.

According to The Fiscal Times and (indirectly) the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), U.S. workers over the age of 50 are most interested in working in a friendly environment (88%) and having a flexible schedule (74%), with about half as many preferring work-from-home and part-time options.

The Fiscal Times recommended 10 lucrative jobs for older Americans that fit the flexibility bill: tax preparer, project-based consultant, casino worker, market and survey researcher, nonprofit fundraiser, travel nurse, retirement coach, Santa Claus, mediator and dietician. Many of these jobs are freelance or seasonal; you’ll probably want to consider whether or not regularity is something you prefer to overarching flexibility.


Combat negative social stigmas

Just as you are empowering yourself to make life decisions with confidence, you’ll want to steel yourself against the prejudices the world holds against older people. Ageism can be as pervasive and damaging as other social biases – such as racism, sexism, et. al, with more than 21,000 age discrimination claims being reported in 2013 alone. The Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal for an employer to make a hiring, firing, promotion or other job-related decision based solely on age.

Knowing that you are legally entitled to professional opportunities is only half the battle, however. It’s probably a good idea to take the "prove them wrong" stance. Don’t just be the oldest candidate in the room: be the most skilled, most experienced and most professional candidate too.

Remember to dress professionally, speak with confidence, listen appropriately and convey enthusiasm at job interviews. A positive, energetic demeanor will go a long way toward combatting the stigma that older people are tired, out of touch or burnt out.


It’s OK not to work during your retirement

One of the things you might have prepared yourself for when training for retirement, is NOT having a job to define your identity. If you have squirrelled away retirement investments that support the lifestyle you envision for your golden years, feel free to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Looking to fill your new social or structured-time void? Consider volunteering for a cause that matters to you: walk dogs at a local animal shelter, visit with lonely convalescents, provide childcare and transportation to grandchildren nearby, or help coach an afterschool sports team. Your skills and experience can be of great value to your community…and that can form the foundation of a wonderful new you identity.


Bottom Line

In addition to financial reasoning, you’ll consider a lot of factors when deciding to work part or full time after you retire. Assess and enhance your skills, prepare yourself for interviews, learn your rights and consider what work means to your identity before making the leap into post-retirement employment.


Rachel Moehl is a mother, a wife and a writer, in that order. She is the Digital Content Strategy Director at Prudential Financial. She is also committed to NOT running for president…now or during retirement!




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