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Delayed Retirement: Starting Over at 65

Jan 09, 2019 4 min read Jennie L Phipps

Key Takeaways

  • Talk to your financial adviser about your employment situation.
  • Don't panic. Working when you are older than 65 can be rewarding.
  • Get good advice before you claim Social Security.


At age 65, Dr. Tom Clark* sold his podiatry practice to an up-and-coming young podiatrist. Like most sellers in this type of arrangement, he provided the financing, and the buyer agreed to a modest down payment and monthly payments over 10 years.

Clark and his wife sold their home near his Ohio office and moved to a condo in Florida. For a few months, the payments came steadily – until they didn't.


Clark flew back to see what was going on and was shocked when he found his old office locked up with bankruptcy notices on the door. He contacted the broker and the attorney who handled the sale, but after months of legal wrangling, it was clear that the money owed to Clark likely would never be paid. The practice had been ruined, and the equipment had been misused. Much of it would have to be replaced in order to reopen.

So much for retirement. Clark had some savings, and he and his wife both received Social Security, but the sum of their retirement money wasn't enough for them to maintain their lifestyle. She had never had a job outside of their home and was unlikely to be able to contribute much. Clark first took a job with a Florida podiatrist, working part-time in the doctor's office. He found he disliked not being in charge, and the money he was making wasn't enough to satisfy him.

A friend suggested that Clark might earn more if he sold real estate in the affluent waterfront community where he lived. After mulling it over, Clark decided to get a real estate license and try it.

Nearly 10 years later, Clark is the top-selling real estate person in his community. In a typical month, he closes two or three times as many properties as his competition. Why? “As a doctor, I had a lifetime of experience listening to patients, meeting their needs, and solving their problems. Selling real estate isn't all that different," he says.

He's a few months shy of being 80 years old, and while Clark's daily financial worries have disappeared, his need to work hasn't. His wife isn't well, and the cost of her care would quickly eat up what they have saved over the last few years if Clark weren't making a lot of big sales.

How long will he work? “As long as I can," he says.

In 2016, 18.8% of Americans over 65 were working, and more than half were working full time, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Perhaps, some of these people just like to work, but the Government Accounting Office found that nearly 30 percent of people 65 and older had neither savings nor a pension.

If you find yourself starting over in the working world at 65 or older, here are some suggestions from people who have done it — and thrived.

Don't count on finding your dream job

When Charlie Andrews lost his health care administrative job at 62 and couldn't find another, he had very little savings and no pension. Retiring early wasn't an option. He was eventually persuaded to try medical equipment sales as an independent consultant. He had never sold anything before and wasn't sure he wanted to try, but there were opportunities that potentially could pay well. “Lots of people don't want to take on an old guy as an employee, but they'll give you a chance if you aren't an employee," he says.

Look for opportunities that have growth potential

When your income is based on commission like Andrews is, the harder you work, the more money you earn. When he first started, he made about $500 a month. These days — eight years later — he makes about $15,000 a month and can see the time coming quickly when he can finally hang up his work boots.

Talk to your financial adviser and your insurance agent

If Clark had insisted that the buyer of his business buy (and make him the beneficiary of) disability insurance, he might have avoided losing his property. Holding a life insurance policy on a buyer in this type of circumstance is also important.

If you lost your company-supplied life insurance when you were let go, or your 401(k) is still languishing in your former employer's account, now is the time to talk to the appropriate financial professionals. Do it as soon as you can.

Understand your Social Security situation

Social Security is never simple and analyzing both your own and your spouse's Social Security options is very important. It may seem like a slam-dunk that taking Social Security at the earliest possible opportunity is the right choice once you're no longer employed. But if you investigate it, you'll see that taking Social Security early is rarely the right approach.

Don't make these decisions on your own. Get expert advice on handling Social Security. Your financial adviser can help. For most people – even high-income people – Social Security is the most valuable asset available. Do your best to maximize what you're entitled to.

Look after your best interests

After Rob Reimer lost his job at 57 as an executive in the fast-food business, he spent more than a year looking for a similar position. When it seemed unlikely that he'd find another executive job, he looked for alternatives. His friend, who ran a bookkeeping business, offered him a job with a modest salary while Reimer learned the business. He took the offer, and he is now mastering its intricacies and exploring the idea of opening a similar business in a different, non-competing area. "By the time my (younger) wife is ready to retire, we can both work part time and live very comfortably," he says.

Working long after the age when most people retire isn't easy. But as many seniors are proving, it is possible, and it can be profitable, if you're creative and willing to try new things.



What you can do next

If you're in the job market, research jobs that are best suited to seniors. Work with your financial adviser to create a long-term plan for your income and savings.


*not his real name



Jennie L Phipps is a gray-hair who specializes in writing about personal finance and retirement.



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