Live to Work
Some retirees say they get enjoyment out of remaining employed and making a difference
“Mandatory retirement is quickly becoming an archaic dinosaur,” says Diane McDonald, author of Personal Finance: Tools for Decision Making, “With many people now retiring at 55 or 60 they can have 20 to 30 years of life left. Working will be a necessity once they do hit their 60s, since their potential social security income might not be enough, even with retirement savings, to get by for the long lifespan people are living,” she noted. “A big mistake many people make in their financial planning is thinking their cost of living will decrease dramatically. Retirement is never as cheap as people expect. The real reality is that most people need to make 80 percent of their working salary to afford their retired lifestyle. It actually may be more than that, depending on a person’s health, since medical expenses (insurance premiums, non-covered medical care, prescription drug costs) can easily eat away at savings,” McDonald warns.
A recent survey of employees nearing retirement age, conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, stated that more than two-thirds of workers intended to work for pay after they retire.
A Business Week survey of people hitting retirement age revealed that 67 percent of those polled said they wanted to work but sought positions with:
*Enjoyment derived from performing the work
*The feeling of making a difference
So what about age discrimination? When these mature retirees need to return to work, will employers hire them?
Enthusiastic, productive workers are wanted by employers no matter what their age. In fact, maturity is often an asset you can bring and sell to potential employers. “I’ve had a great deal of experience handling and solving the specific kinds of problems you face here.” Nonprofits, governmental agencies, colleges all seem to see the value in older workers. So does corporate America. At this stage in your life you have a choice. Do look for companies that embrace mature, dependable workers. Your dependability is a major value to employers who often have challenges with working parents. Mention you have “no at-home conflicts” to persuade employers to recognize your dependability appeal. Pick an organization reflective of your goals and objectives.
Make yourself appealing to an employer
A modern hairstyle, professional clothes that fit nicely (watch suits that are too small and accentuate the growing hips or waistlines that the years seem to bring). Offer evidence of recent ideas for improvements in your job or company. Do state your past accomplishments. If you’re coasting, or desperately working just for the paycheck and are essentially dead weight, that’s a hard package to sell in today’s economy. Show some interest and enthusiasm for any potential job you want. Employers look to workers for the results they’ll obtain. Give good examples of your past experience examples that show how you have been and will be productive. People who act like assets, not tired, burned out job seekers just needing cash will be most likely to land interesting jobs, no matter how old they are.
Mary was a career counseling client whom I distinctly remember—a client who had four job offers all at once. Her white hair and 67 years weren’t obstacles at all when she wanted a new “post retirement” fundraising job, because her enthusiasm and innovative ideas made everyone want to hire her.
A recent Worth Magazine survey revealed that 41 percent of new retirees found retirement very difficult. “Retirement’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” said former school secretary Jo Madison. “You get bored and need something to look forward to. Mindless days and going to bingo isn’t my idea of living at 55. I want to do things that matter.”
Paul, a high-powered senior executive said this about his retirement from a Fortune 500 company, “I got so bored. I wanted a job that was flexible, so I could travel, and yet challenging. So I do part-time consulting, which keeps my mind sharp and gives me a reason to live.”
“Golf was all I ever dreamed about,” said 50-year-old Mike. “I knew all I’d do was golf once I quit the rat race. So when the pressure cooker got so overwhelming at my store manager job, I took the early retirement plan. And I golfed and golfed, but eventually I needed more. So now I’m a high school baseball coach getting paid peanuts, just loving every single second of it.”
Now, there’s a whole new group of seniors finding happiness through work. “I’ve practiced law for 60 years,” says 82-year-old Nick Midey, head of a prestigious legal firm. “My doctor tells me if an active guy likes me stops working, they often die within six months, so I never plan to retire. I love my work. I enjoy meeting and helping people. I never want to give this up.” While most lawyers complain about how stressful the job is, Midey says that stress and exacerbations are all part of the package. He noted that four years ago he had heart surgery and was confined to his home for a few months to recover. “I nearly went crazy. I read everything in sight and easily tired of TV. I couldn’t wait to go back to work.” He said it was during this recovery period that he decided he’d never retire.
A growing trend among seniors reveals that many may leave their old company or career behind, then begin a new career and remain a vital part of the workforce. Recent studies report that active seniors who continue to learn and utilize their mental capabilities do not see a dramatic decrease in abilities. Today’s seniors (defined by AARP as more than 50) seem to be finding challenging work that they are passionate about. Many seek a job that makes them feel as if they are making a significant difference. They want to add value to society and help others. It’s been proven that work activity often keeps a person more youthful and more vital. Knowing that they have important work to do can be an inspiring motivator for older workers who often hurry to get well more quickly if illness does strike. Many seniors cite work as their reason to go on living when faced with life tragedies such as the death of a spouse or a child.
Society no longer views retirement as a mandatory state. But, many individuals who continue to remain in the workforce may choose to slow down their schedules or lower stress levels in order to incorporate other pleasures into their lifestyle.
The truth is, many of the upcoming baby boomers will not just want to stay home. You might choose to leave the whole career and profession behind, looking for something to do just for fun. A hobby you turn into a business. An interest in painting or music might find you employed in a museum or becoming the church choir director. The new career might come with a salary, or it may not.
Many working 60- and 70-year-olds say the secret to a happy life is knowing they have something important to do.