After years of toiling away, retirement for many means delving into hobbies, travel, or having more family time. But studies show that many retirees have a different outlook on life. More seniors are employed now than since the 1960s. Currently, one in five adults over the age of sixty-five is still working.
Why Older Adults Choose to Work
A recent study shows the percentages of why retirees continue to work:
- Financial reasons (56%)
- Enjoying what they do (47%)
- Fulfilling dreams (25%)
- Being or staying active (47%)
- Keeping their brain alert (34%)
- For a sense of purpose (27%)
Financial concerns: Some seniors, especially those without a pension, may worry they could outlive their savings or that Social Security may run out of funds. But, surprisingly, 73% of seniors work because they want the income rather than need the money. With a robust labor market, rising wages and more satisfying job opportunities are part of the appeal.
Enjoy what they do: One survey found that nearly a quarter of seniors who still work either full-time (17.1%) or part-time (6.1%) do so because they enjoy it.
George Fraser, a noted public speaker, author, and networking expert, has never tried to retire and has no intention of doing so. “I enjoy my work more than a vacation. I’m not a sit at the beach and chill kind of guy,” Fraser says. “I’ll either die sitting at a podium or at my desk dotting an ‘i’ or crossing a ‘t.'”
Managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors, Sandra McPeak, says many people follow a nontraditional path to retirement or even unretire. “A lot of times, people, when they retire, think they will have all this time,” McPeak says. “But after a while, they are drumming their fingers. Some feel out of it. Others don’t feel engaged. And still others feel like they aren’t contributing.” But there’s no need to give up on a profession you love just because you reach a certain age.
Fulfilling dreams: Some older adults look at retirement as the time to pursue dreams of starting a business or working remotely part-time at home. Did you know adults between the ages of 55 and 64 accounted for 25% of new entrepreneurs?
The older self-employed aren’t always traditional small business owners, running brick-and-mortar enterprises. Today, as the NBER economists learned after conducting a Gallup survey of 61,000 Americans, some older workers are tuned into Zoom and are independent contractors working from home.
Staying active: Of course, we’ve all heard that staying mentally, socially, and physically active — which working may enable you to do — is good for your health. Mental stimulation and problem-solving are good for maintaining thinking skills; social engagement is associated with staving off chronic disease, and staying physically active, even if it’s just walking, can lead to better health.
Keeping the mind sharp: To the question “Does working past the traditional retirement age keep you mentally sharp?” the answer was a qualified “yes” among several scholars attending the recent 2017 Age Boom Academy at Columbia University. Work may even help stave off dementia. A study of nearly 500,000 self-employed workers in France suggests that delaying retirement means people may be less likely to develop dementia.
A purpose-driven life: Some seniors initially retire to relax, travel, and generally enjoy life. Eventually, some find themselves looking for more meaning in life, such as volunteering or even going back to work. After more than 40 years in the T.V. industry, Gary Wordlaw decided to retire as general manager of a station in Tallahassee, Florida.
Wordlaw’s attempted retirement didn’t even last a year. “It didn’t take me that long to realize I’d made a big mistake.” Wordlaw ended up with his current job as a news director at WVLA-TV and content editor for Nexstar Media Group in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has no plans to retire again. “Going to work, for me, is like being on an extended vacation.”