The New Retirement – Work for Life

For various reasons, many of us will continue to work after retirement. We may want to work in our senior years to stay busy, we may need to work to replace savings lost in recent years, the choice to work after retirement may be ours to make or out of our control. A research study by Friends Provident found51 per cent of UK workers plan to keep working after reaching the minimum retirement age, their main motivation being a desire to stay active after retiring.  “More and more, Americans are choosing to be ‘unretired,’ that is, continue to work full- or part-time after the age when they are eligible to receive full Social Security benefits.”  Regardless of whether these decisions are the result of personal choice or not, the Center for retirement Research at Boston College recently calculated a very scary number representing the gap between where retirement savings should be today and where they actually are. The total deficit was determined to be $6.6 trillion dollars. In many cases, it is no longer a question of why work after retiring – the bottom line is you have to.

The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination. ~ Marion Zimmer Bradley

But do not despair! You have worked all of your life and made it to retirement however it may be defined today. There were many positives in your career from the people you worked with to the feeling of accomplishment that came with a job well done. It is not unreasonable to think that some of these same positives can become part of your new retirement career. The trick is to distill the situation to the point where most of the negatives are done away with and you are left with a pleasant, even enjoyable job after retirement.

How to make the best job for your retirement career

If you reach  the conclusion that after you retire you want to work or that you need to work, do not simply resign yourself to a retirement career that is boring or abusive. Over your career, you have honed and perfected many skills. You know what it takes to get the job done and have built a record of successful achievements to prove it. Leverage your background as you make your move back into the working world. Here are a few ideas to help along the way.

1.    Self analysis – no one knows your likes and dislikes better than you so take some time to contemplate what you like to do, what you are good at, what you can do, and what you want to do. Do you work best left to your own devices or do you prefer guidance from a supervisor? Do you prefer to work alone on projects or are you happier in a team environment? Is learning something new and exciting or intimidating for you? Are you a creative force or do you prefer to follow predefined processes? Do you work better at a specific time of day?  As a senior citizen, we may be physically limited as to what we can manually do in a job so that also becomes a consideration.

2.    Analysis of the company – what kind of company and work environment do you want to engage with? Do you prefer a large or small company? Do you want to follow the same career path you were on or do you want to try something new? Is there a particular industry that you want to pursue? What kind of corporate culture is to your liking? Some companies are very formal and political, others more open-door-policy and free-wheeling. How far are you willing to commute? Remember the time spent in transit is a real cost in terms of time away from your family and life.

Once you have a good profile of the type of company you would like to work for, you can start building a list of likely candidates. To dig in deeper, a trip to the corporate website is an excellent starting point. You can find a lot of information by reviewing the company page, reading through press releases, reading executive biographies, and navigating the various products and services. Check social feedback by visiting Twitter or Social Mention or Google. Visit your LinkedIn account and see if you know anyone who has worked or is currently working at the company. There is no better way to check on a company than to talk with someone who has worked there. You want to get an understanding of what it is like to work there before you sign on.

3.    Work toward a defined goal – if you are working after retirement because you want to, your goal is being met. If you are working to improve your financial situation, it is helpful to set specific goals for your retirement career.  Maybe you want to add $X to your savings account. Focus on that, track your progress and reward yourself when you get there. Smaller goals along the way help to keep you on track as you achieve them one after another. If your ultimate goal is to get back to retired life and not work, calculate the amount you need to save to provide you with the additional cash you require. When you get to that number, I hope that all things will be in alignment and you can retire for real! If you can do this and if you want to do this, be careful to avoid getting sucked back into the working rut chasing more dollars than you really need.

4.    Positive attitude – how you choose to face each day in your retirement career is a big determinant of what kind of a day you can expect. It is easy to be happy when you are off to do what you want to do. But even if you are not so lucky, try to think of the good things in your life and enjoy what you do. Work is not always a picnic but how you choose to deal with challenges in your day is mostly up to you. If at all possible, stay positive. Your smile may be the one that turns someone else bad day around!

Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly if they even roll a few more upon it. ~ Albert Schweitzer

No one said life was going to be easy. There are no guarantees that each of us will live a perfect retirement life. This New Retirement Career can be viewed as a curse or a blessing.  In the right work environment, doing what you want to be doing, chances are you will be just fine. So why settle for less?

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to

6 thoughts on “The New Retirement – Work for Life

  1. This is an important topic. The “rules” of what makes someone retired have changed due to the economy and credit mess of the last few years. Company pensions are either under-performing or being downsized. No one can live on the interest of CDs that are paying 1%. The market continues to be a roller coaster and housing prices remain depressed.

    So, working again at sometime is probably a necessary move for many. Your points about properly analyzing skills and needs are important. Setting specific goals allows someone to see the end line.

    I started doing some part time work a few years ago. It averages about 30 hours a month, provides some extra pocket change and allows me to interact with people who are visiting Phoenix. I enjoy it and will keep doing it until it is no longer fun. Do I consider myself retired even though I work 7 hours a week?

    Yes I do.

    • 7 hours a week sound about right, especially if you enjoy what you are doing! It is scary how what many figured was a relatively secure retirement future has taken a serious turn for the worse lately.

  2. Great post, Dave. I think many are facing early retirement right now due to losing their jobs so this advice is useful. What does a person do if they are laid off in their 50’s and can’t find another job? They have to get creative for sure.

    My husband will have a good pension when he retires and just wants to keep busy with his own projects but I love writing and can’t see ever really giving it up.

    As we transition into new retirement adventures, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of fodder for articles and blog postings!

    • Keep the posts coming! It is quite a burden to be unexpectedly laid off before you are ready to retire. Your planning and retirement savings estimates are often based on working until a specific year. If you fall short, your savings fall short.

  3. Even if you have the money that you think is enough, I believe that you have to work at retirement (just like you have to work at marriage). It doesn’t just happen. Part of what you are working at may be more money to live your retirement large but in the end it is in making those years full and rich in whatever way you define.

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