Make Your Retirement a Healthy One

Guest Post by Joseph Byrne, Founder and CEO of EmpoweredAge.com, a service that connects highly-skilled retirees to part-time or short-term consulting projects in various industries. Below, Mr. Byrne offers his insight into working after retirement and the gap he aims to fill.

Our idea of retirement has changed with each passing generation. Many people count down the days until they can relax with no time-constraints, play golf, visit family and friends, and take the trip they have put off for years. Others find their true passion in their work, committed to continue working as long as their health allows. Still others look forward to volunteering, taking on a second-career, or pursuing a passion project that has eluded them. Often, these visions change during our retirement years after finishing the initial “retirement honeymoon” phase. Retirement can have many different visions to different people; but it does not have to have just one.

As the baby boomer generation is retiring in record numbers (some 10,000 per day), there are millions who are contemplating their next move. Financially, many retirees are not prepared to completely discontinue a regular income, but do not need their full annual salary to feel comfortable. For many, working in retirement is not a burden that interferes with more desirable activities. On the contrary, working in a capacity that allows retirees flexibility, the chance to keep their skills sharp, an opportunity to maintain continued connection with colleagues, all while earning additional retirement income, is a highly fulfilling and prosperous endeavor.

According to research by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 47% of retirees say they are either working or plan to work in retirement. This figure increases with people who are actually still working full-time: 72% say they plan to work in some fashion in retirement. Millions of retirees with years of experience, contacts, and expertise are underutilized; their knowledge simply sits on the sidelines. Part-time, value-added work opportunities seem to only exist for the select few via personal networks.

As I spoke with many highly-educated and highly-trained retirees, this stalemate seemed to be a common thread. There was certainly no shortage of useful experience, and furthermore, after a number of conversations with Human Resources representatives, many firms actually sought out this arrangement to help complete short-term and/or particularly challenging projects. It was after a number of these interactions that my team and I decided to create Empowered Age. We formed our hypothesis around this inefficiency and our directive was simple: bridge the gap between retirees and firms who desire to tap into their wealth of experience. After some market research and testing, Empoweredage.com was born.

There are a number of websites that cater to retirees looking to work after their “formal” retirement. Many of these services, however, list mostly hourly or manual labor openings. Empowered Age aims to take this a step further, targeting retirees with years of highly skilled experience that can provide exceptional value to a growing firm. Many of these arrangements are projects to help launch a new product, oversee a new office opening, or advise on a new sales strategy.

In our experience, the feedback we have collected has overwhelmingly confirmed our suspicions. First, that there are a significant number of firms looking to engage in this sort of employment arrangement. But more importantly, the retirees or semi-retirees who are eager to fill these roles report a deep renewal of value, continued social status that was familiar during their full-time working years, and a satisfaction in using their knowledge to help drive growth in their organization. In addition, although we did not initially anticipate, firms have been eager to support initiatives that drive inclusion and diversity as it relates to age. This has been an unexpected by-product that we proudly boast.

Moreover, there are encouraging studies that suggest working later in life – and past the “typical” retirement age – can actually be a significant health benefit. This New York Times Article quotes Columbia and Harvard University Professors regarding the mental and physical health benefits of working in retirement as well as the delay of negative retirement consequences such as fatigue and loss of concentration. In fact, researchers from Cornell and Syracuse Universities found that people who continued to work after formal retirement grew their network of family and friends by 25 percent! On the other hand, social networks of retired non-working people actually shrank during the 5-year study period. The study continues, “Work offers a routine and purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning. The workplace is a social environment, a community.”

In this article for The Today Show, author Jean Chatzky writes that researchers from Oregon State University studied a large group of individuals age 50 and over. The researchers found that people who worked past the age of 65 had an 11% lower chance of death from all causes. Ms. Chatzky continues to quote a survey of 80,000 participants from the National Health Interview all over the age of 65: “People in the workforce (particularly those with white-collar jobs) were significantly more likely to report their health was good, very good or excellent than those who were unemployed or retired.” In the countless hours of research we have conducted as noted above, this completely matches what we have found.

Whatever your idea of retirement may be, planning will be an important part. Whether that be financially, geographically, professionally, or socially, be aware to engage in activities that provide value to you. Look for opportunities that benefit your intellectual as well as your physical health. Wherever your journey takes you, we wish you health and success. If part-time consulting work is in that journey, Empowered Age will help you along the way. Visit us at Empowered Age for more information.

Joseph can be reached at joseph.byrne@empoweredage.com. Please follow on twitter @EmpoweredAge.