Retirement looks different than it did a few generations ago. Many retirees are opting to work a bit in retirement. You might expect this after such hard economic times. According to a recent study, money is the top reason people over 50 expect to keep working in their retirement. But this phenomenon is not just limited to people that lack retirement funds. A survey commissioned by Barclays Wealth recently found that most millionaires don’t plan to fully retire either.
The truth is, this trend didn’t come about because of the recession. In 2005, well before the recession, a Merrill Lynch survey reported that 76 percent of boomers intended to keep working and earning in retirement. In this survey, boomers thought the ideal work arrangement would be to cycle between periods of work and leisure, or to work part-time. Only 17 percent of those polled expected to never work for pay again. The vast majority said they wanted to keep working for the “continued mental stimulation and challenge.”
Besides money and mental stimulation, a University of Maryland study recently reported that people that worked either full- or part-time in retirement had fewer major diseases and lived longer.
So just exactly how do you know you're retired if you are still working?
You’re enjoying yourself. I picked up a part-time gig a couple of months ago and am having so much fun with it. I don’t remember having this much fun when I was working to make money to survive. If you don’t have to work, you don’t have to work if it isn’t fun. So if you are working in retirement, you’re probably having fun.
You don’t get paid (or very much). Many retirees are getting their work fix with volunteer work. Civic Ventures reports that the health and happiness benefits of working in retirement extend to unpaid volunteer work as well. And many are working for salaries well below their pre-retirement incomes to help nonprofits. When you’re retired, money probably isn’t the motivating factor when it comes to re-entering the workforce.
You can still eat a nice breakfast. Today I went for a walk with my friend. I told her that I made the most delicious breakfast this morning. I roasted cauliflower and then made a white-cheddar and cauliflower frittata. Her response was that I have entirely too much time in the morning. She’s got a point. When I was working full-time, I only had time to eat something portable in the car as I drove to the office.
You don’t care which day of the week it is. Before I retired, Fridays held special prominence, as did Mondays in the reverse. But now, I just work when I feel like it. If I feel like making some progress on Saturday morning, I don’t feel resentful about the job leaking into my weekend, because in retirement it’s hard to distinguish which days are weekends anyway. I might garden, go to yoga, or ride my bike all day on a Tuesday if I feel like it. As a part-time consultant, I pretty much determine which days I feel like goofing off, and they aren’t necessarily weekend days.
You don’t mind having a busy social calendar. Last Tuesday night, we went to a concert with some friends in Berkeley, about an hour or so away. On Thursday, we met some other friends in San Francisco, about 45 minutes away, for dinner. Friday was an hour and a half drive north to meet some other friends for dinner. We hosted a dinner party on Saturday night, and ran up to San Francisco again on Sunday for dinner and a jazz concert with my parents. There’s no way I would have been up for such an active social calendar back in my working days.
You still don’t use an alarm clock. The reason I would never have kept such an active social calendar is because I used to wake up to an alarm clock. Since I’ve retired, I’ve only used the alarm once, and that was to catch an early morning discount flight to Mexico for vacation. It’s nowhere near as hard to hear that alarm when it is beckoning you to the beach instead of an office. If I stay up late for some social events, I sleep in and begin my day when I’m rested.
When you aren’t looking to work because you need to, you have the luxury of looking for a place with people you really like. You have the luxury of working for little or no money if you want. You’re not climbing the corporate ladder, you don’t need to concern yourself with office politics. You’ll do a good job simply because you want to. You can relax, be yourself, and enjoy yourself. Because in retirement, if it’s not fun, you’ll just go find something that is.
This is a post from Retirement: A Full-Time Job
Clear and cogent thoughts on the issue. On Friday someone said, "Oh, I heard you are retired" and I stammered a response about what I was doing and why. One of these days I'll figure it out. But it is great not using an alarm clock (unless I really want a 6 a.m. bicycle ride so I can be back in time to make breakfast for the high schoolers in the house) and I often laugh when someone asks me what day it is. I have to start counting backward to whatever day I can actually identify. Sometimes it is nearly a week!
Thanks again for an interesting post.
Posted by: Matt Baxter | October 12, 2010 at 07:31 PM
I worked part-time for 7 years but never considered myself retired, only semi-retired (being that I was halfway to working my desired zero hours, or being fully retired).
While I liked having some weekdays off, I still hated those trips to my office in New Jersey. I still had all the horrors of commuting, just not 5 days a week (only 1 or 2 or 3).
I have still earned about $200 this year working. $100 of it was making two airport trips for some friends, and the other $100 was ridding a neighbor's PC of spyware and other stuff which was slowing it to a crawl. But that was 3 hours of work all year long, so I still consider myself fully retired.
Every day still feels like a weekend for me, as I can eat breakfast at 9:30 AM and lunch at 2 PM. I come and go as I please, and continue to enjoy my volunteer work and hobbies. I go to sleep as late as I like.
Life is good. :)
Posted by: deegee | October 12, 2010 at 07:43 PM
I work part time 20-30 hours a month during tourist season (Oct-April) as a tour guide for visiting business groups. It is often fun, I enjoy dealing with different people, and it is a nice source of extra pocket change for not much effort. As an added bonus my daughter works for the same company as an executive, so she gets to be my "boss," something she says she enjoys.
Am I retired? You bet.
Posted by: Bob | October 13, 2010 at 07:59 AM
i've been retired 2 1/2 years. i still work but my jobs are on call basis. i don't do it for something to do or for need of income. i'm just greedy. right now with unemployment at 10 to 15% it sound a little unbelievable but in years as the economy straightens out boomers will be a commodity in the labor market. this year 75% of people who turned 62 put in for social security their reasons where their own. if greed drives the economy then get ready for those gray headed boomers coming to a work place near you. myself i take all my extra cash and bury it in my crawl space or spread on my bed and roll around in it. :)
Posted by: fred doe | October 13, 2010 at 11:06 AM
You may believe "you're retired" when you are still working. Everyone else knows you're NOT retired if you are still working.
Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely (or decides to leave the labor force if he or she is unemployed).
Posted by: Jack | October 13, 2010 at 08:31 PM
@fred doe. I love the comment "i'm just greedy." I'll tell you what I've learned about myself through this gig. I admitted it to my new boss last week: "I'm an appreciation whore." I too, am greedy--greedy for appreciation. Better than money . . .
Posted by: Retired Syd | October 13, 2010 at 08:45 PM
RE: Jack's comment,
Isn't it possible to be retired from one life and start a new one? My part time work has nothing to do with my previous career. I remain retired from that portion of my life.
While the common definition may be "no longer working," that is much too limiting for today's world. If you are working for fun and appreciation and the money is a side perk, I contend you are retired.
Posted by: Bob | October 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM
On the subject of "really being retired" I used to care what it was called--now all I care about is the end result, being happy. And since I was never this happy before I retired, and that is the big change that resulted in all the extra happiness, I'll be content to just continue relishing it without worrying about whether everyone really agrees what it's called.
How's that for evolving?
Posted by: Retired Syd | October 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM
Hi, Syd... I really identify with your list of factors indicating that a person is retired.... even if working part time. As a "retired" management consultant who still works with an occasional client, I love eating a full breakfast, I often lose track of the day of the week, and I've forgotten how to set the clock's alarm. Bill
Posted by: Bill Birnbaum | October 28, 2010 at 02:35 PM