Tribune Print Share Text

Working…on your terms

Created date

March 30th, 2009

For all of our fantasies about winning the lottery and not having to work, it seems many people actually want to work and well after their 65th birthday.

The notion of trading in a career for tee time is quickly becoming outdated, as people s ideas about retirement evolve. But, that doesn t necessarily mean clocking eight-hour days at the offi ce where you ve worked for decades.

Reinventing work

Older adults are reinventing what work means. Maybe it means you quit your job as an accountant but turn your hobby into a side business. Maybe it means you volunteer twice a week at a school. Or maybe you work part-time in a new industry you ve always found interesting.

Whatever the case may be, if you choose to work during your retirement, then you are in good company.

Between 1977 and 2007, the number of workers over age 65 increased 101%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Boston College professor Joe Quinn, who specializes in the economics of aging, says he sees no signs of that trend reversing.

People are living longer and healthier, he says, which means many are able to work long after they turn 65. Plus, he says the demand for older workers will continue to rise as lower birth rates shrink the younger labor pool.

I think it s good for employers to have a whole cadre of older, experienced working Americans, Quinn says.

Host of benefits

Melanie Keveles, a Wisconsin-based career coach, says continuing to do some form of work during retirement can bring a host of physical and psychological benefits for older adults. Working obviously helps keep the mind sharp and can also increase physical activity. But the most important benefi t, Keveles says, is the sense of pride and well-being derived from a job well done.

I think it has a lot to do with fulfi llment, she says. Older people who have successful careers want to continue to contribute.

If you re searching for something new and fulfilling to do during retirement, Keveles says your passion may be right under your nose.

Keveles advises her clients to think about tasks they ve been good at in their current jobs and activities that give them energy. She says the work you ll find inspiring in retirement may be very different from your former career and that s okay. This is your chance to do something meaningful, rather than simply bring home a paycheck.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we re all wired differently, Keveles adds.

That means you should do some soul searching before you choose a job. For example, she says, think about whether you prefer to work independently or in teams, or whether you actually enjoy customer service, regardless of how good you are at it.

Tammy Erickson, author of It s Time to Retire Retirement, says going back to work during retirement can be a rewarding experience, especially if you prepare for some of the possible pitfalls.

If you ve been out of the workforce for a while, Erickson says, you may be surprised by some generational diff erences such as later starting times and workers who could be more likely to seek and dole out performance feedback. No matter where you work, Erickson says you ll want to make sure your technology skills are up to speed and that you understand the culture of the industry.

Volunteering, she says, can be a great way to find out how well-suited you are to a particular field. is is not just an intellectual exercise, she says. You have to get out and try it.