Question: When is a retiree not retired? Answer: In America, always. In other words, in America, a retired person is still not retired.
As a concept, retirement has become one of the most slippery and fleeting notions in American culture. Even though we all think we know what this word means, very few of us can still define the practice.
For example, retiring meant that someone had stopped working. It always does, of course, except when it doesn’t. These days, that might mean downsizing to a single job or downsizing to part-time. Or you could retire and be invited back. Or you can stop one career and start another. Or maybe you stop working for an employer but then start a business. Did we mention driving for Uber?
Of course, you can go the traditional route and just stop getting paid, even if you’re working as a childcare provider for your grandchildren or a guide for your place of worship.
Now that everything is settled, what is your retirement story? In this four-part series on careers in retirement, we’ll begin by looking at the basic questions of planning for work after retirement. Next week we’ll cover financial readiness, with the final two articles focusing on classic patterns of working in retirement – staying in your primary industry or field and transitioning to a new career or way of working in retirement.
WHY WORK IN RETIREMENT?
People have all sorts of reasons for working in retirement, ranging from the practical need to earn money to the personal desire for social contact or intellectual stimulation. Some people had never intended to retire, but were forced to do so because of health issues, layoffs, or babysitting duties. Having regained the opportunity to work, they are eager to make up for lost time.
Your first task in exploring this topic is to review your motivations: why would you work after retirement? If you’re young enough — in your 40s or 50s, perhaps — the answers might still be moot. But if you’re 60 or older, you may already have details in mind about your next chapter of work.
MORE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOU
After you start wondering why you would work as you get older, it’s time to dig into some details. For example, do you already know what you would like to do? If so, if you have a partner or spouse, how do your plans match up? Are you planning to stay in the same place or are you planning to move to another city?
Related to the job itself, do you envision something full-time or part-time? In the same field or something new? Would you like this job to be “serious” in terms of responsibilities, or something you could easily quit after each shift?
STEPS/PROCESS TO EXPLORE OPTIONS
There are hundreds of books and blogs on this topic, so you’ll have plenty of resources to consult when organizing your thinking. As you do this, think about how the following steps might guide your process.
1. Think more carefully about whether you want/need to work, then explore the question of how much work you prefer, work intensity, etc.
2. Look for ideas of what the job might be. You can do this by reviewing past work you enjoyed or the best parts of work you currently have. You can also tap into your hobbies, community involvement, and political interests to come up with ideas. In practice, you might consider convenience and look for places within walking distance where you might consider working later.
3. Consider moving in your plans. If you’re hoping to move as a retiree, it might make sense to do so while you’re still active in your primary occupation. Then, if you decide to work after retirement, you will already have contacts in the new community.
4. Even if you don’t plan to work after you retire, it’s a good idea to plan for your personal development after you’ve finished your job. For example, if you use the first year after retirement to complete your education or join a council, you will prepare the ground for a return to work, should it become necessary.
These are just starting points, but they will give you a good launch pad to look at bigger issues. Next week, in Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at the financial issues that will impact your working life after retirement and the things you can do now to improve that situation.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.