In the past, as age 65 approached, retirement used to be a given. The date was circled on the calendar, parties were organized and often a trip to celebrate was planned.
It’s much different today.
We know there are those who will continue to work, not by choice, but due to necessity. But many are surprised to hear that a growing number of baby boomers want to continue working. In addition, some who left employment have realized they made a big mistake and are in the process of undoing that decision.
Research backs up the anecdotal evidence of those deciding not to leave employment or who left and are returning, a term known as un-retiring. And it turns out that earning money wasn’t the primary incentive. A 2010 analysis by Nicole Maestas with RAND Corporation found that more than a quarter of retirees later returned to work and a survey in 2017 found that more than half of those 50 and older who weren’t working would go back to work if they found the right opportunity.
I know it can be hard to realize we’re even here – which may be why so many are calling for a time out so they can consider the options. It wasn’t long ago that we were graduating from college and suffering the angst of our career choices, right? But we turned our head for a moment and now we’re either staring at the traditional age of retirement up close – or we see it on the horizon.
If you’re not counting the days until you no longer have to wake up to an alarm, you may want to explore how you see this part of your life. Here are 5 questions that can help you decide if you really want to leave the workforce:
One reason for the shift in postponing retirement is that we’re living longer, are in better health and work at jobs that are less physical. But many people are also drawn to work that is fulfilling, gives them a sense of purpose and offers them social engagement. Knowing where you belong is vital.
We all have the same number of hours in the day and if they’re spent working that means we’re not doing something else. Prioritizing is a great strategy to help you decide what’s most important. What will you gain or give up if you stay in the workforce?
Generations before us often saw retirement as a reward after a lifetime of toil. It was also a natural progression of winding down. But baby boomers today aren’t missing a beat just because they reach their sixties. For most, it’s another opportunity just waiting to start. What will you make of yours?
People are often surprised at the amount of free time there is once they stop working. Several say they forgot to plan beyond the financial, such as what they’d do once they got tired of sitting at the local coffee shop, going to the gym or doing crossword puzzles. A job provides structure and many people described retirement as free-falling or feeling ungrounded.
If retirement, or continuing employment, doesn’t work out, what will you do then? Sometimes when we come up with our Plan B, it puts into focus what we really want to be doing. Don’t be afraid to switch if your choice didn’t turn out as you expected.
Some people leave work because they think they’re ready. They look forward to retirement with anticipation. But after they come back from their trips or visiting the grandchildren, they can feel untethered. What they miss is being engaged with their work and others.
Several find they need a break from a hostile or stressful work environment and retirement offers a solution. But once away, they realize they weren’t really ready to quit work but just that particular job. They want to come back but only if it’s a better situation.
While work may have provided the money to raise a family, it can often be unsatisfying. Some decide to reinvent themselves, either by getting the training they need for a career they’ve always wanted, starting their own business or having the chance to spend time making the world a little better place.
Whether you continue to work, embark on a second career or never look back after retiring, you should seriously plan for what you want out of this next stage in life. More than any generation before us, there likely will be many years to fill. According to the Social Security Administration, more than one in three 65 year-olds today will live to age 90 and more than one in seven will live to age 95. Retirement is no longer just a few years but another entire phase of life.
If you are lucky enough to have the choice of when to stop working, the possibilities seem endless. You may want to consider an encore career if your work was never your passion. Visit encore.org to get inspired. People also look for ways to do work they always wanted or to make a difference and there are some great resources to help if you need ideas.
This is not to say that there aren’t many happily and fulfilled retired people out there. I know lots of them. And what surprised them most was not a feeling of loneliness or boredom but how little free time they actually had once they had booked their days with all the things they’d had to put off while working.
But what makes us so lucky is that we have choices that many before us didn’t. Whether it’s working, traveling around the world or sharing a thoughtful conversation with a friend, time passes so swiftly. But regardless of how we choose to spend it, we all still have much to offer.
A date on a calendar should never signify who you are or define what could be ahead. It’s your story to tell. And yours to write.
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