I had an interesting podcast interview tonight on “The Retirement Conversation”. (Stay tuned, I’ll share when published). Among many other things, we talked about how many retirees go back to work.
We talked about UnRetirement.
And we talked about the reasons why.
Earlier today, coincidently, I received an e-mail on the same topic from a reader (thanks Skip, I love the exchange with readers!). Skip sent me a NYT article titled “Many Americans Try Retirement, Then Change Their Mind.”, and suggested I may want to consider writing a post about it. I read it, and it’s been stuck in my mind ever since.UnRetirement has hit me twice in 6 hours. It's time to write about it, and figure out Why folks go back to work. Click To Tweet
Two occurrences, on the same subject, in the past 6 hours.
Methinks not and, with “UnRetirement” on my mind, I’ve decided to write about it today. Although I’ve no plans to UnRetire, let me state this clearly and up front. There is no judgment in this post. I’m simply seeking to understand, and I understand that many folks decide to go back to work for reasons that make sense to them. I’m good with that. Perhaps some of you readers are UnRetired, and can help us understand?
I suspect most of us have some questions about UnRetirement. For example, why do so many folks go back to work after they “Retire”? How many folks actually UnRetire? Why do they do it? Do they need the money, or is it something else? It’s a relevant topic, and I’m intrigued by it.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot. With only 58 days until I cross the starting line into Retirement, I trust you can understand why it’s on my mind:
I don’t want to UnRetire.
I’ve decided to do a bit of research for this post, to answer the questions in my mind about UnRetirement. I want to learn all I can, to understand the phenomenon, to think about things I can do to ensure we apply any lessons from those who have gone before.
Worthy content, methinks.
So I write.
How Popular Is UnRetirement?
Type the term “How many people go back to work after retirement” into Google, and you’ll get over 4 Million results! Don’t believe me? I just did it – here’s the proof:
It seems, perhaps, that 4 Million People have an interest in this topic (um, that may not be right. Google results don’t equal people, right?). Whatever. It’s a popular topic. While I’m certainly no expert (see my Legal Stuff page), I figured folks would be interested in what I’ve found on the topic after reading those 4,200,000 links on the topic.
No, I didn’t do that.
Rather, the points below are summarized from the NYT article referenced above, along with a few articles I found while researching this topic. The findings are interesting, so I’m sharing them with you today, along with my thoughts on what it all means.
The Facts On UnRetirement
According to the NYT article, following are The Facts On UnRetirement (See the full story for references):
- UnRetirement is becoming more common.
- More than 25% of retirees later resumed working/became UnRetired.
- 40% of Workers over Age 65 had, previously, retired.
- Those over Age 65 who are employed has climbed from 12.8% to 18.8% in 16 years.
- Half of the folks over Age 50 who weren’t looking for work said they’d go back for the right job.
- The decision to go back to work is usually not driven by financial issues.
My friends over at NewRetirement also published an article titled “Reverse Retirement: Find Out Why So Many Retirees Are Going Back To Work”. In that piece, they state that over the next 10 years, the labor force growth rate of the 65- to 74-year-old age group is expected to be about 55% compared to a 5% rate for the labor force as a whole.
The trend toward UnRetirement is clear, and supported by the facts.
“You hear certain themes”, says Dr. Maestas in the NYT article. Among them:
- A Sense Of Purpose
- Using Your Brain
- Social Engagement
Financial considerations, it turns out, are not a primary driver for most people who decide to go back to work. Sure, the money’s nice, but it’s the “softer” issues which drive most people back into the workplace. Rather than being driven by the money, folks who UnRetire typically look for jobs which provide meaning and stimulation.
I’ve written and studied a LOT about retirement over the past 3 years (quick side note: Happy Birthday, Blog. April 12th marked your 3rd year of existence. It’s been a great ride, and I thank each of you for coming along). One theme I see repeated over and over again is the importance of the “softer” side of retirement planning.
The consistent finding of the importance of the non-financial aspects has led me to write half my articles on financial issues, and half my articles on “softer” issues. The “soft stuff” is important, and I urge you not to overlook it as you plan for, or live in, your own retirement.
How To Avoid UnRetirement
As I read about the reasons that folks UnRetire, I thought about the apparent reasons people go back to work.If Purpose, Challenge & Connection lead to UnRetirement, can we find a way to meet those needs without work? Click To Tweet
For those of us hoping to not UnRetire, is it worth spending time in our final days of work (or early days of retirement) to think about ways we can find Purpose, Challenge & Social Engagement in places other than work?
As I chased down that line of thinking, I did another Google Search. It seems “How To Find Purpose In Life” is an even more popular search topic than “UnRetirement”, with 36 Million results coming up for that search. I went down a rabbit hole with some of those results, interesting reading and potential fodder for future posts. If nothing else, ask yourself these 10 questions to help you find your Purpose.
The Bottom Line
UnRetirement is clearly here to stay, and I’ve got no problem with it if that’s what you choose to do. For each his own. Nothing wrong with that. Your Life. Your Choice. However, if you’re finding your retirement unfulfilling, don’t automatically assume that returning to work is the best way to cure what ails you. Take some time to think about all of your options, before you jump back into work.
There are ways to find Purpose without going back to work.
There are ways to Challenge Yourself without going back to work.
There are ways to build Social Engagement without going back to work.
I’d encourage anyone facing this decision to take a half hour with a blank sheet of paper. Brainstorm some ideas that come to mind. Consider writing a blog (it checks all 3 of those boxes for me). Volunteer for some charity work. Find a way to “give back”. Start a new hobby. Join a gym. Take a class. Your list will likely be long. Pick a few, and try them out.
If nothing else, do a few Google searches before you decide to go back to work. Just be forewarned, you’ll find a lot to think about. There are times in Life when it’s worth going down a few rabbit holes.
UnRetirement may be one of those times.
PS – If you’ve UnRetired, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Why did you UnRetire? Are you happy with the decision? Any advice for those walking a few years behind you? Please share, if you’re willing. Together, let’s Help People Achieve A Great Retirement.