As we enter 2015, in an improving economy, older U.S. workers will continue to reflect the view that retirement is more of a slowdown than a stop.  A majority of Baby Boomer pre-retirees (72%) expect and prefer to keep working, according to a recent survey done by Age Wave and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  Motivations fall into several categories:

  • Altruistic caring and a desire to give back to their communities – 33% of retirees work for non-profits as paid employees or unpaid volunteers; they see being able to give back as more important, and more satisfying, than their paycheck or the size of their office.
  • Need to pay bills – 28% feel frustration and regret about continuing to work past age 65 but do it for the added income needed in their household
  • Social stimulation – 24% place a high value on the social relationships and connections they have with fellow employees; they often view work as “fun” and frequently work on a part-time basis to complement other social activities in which they are engaged.
  • Entrepreneurial drive – 15% describe themselves as being at “the top” of their game professionally, with a desire to own their own business or be self-employed. Tending to be workaholics, they love to achieve and have usually spent time preparing for this period of their career life.

Regardless of motivation, the majority of pre-retirees do not want to work a traditional 40 hour work week; they prefer having more latitude and being able to create flexible work arrangements that include:

  • Working part-time 20-25 hours a week
  • Rotating between periods of working and periods of leisure
  • Never working for pay again
  • Balancing volunteering for 20 hours a week and working 20 hours a week

About 58% of the people surveyed stated that retirement was an “opportunity to transition to a different type of work” that offers a more flexible schedule; “more fun and less stress”; the chance to experience and learn new things; and the opportunity to pursue a passion or a hobby of interest that has long held their interests.

Survey author Ken Dychtwald remarks that older workers often face “more of a challenge to get a job” and that contributes to their pursuit of entrepreneurism.  He also notes that about half (52%) of working retirees chose to take a “career intermission” between jobs that lasted an average of 29 months in order to recharge, relax, retool, and reconsider the kind of work they wanted to do.

Overall, many retirees want to keep on working (83%) because they believe it helps them stay youthful and sharp mentally, and physically. They may be right. In Master Class: Living Longer, Stronger and Happier author Peter Spiers reminds readers contemplating a healthy retirement that four key activities must be interwoven: socializing, moving, thinking and creating.

Those four heavily researched activities together produce fulfillment and have a compounding beneficial effect.  The combination of interacting with and helping others in pleasurable and purposeful ways getting their bodies moving each day to keep their hearts strong, muscles toned and oxygen flowing to their brains, along with creating new things and exercising their brains with games and projects –  all add up to a healthy holistic lifestyle that brings happiness and overall physical and cognitive health.

Summary:  We live our lives in stages; Boomers are a generation that has lived according to their own inner compass, rather than societal expectations.  Thus, the start and end points of retirement (a term that is becoming quaint) can be unique to each person and prompt a whole new set of questions:

“Can I get back into something I once loved to do before my responsibilities got in the way?”

“Is it too late to start giving back to society or to otherwise create a legacy for myself?”

“Do I have the courage to try the things I have always dreamed of doing but found reasons to delay until ‘later’?”

The last third of life holds the promise of a second blossoming of dreams and human potential.  It’s up to each person to decide how to play it out in meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable ways that express their unique personality, talents and goals.