Gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D. is a gerontologist, author of 16 books on aging-related issues, and CEO of research company Age Wave. His survey “Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations,” conducted with Merrill Lynch, found a new retirement landscape that isn’t the traditional picture of staying home all day or moving into a nursing home.
Modern retirement isn’t an all-then-nothing proposition. Few people are going from their last day at the office or on the job to an eight-hour day on the couch or in the park. Retirement today includes phases or phased retirement. It often starts as pre-retirement with part-time or seasonal work, sabbaticals or mentorships. Some retirees may want a career intermission before working in retirement. Re-engagement refers to a mix of work and leisure made possible by retirement. Leisure in retirement is the fourth phase and many times it’s prompted by health challenges.
Dychtwald says if employers want to take advantage of an aging population that’s living longer and staying healthier, as well as staying in the workforce longer than ever before, they’ll have to offer attractive benefits to keep them. Mentoring opportunities, flex time, and sabbaticals are just some of the benefits appreciated by an older, more experienced workforce.
The Bureau of Labor of Statistics reports that older workers, those 55 and over, accounted for almost all of the workforce growth in the seven years since 2007. A Bank of America Merrill Lynch study found that 80 percent of working retirees say they work because they want to, not because they have to. That translates to a more active and engaged retirement, with 83 percent of the Bank of America study saying that working in retirement helps people stay younger and more active. The flip side of that is that 66 percent believe that people who don’t work in retirement will decline more rapidly.
Many retirees are working for the money, but many more are motivated by other reasons. Many working retirees say they feel the most important reason to work is to stay mentally and physically active. Some want to transition to a different career or line of work when they retire, some want to be entrepreneurs – or “retire-preneurs.”
The retirement landscape Boomers are navigating includes devastated 401(k)’s, shortfalls in social security, longer and longer years in the workforce, and sometimes divorce. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University found that a quarter of all American divorces today involve someone 50 or older. All these financial factors can make it attractive to work in retirement for more than just keeping active.
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