An article called 6 Reasons Why You Should Never Retire by Phillip Moeller of US News & World Report appeared last week in Yahoo Finance. I was alerted to it by a post in one of my LinkedIn Groups. What surprised me what not so much the content – and I’ll get back to that in a minute – but the reaction. The post on Yahoo Finance got over 3500 comments in one week, with most of the ones I read being on the negative side of the topic. Lots of anger. Some people responded that they’d been forced out of jobs prematurely in their late 50’s, couldn’t get another job, and sort of learned to live with retirement. Others said they’d retired in their late 50’s and were loving it, and that writers who advocate not retiring are just so wrong, etc.
The points made by Moeller are similar to most arguments made for continuing to work: no physical need to retire; continuing to work will make you happier, healthier; older people are valuable for their knowledge and experience and mentoring capability; we need older workers because there aren’t enough younger workers to replace them; and older workers need and like the money they earn, and don’t want to fall short of money in retirement.
As a Boomer who is theoretically approaching retirement, I think it is a very personal decision. My dad worked until he was 86, and said it “kept him alive.” But, he had no hobbies, outside interests or skills that could be leveraged differently. I love my work, and I do like earning a nice living. But I also love spending time with my grandkids (who live nearby), I want to write several books, and there are consulting and coaching skills I’d like to apply. So, I may never really retire, and I may even continue to work in my company. What I really want is the freedom to choose – how I apply my skills, energy, and time. Then, working doesn’t feel like a requirement, it feels like a choice I’ve made.
A lot of retirees lack choices today. The recession, combined with lower return on investments, has made it difficult if not impossible to rely on savings to continue the lifestyle most retirees expect. Many people have been so devoted to their jobs and families that they (like my dad) wouldn’t know what to do with themselves, especially if their kids and grandkids don’t live close by. They fear that retirement will lead to a rapid decline.
I don’t think there is one answer. Obviously, the 3500 people who weighed in on this agree!
It is a matter of looking forward in a positive way. If an individual wants to work, and is fortunate enough to be employed by a company that values older workers, I say they should go for it, and continue working. I am a strong advocate for companies working with older employees to give them flexible schedules, more vacation (even if unpaid), so that people can have their cake (stay employed) and eat it too (enjoy life).
For those who have ambitions and passions they look forward to in retirement, as long as they can afford it, they should go for it too.
Being at retirement age is our life test of empowerment. Have we done enough to be financially secure? Do we have interests we look forward to devoting time to? Do we have the freedom to choose what we will be doing? If we can answer yes to these questions, we are empowered to enjoy our senior years in the manner we wish – working or not!