Working during the retirement years

There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - I’m sure of it.

If I work hard and save enough, I will reach the nirvana of retirement. And what exactly does that look like? Let’s explore this state of presumed perpetual happiness.

So, who works during retirement and why do they do it? The more I research the question the more complex the answers become. The “off the cuff” answer is that the only people, men and/or women, who work are those that have to. The general assumption in our society is that you would not work if you did not have to in order to earn a living.

From that perspective, the nirvana answer to the end of life is obviously to not have to work. And when I say “end of life” I am referring to the last 30 years that we call retirement. This perception cannot be more wrong.

The reality of happiness in retirement is more complex and the reason why many chose to work is more varied than the simplistic observation above.

We can acknowledge that working for pay in retirement is a reality for many. Even in this part of the discussion the reasons vary dramatically and below are 10 common ones:

1.     The need to get out of the house and experience a little separation from family members.

2.     Even greeting at Walmart provides a little spare change for that delightful splurge.

3.     For many of varying ages, the difference between a stress-free financial life and a stress-filled one is additional income of between $400 to $600 per month. That amounts to working 10-15 hours per week at a $12-13 per hour rate.

4.     The transition from full-time employment to retirement is stressful in itself. A few years of part-time consulting or working with your last or prior employer provides a comfortable transition financially and sociologically. It can be hard to separate from work friends cold turkey.

5.     Government statistics show that there is a greater likelihood of someone 65 and above, who has retired from their primary occupation, to want to work longer than those who retire earlier, say in their early 60s.

6.     Money is not the only issue; health is a big one. Again, government reports indicate that someone who is healthy will work longer than someone who isn’t. On the one hand, capability gives greater freedom of choice about whether to work or not.

7.     When a person is more likely to keep working well into their 70s they are healthy with adequate financial resources. So, the very characteristics that suggest there is no need to work, are the very characteristics that encourage working longer.

8.     People want to embrace the gap. The highly anticipated time of not working, followed by a gap of 2-3 years, and then the realization that starting work of some kind, is exactly what is needed to give additional meaning to life.

9.     There are three stages of retirement: early, middle and late. We have written about these often. Working during the early stages is on the rise, while the middle and late reflect more of what we reasonably expect to happen.

10.  There is a mission to fulfill, a calling heard, a passion to express. It’s not the work, it’s the benefit to others that drives the activity, whether there is pay attached or not.

Earlier today I spoke with the President of a ministry support organization. He will “retire” in six months. His board is now searching for his replacement. I asked him what he was going to do during his retirement? He was silent for what seemed to be a long time and then answered,
“You know, I have not really thought about it.”. I pushed a little harder, and he added, “I know God has something more for me. I guess I’ll just have to see how it plays out”.

There is the old story about the ship leaving the harbor without a destination or a compass, any port will do. And none will be the right one.

God does have a plan and what joy it can bring when we listen and follow His direction, especially during the last Quarter.

One additional perspective is helpful. When our lives have meaning beyond ourselves, when we can encourage, support and help others, we are energized. That energy is translated into action. The action may be to volunteer, working for free, or to be employed, working for money. In either case, the passion and drive for productive activity puts the purpose to the meaning.

My adrenaline pumps faster when a ministry decides to financially support their staff by beginning or enhancing their retirement plan. I get excited about this because I know the lives of their staff will be changed for a lifetime. The combination of lives changed and Kingdom purposes enhanced pumps me up. So, what keeps you going? I’ve been driven by this vision for over 30 years and don’t see any reason it won’t continue to energize me for the next 30!

The Live With Meaning Foundation just received their 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS. I’m looking forward to working on the seminal book about the Retirement Reformation on the QE2 next month. Work? For sure. For pay? Not Sure. Passion? Definitely!

Stay with us and think about your transition to the next stage of life. The hammock’s ok for awhile, but meaning and purpose comes from fulfilling God’s call on your life and for a lifetime.