Retirement in the 21st Century: How Today’s Retirees Satisfy Their Yearn to Earn
Even if they’re mathematically comfortable, many of today’s retirees have an emotional need that only earning income can fulfill. Diana Gardner Robinson, PhD. from Rochester, New York, offered to share her personal journey with our readers. Why does she choose to work in retirement? She says, “Based on the actuarial charts on which the IRS requires conversion from IRA, I have enough, but I don’t believe that the actuarial charts are based on having a large number of female relatives, including my mother, who lived into their late nineties.” Unfortunately, her personal circumstances haven’t let her with much from Social Security. “I spent 25 years married to man who insisted that I not work so that he should be free to accept transfers/promotions and move any time he wanted to. The portion of Social Security Income that I get based on his income doesn’t do it.” In the end, though, despite not really “needing” outside income, it is the unknown which she fears the most. “I guess you could say it is insecurity about inflation. I don’t really know if I need it or not but the point between ‘need’ and ‘not need’ is very grey.” So when she decided on a source of outside income, she looked for examples among her peers. “Many of my retirement age friends are adjunct instructors/professors and universities and community colleges and/or have micro-businesses such a life coaching or do freelance writing. I do a bit of all three.”
Robinson’s experience with multiple outside income sources is not atypical. “Most typical outside source is part-time work,” says Sean Moore, Vice President at Alter Retirement Planning in Boca Raton, Florida. “We have a few examples of clients turning a hobby into a source of income. Selling artwork, pet sitting and restoring classic cars are all examples we’ve seen.”
There is a cornucopia of choices for retirees seeking a new arena. “The sources of outside income runs the gamut from golf course maintenance, to driving cars and working temp jobs. Some set up their own consulting business,” says Thomas Scanlon, Financial Advisor at Raymond James in Manchester, Connecticut.
“The main types of retirement work that I see come from part-time employment and self-employed individuals,” says Jamie Hopkins, Esq., Assistant Professor of Taxation in the Retirement Income Program at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Associate Director of the New York Life Center for Retirement Income. “More specifically, consulting work, teaching, coaching, writing, blogging, and running a small business are the main types of post-retirement employment opportunities. Additionally, many large employers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Wegmans offer part-time employment opportunities to elderly workers.”
Among retirees, Nancy Collamer of Old Greenwich, Connecticut, the founder of MyLifestyleCareer.com and author of the book Second-Act Careers, sees “Expert-based income such as consulting, coaching, teaching, writing and speaking. One area where I see a lot of opportunity is entrepreneurial support services. While entrepreneurs are skilled at their core business (e.g., a plumber knows how to fix your pipes) most entrepreneurs need help with running, marketing and managing their business. They also need help with a variety of tasks on a part-time basis – bookkeeping, writing press releases, designing logos, writing their blog posts, etc.”
“A lot of retirees are starting their own businesses,” says Pamela J. Sams, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor at Jackson Sams Financial Services in Herndon, Virginia. “Consulting, starting bed & breakfast establishments and turning their hobbies into a business. Others will work at places with flexible hours such as tour guides at museums, Walmart greeters, and libraries.”
Don’t overlook the different opportunities available in different regions of the country. “In our area, seniors choose local amusement parks because of the flexibility in scheduling,” says Richard Sturm, a financial adviser, educator and public speaker in Seal Beach, California. “I have known other retirees who have purchased an RV and travel the country working for RV parks. These arrangements often provide them with extra income and free space rentals.”
One of the most fruitful enterprises is to take advantage of a career’s worth of experience. Joanne Cleaver, President of Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois and author of The Career Lattice runs a series of workshops “designed for career shifting late in life and as a retirement transition plan.” Participant in these workshops, she says, “want to work a bit longer, but at a different job, to either avoid tapping their savings, or to continue adding to it. My advice is to abandon the popular myth of career reinvention, which assumes that you’ll start over from scratch with a new career in a new field. That’s dumb, because you have a lifetime of experience and connections to build on. If you are looking to gain significant income from ages 55 70, you have to make the most of what you have. You don’t have enough time to start over.”
Retirement in the 21st Century
Collamer reminds us what retirement means to many people. She says, “In doing the research for Second-Act Careers, I spoke at length with nearly 40 people, most of whom were in their 50s and 60s, who were having the time of their lives working in their second acts. And even though they typically no longer earn what they once did, they are energized, engaged, and connected to their communities; they feel valued, are learning new skills, and know they are making a difference. When asked how long they planned to continue working, the vast majority said they have no intention of slowing down anytime soon; they are simply having too much fun.”
Modern Retirement isn’t a make-believe TV series on ABC. It’s being played out in cities and towns from coast-to-coast in America. For many, it involves working either in volunteer positions or in positions that earn money. For some, it even means a second or even a third career. Even if your financial position suggests you can lie on the beach all day, don’t count on doing that. Working during retirement is not something to be feared. As Collamer says, it should be a way to continue “having too much fun.”
Interested in learning more about issues facing today’s 401k investors and how professionals advise them? Check out Mr. Carosa’s upcoming book Hey! What’s My Number?, available later this summer.
Mr. Carosa is available for keynote speaking engagements, especially in venues located in the Northeast, MidAtantic and Midwestern regions of the United States and in the Toronto region of Canada.