One great blessing of the longer, healthier lives we’re living is figuring out how we would most like to spend the gift of more time. Multiply this calculation by the millions of boomers out there, and we can wind up changing some well-entrenched definitions. Retirement, for example, no longer automatically signals “not working anymore.” More and more people are seeing retirement, not as freedom from work, but as freedom to work.
Ever-increasing numbers of folks reach the age when they can collect Social Security, but they decide to continue working. They might work less, or they might work at something different, but lots of them make up their minds that leisure is not going to become their full-time occupation once they pass the retirement threshold.
Almost 20 percent of Americans 65 and older are working, the most since we enacted Medicare in the mid 1960s, according to Ben Steverman in an article for Bloomberg News. And a new survey by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that half of workers between the ages of 52 and 70 plan to continue working after they retire. Most of them plan to switch from a full-time to a part-time schedule, or to work in a different capacity that is less demanding and brings personal satisfaction.
Why, when they have earned the right to take it easy, do so many individuals select door No. 2 — labeled “more work”?
One explanation is that many of us are staying healthier longer, and if a job doesn’t overtax our physical abilities, we are able to feel good enough to continue working.
Money pressures certainly contribute to a desire to stay in the labor force. Defined benefit pensions have evaporated, savings took a hit from the recession and longer lives chew up more resources. So most people who keep working say they need the money, or need the benefits, or both.
But many people keep working because they like what they do and want to stay involved. If they choose to hold on to their job but scale back their hours, they can keep doing something they enjoy, continue earning, save more money and gain the advantage of more time off.
For those who want to step away from a current career and work part time at something different, the possibilities are endless. In fact, making a decision about what to do next can be daunting. AARP has a wealth of resources to help get you thinking about what you might be interested in and where to find work you will love.
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I recommend beginning your research at aarp.org/work, a hearty cache of information about full- and part-time work. And please think about taking part in one of our online career fairs.
Most of us have the great good fortune to be living more years and in generally better health. That gives us more choices for how we want to spend those years, including working as long as we want to, where we want to and the way we want to.
Kerry Hannon is AARP's Jobs expert and writes about finding jobs and managing your career after 50.
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