Monday, May 28, 2012

Can You Be Retired, and Still Working?

     Some of the most fortunate people in the world never retire. For example, Elizabeth Windsor, at age 85, is still going strong as Queen of England. Warren Buffett, 81, remains chairman and ceo of Berkshire Hathaway.

     Not all of us have the option to keep our jobs for as long as we want. I think of myself as belonging to a different, but equally exclusive club --  people who were forced to retire at a fairly young age. For example, Jimmy Carter who retired at age 56 in January 1981. Bill Clinton, who retired at age 54 in January 2001. And George W. Bush, who retired in January 2009 at age 62.

Carter builds houses
     But even though these people officially retired, they did not stop working or contributing to society. Jimmy Carter went on to write books, found the Carter Center and win the Nobel Peace Prize. Bill Clinton wrote his autobiography and started the Clinton Foundation. George Bush has been building his presidential library and working with Clinton to raise money to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

      Of course, I'm in a much different league than any of these people -- they're in the Majors, I'm in Little League -- but nevertheless, I figure if none of these people felt too good to retire, then who am I to sit back and do nothing? If they kept active into their 60s and 70s and 80s, then so should I.

     Besides, I need the money.

Clinton fights global poverty
     Some might think . . . well, it's easy for them to keep working, they have interesting jobs that do not require physical labor, and they enjoy a nice income and plenty of perks.

     That's true, but if you're really sick and tired of your job -- as I was in my last years at work -- then there's nothing to say you can't do something entirely different. A roofer can climb down from the ladder and go teach a course at the local vocational center. A burned-out executive can get outdoors and work on a golf course. A retired teacher can take a summer job as a camp counselor. A bored office administrator can work in retail at the mall. The corporate sales manager can become a real-estate agent.
     If you don't need the money, you can volunteer to fold clothes at the church rummage sale or serve food for Meals on Wheels, or pick up litter during community clean-up day.

Bush bikes with wounded vets
     (These are all things that various friends of mine have done at one time or another.)

     I was forced to retire in my 50s. So, like the former presidents, I too have kept working.

     I don't get the notoriety or the perks. But I also don't have to keep regular hours; I don't have to commute;  I don't have to play office politics; and I don't have to deal with the eternal dissatisfaction of ambition. I just poke around with my old contacts and try to come up with a job now and then, and when I do get an assignment, it gives me something to do, offers structure for my week, and not incidentally helps me stretch my retirement funds.

     Some people counter, if you're still working, how can you say you're retired? I guess I look on it as kind of like a summer job when you're in school. You're still on vacation; you don't have any papers to write or exams to study for; and you're not getting graded. Boy, I can tell you, one great thing about working in retirement is that you don't have to suffer the absurdities, and the indignities, of the dreaded "performance appraisal."

     In the end, the reasons to work in retirement are the reasons why you work at any other time in your life. For the money, yes. But also to have some structure in your life. To make some friends. To feel like you're doing something useful. To belong to a group that's bigger than yourself. To actually make a difference in the world -- even if, as in my case, it's a pretty small difference.

     All that being said, I must admit I am "underemployed." So if anyone has suggestions for getting decent work in retirement, or simply wants to share any of their own experiences, I'd love to hear about them.


rosaria williams said...

You are a wise person! Most of us have no clue to what retirement is; we just don't want to continue working in the present job. If we asked ourselves what gives meaning to our lives, we'd list working as one of those things that gives meaning to our lives. Now, if we get to choose how to work!

I totally agree that working during the retirement years can be so beneficial!

schmidleysscribblins, said...

The bike ride Bush made with the wounded warriors was awesome. They said he was tough to match. You can do anything you want when you retire, even buy a motocycle and ride with Rolling Thunder. Dianne

Kay Dennison said...

Good for you!!!! I, hopefully, will be going back to work part-time within the next few months. And yeah, I need the money -- desperately.

Retired Syd said...

Don't knock underemployment. I took a part-time retirement gig that was really fun, but in the end it grew too big. It was fun when it was underemployment-- after that it became like an actual job! So I'm moving aside to let someone take it that actually wants a career. I look forward to possible underemployment in my future, though.

Bob Lowry said...

As a society we need to move beyond the rigid, old-fashioned defintion of "retirement."

Today it simply means another stage of someone's life after a career or years at a job in a particular field. It doesn't preclude anything: working, volunteering, writing, travel, lots of naps...whatever.

All it really means is a time of life when you can make fresh choices, whatever they may be.

Arkansas Patti said...

I worked for 48 years, never had a job I didn't like, loved my co-workers but I hope to goodness I never have to work again. I think it may be easier for a woman to totally retire.
I could use the money also but I enjoy this phase of my life so much, I'll find things I can do without before strapping on the harness. I truly admire those who do continue to produce and they will most likely out live me.

Linda Myers said...

I agree with what Bob said: "We can make fresh choices".

I've been retired two years next month. And tomorrow I take my Professional Standards Evaluation on the way to becoming a certified mediator.

When I get there, I'll be a volunteer. Good enough!

Anonymous said...

i left my job as a primary public school teacher at age 52. just totally burned out. since then, volunteered at the library, a local national wildlife refuge and have thoroughly enjoyed "underemployment" as a local community shared agriculture delivery driver. i happily deliver fresh veggies and flowers to customers on my route 2 days per staff meetings, no parent phone calls, notes, conferences, no challenging kids. reduced lifestyle choices made this possible. No regrets, only pure enjoyment of each day ever since!

Janette said...

I, too, left my position in school burned through. I am enjoying volunteering with kids one on one and substitute teaching, they are the parts of teaching I missed, spontinaity, laughter, joy and learning. Neither are jobs for friendship though. They give me plenty of "pocket change" to do what I am doing right this minute, sitting with my grandson in the morning:)

Mike said...

Try going back to school in something completely different. I was a financial executive (CPA/MBA) for 30 years, and was forced out at age 52.
I went to the local junior college, and 3 years later got my RN license. Now I work 6-8 days a month of my choosing. Gets me out of the house, makes a bit of money, and allows me do feel socially useful.

Anonymous said...

Bruce said –
I retired at age 55 but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grow up. We have always lived a relatively frugal lifestyle so continuing to work for a paycheck would not enhance our lives but would only mean leaving more for the kids when we leave this earth. To me, that was not a good enough reason to continue working. We started our retirement by downsizing which reduced our expenses more and provided more financially security. After we downsized, I was surprised how little we needed (or wanted) in our lives. (Downsizing was made easier by thinking about my parents’ estate that was full of lifetime treasures that nobody in the family wanted.) I then started volunteering for organizations where I felt I had the greatest impact on people’s lives. I did some volunteer work for the arts but that wasn’t for me. I ended up doing some part time volunteer work at a local outreach program working with individuals that live in group homes that have some form of mental illness. I also do part time volunteer work for an organization that provides school supplies to kids from impoverished families. In addition, I pick up a few volunteer opportunities here and there throughout the year. Now, I have recaptured the excitement of going to “work” where my efforts are very much needed and appreciated. I have achieved my retirement goals of “economic freedom” and having a “meaningful life.” I still haven’t figured out all the things I want to do when I grow up but it’s a good start.

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Anonymous said...

With a Masters in Counseling and Education, I regret that I am unable to find a job in my field, but at age 68, I have had to accept reality. Consequently, I have utilized my perfect driving record to become a driver, and like it more than I expected! I actually feel fulfillment and am enjoying the solitude I experience doing this. The down side is that I'm not ALWAYS driving and when I'm not, I'm miserable. I need to find a job site which lists driver jobs, like the DX position I now enjoy. Can anyone provide information?