Working in Retirement: Why, When, and How

April 13, 2016 Patricia West Doyle



For years, retirement meant the end of your working life. However, with increased longevity and earlier retirements (average retirement is now closer to 57, not 65), a retirement stage of life can now easily be 25-30 years in length. Not surprisingly, many retirees find themselves continuing to work or returning to work.

Understanding your needs moving forward can help you define what that work should look like!

Why People Choose to Work in Retirement

Supplemental Income

With the increased years in retirement, many retirees find that they do need the supplemental income that working in their retirement years generates. Sometimes working might also be needed to provide medical benefits in the earlier years of retirement. Some may feel that monetary payment for their time is a signal of personal worth.

An individual needs to fully understand whether supplemental income (and how much) is a need to be met when looking at working in retirement.

Status and Identity

In your previous life stage, work may have provided you with a significant portion of your status and identity. How will you create identity in this next life stage? I’ve spoken to some retirees that had to simultaneously deal with losing work identity and “parent” identity as their adult children left them as empty nesters. Work might be your best solution for filling this “Who Am I?” need, but it’s not the only option.

Achievement & Utility

Work life is often a primary source of feelings of achievement and being “needed.” Consider what fills that need for you. Is it the aspect of competition? Personal acknowledgement and recognition? Completion of goals or projects?

As stated above, for many, monetary compensation can be a key measure of utility. If achievement is a strong value-based need moving forward, what in your total life portfolio will help fill it? Is working for compensation the best option?

Social Affiliation

I have pointed out to many that when I stopped working full-time, I lost 90% of my “regular” connections. My husband just could not fill all my daily people interaction needs. Understanding what your relationship profile looks like entering retirement and what you want it to look like could mean work is a critical going-forward solution. By relationship profile I mean: professional relationships, social friends, spouse/significant other, and family. Are you looking for work to provide social interaction and connection?

Time Management

Work provides structure. It dictates when to wake up, when to eat, when to run errands, where to be at what time of the day. And while many a retiree will say “I never want to have a schedule again”, people do need to have a sense of a daily schedule and will, whether written or unwritten, have one.

Some people need more time management structure than others. Personally, I need quite a bit. Working in retirement can help you craft a self-controlled schedule that makes a total life portfolio flow. Is time management a need that work will provide for you?

When and How to Move Forward

The “to work or not to work” question really requires an individual to:

  1. understand his/her own needs
  2. analyze if working is the best option to meet those needs, and then
  3. look for work that meets those specific individual needs

Once you are clear on 1 & 2, some paths forward to work include:

Career Continuation

You loved what your work was. In general, you might not have been 100% ready to retire, can’t imagine not working in your current profession, and have more to achieve or contribute. As a Career Continuer, you want to capitalize on your work experience and skills. Consider working with a consulting company (like YourEncore!), establishing your own consulting practice in your field of expertise, teaching as an adjunct professor, leading a professional association, becoming editor of a journal in your field of expertise, writing & publishing books in your field, creating & selling digital downloads/training, or becoming a speaker/corporate trainer/coach.

Explore an Encore Career

You regret not trying a different work/career opportunity at some point in your life. You have the “if only I had” hindsight. Or maybe you want to use your talents in a new career passion area, or to finally start the business of your dreams. If this feels like the right space, consider buying into a franchise/licensee program, returning to college for a new degree in something you always wanted, retraining or licensing/certification for new trade. Consider your areas of interest for a new careers: do you love performance (musician, actor, comedian), working with others (mediator, teacher, realtor, minister), or the medical field (health care worker/practitioner, massage therapy).

A Fun Bridge Job

You need some supplemental income, but are not interested in a career-focused area. Or you are considering turning a lifelong hobby/interest into part-time income generation, where you work only as much as you want. There are so many areas that might satisfy this space especially small business creation for day-to-day needs/services like dog walker, driver, personal shopper, tax prep, personal concierge/organizer, personal chef, business support services, home stager, proof reader, website developer, or home companion. Or a part time job in your area of interest/hobby area that brings with it some unique perks – seasonal work (summer camps, national parks, garden store at peak times), retail in passion area (fashion, home improvement, cooking, home decor, pet store, sporting goods, golf shop), or becoming a fitness instructor (yoga, Zumba).


Time for a reality check: all retirees do not work! While about 50% of Baby Boomers have stated they plan to work in retirement, the numbers don’t (yet) play out. Retirement Options (retirement transition coaching) claims that only 47% of men and 34% of women aged 62-64 are working (including part time). That drops to 30% of men and 20% of women by ages 65-69.

Oh, and me? Yes, I decided to do some part-time work for the achievement and identity elements - a combination of Career Continuation through being a YourEncore expert and exploring Retirement Life Coaching as an encore career. Read more about becoming a YourEncore Expert here.

About Patricia West Doyle: Patricia (Pat) West Doyle is an expert in insight discovery and technical brand building. During her 32 years with P&G, she specialized in Franchise Products Research and achieved the level of Research Fellow. Since retiring in 2014, Pat consults through YourEncore, has vigorously explored retirement transition success, and has become a Certified Retirement Coach.



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