For years, you’ve thought about retirement – but what about “unretirement”? For a growing number of retired seniors, unretirement beckons as a cure for boredom and a way to feel useful (not to mention earning more money) after officially retiring. Maybe the idea will appeal to you.
During and after the COVID pandemic, millions of older workers in the U.S. found their retirement plans upended as business cutbacks forced them into early retirement. But like the turning of the tide, there seems to be clear evidence that early retirement has shifted into “unretirement” for many older workers who are restless at having been forced to quit work before they were ready.
Unretirement: Many Seniors Eager to Return to Work
Here at the AgingOptions Blog, for those considering a return to the workforce in 2024, we wanted to share this US News article about the benefits of unretiring. (We first brought this to your attention a year or so ago.) We also did a bit of research and came across a report from CNBC published late in 2022 which made it clear that a large number of recent retirees do seem to be itching to return to work.
“A combination of record high prices and a record number of job openings has been encouraging more retirees to go back to work,” CNBC reported. This “unretirement” trend appears to have rebounded dramatically over the past two years or so. “About two-thirds, or 68 percent, of retirees would consider returning to work, according to a  CNBC All-America Workforce Survey.”
The effects of COVID were especially dramatic. “The pandemic prompted many people to accelerate their retirements,” says CNBC, “with 62 percent of retirees saying they left the workforce earlier than planned and 67 percent indicating they left at least two years early.”
But amid such apparent restlessness among retirees, especially recent ones, is unretirement really the answer? The US News article, written by reporter Rachel Hartman, gives an emphatic yes, and lists eight reasons why returning to work makes sense. Let’s see what she recommends and why.
Retirement May Be the Ideal, but Working Brings Benefits
Writing in US News, Hartman begins, “Retirement is often painted as the ideal way to spend your time after decades of working. No alarm clocks and a free schedule are often considered some of the perks you’ll find. However, for many, the chance to return to work holds additional appeal. It could help you in multiple ways, ranging from a financial boost to better mental health and a full social calendar.”
The following are Hartman’s eight potential benefits that can come with unretiring. Some may seem familiar, but all are worth exploring as you consider your own situation.
Unretirement Benefit #1: Earn Extra Cash
The first benefit on the list is perhaps the most obvious: working during your retirement years can give you a much-needed boost of income during a time when you would otherwise have to live off of your savings. This extra cash is especially helpful if you didn’t quite reach your retirement savings goals. “And even if you have an ample nest egg,” Hartman explains, “you might find it refreshing to not have to withdraw from retirement accounts.”
But she adds, “Be sure to evaluate your sources of income before you start working, as Social Security benefits can be impacted by your earnings until you reach full retirement age.” (This particularly applies to the millions who took Social Security before their full retirement age, usually between 66 and 67 depending on your birth year.)
Unretirement Benefit #2: Enjoy Work-Related Benefits
Employer-paid medical coverage is a major plus for returning to work. “Retiring before you are eligible for Medicare often means you’ll have to find health coverage on your own,” Hartman writes. “If you go back to work, you might find an employer that provides medical benefits.”
She also notes that employers who offer medical benefits are often able to offer other perks, including chances to contribute to a 401(k) with or without an employer match, paid vacation time, or access to a company gym or cafeteria. These benefits definitely add up.
Unretirement Benefit #3: Make New Friends
Sociability is an often-unrecognized workplace benefit. Online health and wellness writer Jennie Miller told Hartman, “It is completely natural for your social circle to shrink when you get older.” This is typically because the circle of colleagues we built in our employment years is usually our closest community, and when we stop working, we lose access to the ease of those friendships.
But unretiring can bring that back. For example, as Hartman writes, “If you take a customer service job, you’ll have a chance to talk to other employees and clients. You could become part of a group that meets regularly and make friends who enjoy getting together outside of work.” On-the-job friendships offer a refreshing antidote to isolation and loneliness.
Unretirement Benefit #4: Experience the Satisfaction of Helping Others
Jobs in certain areas of service, like tutoring students or assisting patients in a clinical setting, can go a long way to adding a sense of purpose to your days. This also applies to work in the growing non-profit sector.
Max Wesman, chief operating officer at an employee screening company called GoodHire, puts it this way: “Though it might seem strange for younger folk, work for retirees can be a great source of enjoyment and fulfillment. Knowing that you can contribute to something that you believe in, and without undertones of financial need or instability, allows you to truly lean into your role for all the right reasons.”
Unretirement Benefit #5: Discover New Skills
Do you have to unretire back to the career you had previously? Hartman says not necessarily. In fact, it’s often more energizing to try something new.
“You can direct your return to work toward areas you find intriguing, even if they don’t line up with your experience,” she explains. “If you had a career in the tech industry, but were always interested in the arts, you might search for job positions at a local museum.”
Do you have a passion, hobby, or dream from your younger years that you’ve always wanted to try? There’s no time like the present! Hartman advises, “If you take an entry-level position, you might get the training you need while working. For jobs that require a certain skill set, you could start by taking online classes or getting the needed certification.”
Unretirement Benefit #6: Improve Your Outlook by Staying Engaged
Contrary to popular belief, having loads of free time can actually be less motivating, not more. When you are career-focused, you constantly chase opportunities and absorb new information, and that tends to keep you mentally sharp.
California-based author and consultant Barry Maher says, “I always thought I’d retire as soon as I could afford it. And I worked hard, saved hard and invested carefully in order to become financially independent.”
But once Maher reached those milestones, he tried stepping away from his career – only to find that he simply loved his job too much to quit forever. “I realized just how much I loved doing what I’d been doing,” he says. “I can honestly say there’s really nothing I’d rather be doing.”
Unretirement Benefit #7: Put Boredom Behind You
That unstructured free time in retirement can also come with an unintended consequence: boredom. And boredom has a way of feeding on itself. By contrast, getting a job can contribute to building a consistent schedule and rhythm to your day to day, and help alleviate that sense of boredom.
Max Wesman says, “It can be difficult to fill your time on a consistent basis [after retirement]. It comes as no surprise that some retirees wish to unretire, and they should not feel guilty or alienated for doing so.”
Unretirement Benefit #8: Live Longer by Remaining Active
We’ve written plenty on this blog about how important physical activity is for longevity and general health, and Hartman agrees. Unretiring to an on-site job can work wonders for getting you up and moving!
“If you’re looking for ways to add movement to your days, an on-site job could be a great way to get in extra steps,” Hartman writes. “For jobs that are nearby, you might consider walking when the weather permits. Applying at a grocery store could lead to a cashier position that keeps you on your feet. These small ways might collectively keep you active and involved in the community, which you might see as the optimal way to spend your later years.”
Breaking News: Rajiv’s New Book is Here!
We have big news! The long-awaited book by Rajiv Nagaich, called Your Retirement: Dream or Disaster, has been released and is now available to the public. As a friend of AgingOptions, we know you’ll want to get your copy and spread the word.
You’ve heard Rajiv say it repeatedly: 70 percent of retirement plans will fail. If you know someone whose retirement turned into a nightmare when they were forced into a nursing home, went broke paying for care, or became a burden to their families – and you want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you – then this book is must-read.
Through stories, examples, and personal insights, Rajiv takes us along on his journey of expanding awareness about a problem that few are willing to talk about, yet it’s one that results in millions of Americans sleepwalking their way into their worst nightmares about aging. Rajiv lays bare the shortcomings of traditional retirement planning advice, exposes the biases many professionals have about what is best for older adults, and much more.
Rajiv then offers a solution: LifePlanning, his groundbreaking approach to retirement planning. Rajiv explains the essential planning steps and, most importantly, how to develop the framework for these elements to work in concert toward your most deeply held retirement goals.
Your retirement can be the exciting and fulfilling life you’ve always wanted it to be. Start by reading and sharing Rajiv’s important new book. And remember, Age On, everyone!
(originally reported at https://money.usnews.com)