Working in retirement

In 2002, I retired from a 33-year career with the Procter & Gamble Company, and I’ve been working ever since.  Wait!  What?  Retired?  Working? 

When coauthor Keith Lawrence and I were doing research for our book, Your Retirement Quest, we interviewed hundreds of retirees to learn what what they were learning about this new phase of life.  We also reviewed all of the retirement-relevant research we could get our hands on.

One of our conclusions was that people have a number of myths about retirement, and one of those myths is that retirement means not working.

We came across research that showed that people who go from full work to full stop, in general, do not have as successful retirements as those who go from full work to some reduced level of work.  Those who work in retirement might stay in their original field but work part time.  They may change careers—the classic is the retiree at a community college, “I’ve been an engineer all my life, but I’ve always wanted to teach.”

Working in retirement can also mean having a meaningful volunteer job.  Sure, it’s not for a paycheck, but it still has a lot of the characteristics of work.  And it is those characteristics that making working in retirement worthwhile.

Think about the things we lose when we retire from our primary careers.  Our careers brought us structure in our lives, relationships with coworkers, purpose and meaning, intellectual stimulation, and yes, a paycheck.  Retiring to a life of pure leisure may not replace what was lost.  Sure, leisure is great, but if that’s all we are doing, we’re likely not having the full and fulfilling retirement life we deserve.

The opportunity is to choose work that meets one of the descriptions of retirement—doing what you want, when you want to do it, and with whom you want to do it.  So, what am I doing in retirement that can be described as working?

I’m writing books, publishing, and promoting them.  That’s a business.  I’m doing management consulting, but only with organizations and companies that I believe have a meaningful mission.  And I’m conducting workshops around the country helping others plan to live their best retirement life.  I’ve also been involved with a number volunteer efforts that at times showed up as full time work—and I loved every minute of them.

Each of these have clear aspects of work, but each of them is discretionary—what I want, when I want, with whom I want. 

Are you working in retirement?  If not, have you found other ways to replace the important things that your career provided you?    

About Alan Spector

Alan Spector is an author, business consultant, baseball player, traveler, and grandfather.  He has authored five published books, including, with coauthor Keith Lawrence, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement (www.YourRetirementQuest.com).  Alan and Keith conduct workshops across the country helping prospective and current retirees plan the non-financial aspects of their retirement—to make the rest of their lives the best of their lives.  Alan’s latest book, Body Not Recovered, is a work of historical fiction from the Vietnam War/Protest Movement era, and it has deep St. Louis roots.