Why Baby Boomers Want to Continue Working

Working or returning to work could feel good to you for quite a variety of reasons, if only because it’s hard to wake up in the morning and have no place to go.

And if that’s how you feel, you’re certainly not alone. As of 2012, the older edge of the Baby Boomers to reach retirement age first – those born in 1946 and slightly after – are retiring at an average age of 71. This age is up significantly from just the previous year (2011) when the average retirement age was 69, as well as 2008 when the average age was 68.

In fact the most recent studies indicate that more than 9 in 10 working middle-income baby boomers expect to be working past the conventional retirement age of 65, according to Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement.

Why does Working Matter to Us?

The World of Work provides for many of our most basic needs, far beyond the fact that it sustains us financially or has provided the dollar input collected through the years for the Social Security payments we will someday receive.

Work gives us something to do, which is sometimes simply about passing time but more often about making a difference for others as well as ourselves. Most of us have a very strong emotional connection to working because it satisfies our needs for social connection along with contributing to our strong self worth.

Continuing to work after age 50 provides more daily structure to our lives than retirement.

Continuing to work after age 50 provides more daily structure to our lives than retirement.

The daily structure of our lives has been built around Work, from defining the days we work or don’t, like the usual Monday through Friday workweek and weekend respite; where we live (which is often dictated by where our employer is located and how long it takes us to get back & forth to work each day), even when we eat our lunch or take a break.

Without work each day, many of the decisions we made in our lives may no longer make the same sense they once did…from the neighborhood we chose to live in, or what time we get up in the morning.

To suddenly be without a job, without the status, prestige and respect we earned at work, can be disabling and depressing for some; freeing for others. Being on your own as a Retiree means creating most of these new structures for yourself and imposing them upon yourself, which can be quite challenging even if you’ve yearned to be able to do exactly that much of your life.

How important are the following considerations for you in thinking ahead to a future where you continue working…or decide not to? As you read, just mentally answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Do you want something to do?

Sure, work can bring many stressors into your life: personalities you clash with, boring tasks, office politics, competition with those climbing the ladder behind you, not to mention all those hours stuck in rush hour traffic. But think of all the enjoyable experiences you lose when you leave the workplace: friendships with co-workers, meeting new people, lunches out, workshops, out-of-town conferences to escape the same-old, same-old.

The challenges of learning new things, developing new skills, and receiving recognition, respect and a paycheck for our knowledge and experience may give you great satisfaction as you have ‘something to do’ each day.

Do you like what you currently do?

If you enjoy the work that you do, you may not be ready to stop working. And there is no reason you should stop as long as you can perform your job safely, well, and continue to find satisfaction in it.

If you have a job that requires levels of physical strength or flexibility that decrease as we age, you may need to explore different jobs within your career field that would allow you to maintain the parts of your job you most enjoy, while leaving tasks that have become physically challenging to do to others – with younger bodies.

Not paying attention to your body’s early warning signs that your job is becoming physically too much could result in injuries or accidents that radically change your options or entirely rule out the possibilities of you continuing to work at all.

Are You Young at Heart, Mind and Body?
Working after age 50 may keep you more fit and healthy than retiring

The routines and requirements of working may keep you more fit and healthy after age 50 than retiring will.

Many Boomers say they do not not physically or psychologically feel like their chronological age, and literally feel they are too young to retire.

Certainly we see many seniors working into their 70s and 80s, enjoying new jobs and even establishing businesses, exploring how to enjoy their life as they proceed through each new decade.

If you are in good health and good spirits, still approaching each day and each year as a new adventure, then why not continue working?
The challenges of working will keep you mentally alert as you age, but staying physically fit is an important goal as well.

For most of us, daily work expectations keep us moving more than not working and staying home, or having fewer social commitments and places to go.

Parking your car a little further out in the lot so you walk further to your workplace, taking the stairs rather than the elevator or walking with a colleague during lunch time are strategies that up your activity level – and work well regardless of your age.

How much do you enjoy the social interaction of the workplace?

For many of us, the workplace influences how we think of ourselves as well as how others see us.

Our most important relationships may be formed at work, because we spend so much time there immersed in our jobs and the teamwork it may take to achieve our goals. We may miss the professional camaraderie as well as specific individuals we enjoyed working with, and became friends with.

Do you believe it’s important to build a strong financial safety net ?

Whether it’s an unexpected pink slip, an accident, or a chronic health condition that worsens, we all know that life is unpredictable and can change tomorrow.

You may have no immediate worries or money needs, but working as long as you can will provide greater financial comfort later on, both in the size of your savings and investments as well as the dollars in your monthly Social Security check. This trade off between greater security and free time may be right for you.

Does Work provide a sense of purpose and meaning for you?

Much of who we are is wrapped up in what we do.

Work involves us in the mainstream of life, and allows us to fill an important need of feeling needed and productive. Doing work that provides you with a sense of purpose and a reason to get up each day is reason enough to continue.

Do you want to try a new field or way of working?

We have many more choices now about how we work than ever before. Full time positions are not the only answer: part time, temporary, contract and seasonal schedules may suit you and your lifestyle better. Working from home, or as part of an electronically connected remote workforce are increasingly more popular options.

Going back to school after age 50 to learn new skills for working longer may be a great choice for you.

Going back to school to learn skills for a new job may enable you to keep working longer, or perhaps discover a new career path you will enjoy greatly.

And of course, you may decide you don’t want to work for someone else and choose to become an entrepreneur. Starting a business of your own at midlife can be challenging, fun, and profitable, while letting you work from home on a flexible schedule if you choose to create a web-store or offer professional services.

As long as there are new skills or jobs you are interested in learning & doing – continuing to work for others or in a business of your own may be enjoyable for you.

Are there new things you still want to do or learn?

You don’t need to worry about climbing the corporate ladder anymore if your true goal is to explore new opportunities or learn and develop new skills.

Making a complete career switch allows you to start at entry level and discover new things about yourself and the job, industry or career field you always wondered about or believed you would enjoy.

And starting a business will challenge you in ways you never dreamed of, prompting development of new skills.

There’s nothing like the Present to give new opportunities a try.

What new things do you want to do or learn? Please share below.

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