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  • Nancy Webb

Unretirement - The New Frontier!

Updated: Sep 16, 2022


It used to be that people just retired. They hit 65 and announced to their boss that they were going to retire. The company threw them a party and wished them well. Then, they spent their time with their family and friends, traveling, hobbies, or volunteering. Except for a handful of people, those days don’t exist anymore.


A new wind is blowing and it carries with it the future of retirement – unretirement. Historically, employed workers dreamed of an active retirement that includes traveling, philanthropy, spending more time with family and friends, and pursuing hobbies. Almost half (47 percent) of the US workforce expect to retire after age 65 or do not plan to retire – and almost six in 10 plan to work at least part-time in retirement (58 percent). Twenty-four percent expect to retire later than planned because of the pandemic. Of course, some people retire and then return to work out of necessity. According to Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies' estimates, the average American Worker’s medium retirement savings was $65,000 in 2021.


Unretirement is your “second act” - finding worthy causes for your community or yourself that can benefit from the skills that helped you make money in the first place. It is a fluid concept, where retirees move in and out of the workforce.





The Reasons for Unretirement

The reasons for unretirement differ for retirees for a variety of reasons.


· Financial Difficulty. Some people retire and then return to work out of necessity. According to Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies', the average American Worker’s medium retirement savings was $65,000 in 2021. The ability to save for retirement is not easy for everyone, it is often dependent on circumstances such as the lack of sufficient income, job instability, excessive optimism, or fatalism.


· Boredom. Some retirees miss the routine and stimulation they experienced while working. Many express frustrations with the feeling of just sitting around and doing mundane things. Retirees find that their plans of eating lunch with friends, organizing recipes and photos, and taking vacations turn out to be much less stimulating than they anticipated.



· Seeking fulfillment and meaning. Then there are some who unretire do so because they want to keep making a difference. They take a break or sabbatical and then ask themselves “What is my purpose in life.” Many find part-time or seasonal work – oftentimes in the field or company from which they retired – which allows them the flexibility to spend more time doing the fun things in life.




The Benefits of Retirement

Be sure not to view unretirement as a negative thing, there is much more to it – most of which is positive.



· It’s Good for the Economy. Some millennials and GenXers enter the workforce later in their lives, and weakening population growth in some countries has resulted in a shortage of qualified workers for jobs in all industries. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that states that the labor force participation rate for all workers (age 16 and over) will decrease from 62.4% in 2022 to 61.0% in 2026. That decrease amounts to 4,573,000 fewer workers in 2026. Unretirement also allows skilled and qualified workers to stay in existing companies and continue to contribute to meeting that organization’s goals. Unretirees also strengthen the Social Security system by continuing to contribute to the fund instead of withdrawing.





· Skills are retained and passed along. A qualified worker’s skill set and experience are virtually priceless. Unretirees will be readily on-hand to train younger workers so that they can better understand and learn the ropes before they have to replace the outgoing skilled worker.


· It fights ageism in the workplace. Ageism – is discrimination against older workers. An organization that is wise to support older workers will help people see the true value those employees bring to the table.


· There are also health benefits to unretirement, as older people who continue to work keep their minds active, which is a deterrent for Alzheimer’s or dementia. The risk for dementia is cut down by 3.2% for every year of a retiree's unretirement.


I understand why retirees unretire. It isn’t always about the money, but it is about purpose and community and doing something that makes a difference, to do something that leaves a legacy that you are proud of, that has a purpose.

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