Retirement is not, and probably will never be, a neutral topic. Every retirement story is individual and unique. And if the person retiring happens to be you, that unique story becomes eminently significant, certainly emotional, and possibly life critical.
Granted, throughout our work lives before retirement, our work may have become almost routine. And granted, we may have dreamed of the day when we could turn in our employee ID, say goodbye to our colleagues, and walk out to the parking lot for the last time. But once the curtain closes on Act II, we know that it will open again on Act III. The question is, what will happen in Act III, and will it all end happily and well?
With 77 million Baby Boomers in the before, during, or after stage of retiring, speculation is rampant about what we will do, where we will do it, and how we will find our way to whatever IT will be. There is even speculation about what retirement will look like once we have left our mark on it, and shifted forever the traditions we inherited from those who retired before us.
Three predictions about the landscape of Baby Boomer retirement rise to the top:
- There will be more older workers. Participation of older workers in the workforce will increase significantly.
- Retirement will involve reinvention, not continuation. Career change will become the norm that will replace traditional retirement. We will work in retirement, but probably will not do the same work we have done in the past. And we will significantly alter the balance between work and leisure, cycling in and out of work, or arranging to work part-time, in order to preserve at least some of the freedoms associated with traditional retirement.
- Needed retirement guidance will include career redirection, not just financial advice. Peace of mind in retirement will be as much about personal purpose as it is about financial security. We will need support and guidance from Career Counselors as well as Financial Advisors.
More Older Workers
Retirement used to mean the end of work. Today, it means a rebalancing of work and leisure. In fact, working in later life is increasingly becoming the norm. Close to eight out of ten pre-retirees say that ideally they would like to include some work in their retirement years. Only 23% define retirement as “stopping work entirely.”
Between 2006 and 2011, the only age cohort where the workforce grew as opposed to decreasing was the 55+ group. This growth was impressive, with an increase of over 4 million 55+ in the workforce, in contrast to major drops in other age groups. And according to Department of Labor projections, participation rates of older workers will continue to increase.
Reinvention, Not Continuation
Retirement motivation now often includes a desire for continued purpose, productivity, stimulation, satisfaction and social connections. But it does not necessarily mean staying with the same career. Over half of us (51%) plan to enter a different line of work in retirement.
And although most of us (71%) do plan to work in retirement, the majority of us will be seeking flexible work arrangements, such as part-time work (39%) or going back and forth between periods of work and leisure (24%), according to the 2013 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, conducted in partnership with Age Wave, with over 6000 respondents. Only 8% of us plan to work full-time. This is only partly a function of financial necessity. Even among those of us who are affluent when we enter retirement, with $250,000 or more in assets and investments, 68% plan to work in retirement. Of these, 29% will cycle between work and leisure and 34% will work part-time. Only 5% plan to work full-time.
Guidance Needed: Personal Purpose As Well As Financial Security
Income is only part of the picture in our choice to continue working after retirement. While money and financial security continue to be important, they are not the only factor. For half of us (48%) stimulation and satisfaction are the main reason we want to continue to work. In the affluent group, 2 out of 3 (68%) name stimulation and satisfaction as their primary reason.
For those of us who have already retired from our primary careers, money comes second on our list of what we miss most about working. If 30 of us were gathered in a room and asked what we miss most since retirement, 10 would say that they miss the social connections most. Nine would say they most miss having a reliable income. Six would say they most miss having purpose and work goals; four would say the mental stimulation; two would say the employer health insurance.
Clearly, then, in planning for our “reinvented” retirement, we need more than just financial advice. Equally essential is to have guidance to “get it right” for our Act III life and work. According to Ken Dychtwald, called the “prophet” of the coming “Aging Boom,” there will be an “almost unimaginably” huge demand for “third-age experience agents— all-in-one travel agents, career counselors, matchmakers and life coaches” to guide Boomers through the process of inventing their optimum retirement life and work.
If what we want in retirement is more than just money, then what we plan to do next when the curtain rises on Act III is a critical life step that requires a profound process of: 1) breaking free from past work, 2) expanding and combining pathways of what to do next, 3) reinventing SELF to clarify what we uniquely want to and can contribute, 4) rediscovering our next work, and 5) making our match and moving forward with vitality, enthusiasm and engagement (from “Shifting Gears to Your Life & Work After Retirement” by Carolee Duckworth and Marie Langworthy).