More people than ever are planning to work into their retirement years, and many say it's necessary to make ends meet. They often come to this conclusion during one of my retirement planning workshops after they've had a chance to realistically assess their financial resources. The next thing I typically hear is a groan, saying there's no way they want to keep working that long.
If you're one of those who'll need to work for financial reasons, how can you enjoy it so that it doesn't feel like a prison sentence?
When you think about what type of work you enjoy, the first thing that most likely comes to mind is the content of your work. You've probably heard lifestyle gurus urging you to "find your bliss" and "pursue your passions." And indeed, if you're lucky enough to make money while being blissed out, by all means, keep doing that.
But what if you can't make any money by pursuing your bliss or passions? Or what if you don't know what really blisses you out, but you still need a paycheck? And what if your job opportunities are more mundane, and you don't have a chance at landing your dream job?
I asked two experts for their suggestions on how people can make their work-life more enjoyable. John Nelson, a career coach and co-author of What Color is Your Parachute - For Retirement?, and Mark Miller, author of the Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security and founder of RetirementRevised, chimed in with their expert opinions.
Nelson cited the following three factors as important to your enjoyment of a retirement job:
- A positive boss and co-workers. Your social circles often shrink after you retire from your primary career, so having the chance to work as part of a positive team, in a positive environment, can be enjoyable -- regardless of the topic or industry. Tip: Look for a healthy, positive work culture.
- A flexible schedule. After fitting your life around your work for decades, retirement is the chance to flip that around: You can finally fit your work around your life. So, even a job you don't like all that much can be pleasurable, just because you get to call the shots on scheduling. Tip: Look for project-based or seasonal work.
- Autonomy. After working your way up in your primary career, you achieved some amount of freedom or authority. To start over after retirement in a position where your supervisor might be 20 years younger can create friction. It's not that you want to give the orders -- it's just that you may not want to be given orders. So, the more autonomous and discretionary the actual work, the less likely you'll feel micromanaged. Tip: Look for jobs that are results-oriented, rather than task-oriented.
Miller suggested you take the time to explore career choices that you'd personally find meaningful. The idea of career reinvention is on many baby boomers' agendas. Surveys suggest that a large majority of boomers aspire to launch new careers in their 50s and 60s, often in fields where they hope to make a difference, such as teaching, health care or the nonprofit world.
Rather than retire, many have been refocusing their energies on leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Miller recommends you check out the growing Encore Career movement, which focuses on careers with social impact and social entrepreneurship.
If you follow Miller's advice, you just might end up becoming passionate about your work. And you may be more likely to find work that meets Nelson's three criteria. The bottom line is, it might take some time and effort to make working in retirement work for you.