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What is Retirement in the 21st Century – Does It Include Work?

By Gregg M. Lunceford, Doctoral Student – Case Western Reserve University

In 2011 America’s Baby Boomer’s began turning age 65 a rate of approximately 10,000 people per day[i]. Historically age 65 has been the milestone at which many people retire. Dictionary.com defines retirement as “the act of leaving one’s job, career, or occupation permanently, usually because of age”. This classic definition was more appropriate when retirement systems were created in the early 20th century to provide income for aging employees with diminishing work skills. When the Social Security Act of 1935 was drafted the average life expectancy for men and women were ages 58 and 62 respectively[ii]. By 2013 the average life expectancy for men and women in the U.S. increased to ages 76 and 81 respectively[iii].

Our increased longevity and improved health now allows for a wider range of lifestyle options therefore retirement is taking on new meaning. For many, retirement has become a career transition that includes work on different terms in the same profession, or the beginning of a new career[iv]. Work with flexible structures has led to “win-win” situation for retiring workers and employers as they recognized several benefits from working beyond retirement age. First, many individuals benefit from the socialization and feelings of accomplishment that come from work. Forty percent of individuals who completely retire from the workplace suffer from clinical depression and 6 out of 10 report a decline in health[v]. For many, work provides an outlet to continue to thrive and improve their well-being. Second, working in retirement allows many employers to maintain valuable knowledge individuals have developed over 30-40 year careers. Such individuals are often valuable mentors and can assist with succession planning and the training of younger employees in the workforce. Finally, Baby Boomers represent the largest cohort in the workplace. The complete exit of all them from the workforce at age 65 has the potential to create a human resource gap and limit overall productivity. The retention of Baby Boomers may help many organizations improve their productivity and become more competitive.

Given the overall benefits, it is important that society better understand what factors may predict an individual’s intent to work in retirement. In 2015, a study was conducted on retirement work intention[vi]. In the study 227 working individuals, of which 93% were age 50 or older, were surveyed to see what factors contributed to their decision to work in retirement. Our research showed that a person’s confidence in their ability, willingness to be adaptable and belief that they will have meaningful opportunities for work in retirement were all predictors of their intent to work in retirement.

Retirement has evolved and no longer means the complete exit from the workforce. Work with flexible options is becoming a rewarding lifestyle option for many retirees. Careful reflection on what activities will provide happiness and fulfilment should be considered in the retirement planning process and may lead to greater success in retirement.

[i] Synder, M. 2010, December 30. In 2011 The baby boomers start to turn 65: 16 statistics about the coming retirement crisis that will drop your jaw. End of The American Dream [online].

[ii] http://www.demog.berkeley.edu/~andrew/1918/figure2.html

[iii] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus14.pdf#016

[iv] Kim, J. E., & Moen, P. 2001, June 3. Is retirement good or bad for subjective well being. Current Directions in Psychologicial Science, 10: 83–86.

[v] Sahlgren, G. H. 2013. Work longer, live healthier: The relationship between economic activity, health and government policy. Institute of Economic Affairs: Discussion Paper #46

[vi] Lunceford, G. M. (2016, January). Retirement Values: What Factors Influence the Decision to Work in Retirement. Unpublished Doctoral Study at Case Western Reserve University . Cleveland, OH.

Unexpectedkindness is themost powerful,least costly, andmost underratedagent of humanchange

Gregg Lunceford, CFP® is a 24 year veteran in the financial services industry. Mr. Lunceford specializes in wealth management and works with clients on financial, estate and retirement planning issues. He currently, is a doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, and is studying how individuals make career transitions to retirement. Mr. Lunceford holds a MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, and a BBA from Loyola University of Chicago.

Email: gml56@case.edu