I’ve coached “retirees” for a long time.

More and more of them still work.

If you regularly scan the internet for blog posts and articles about retirement (which is probably how you got here) then you must realize that the word “retire” and all of its derivatives have lost much of their meaning and significance.

Retirement, in its fullest sense, reached its peak decades ago, when people didn’t last much longer than their normal retirement age of 65, and the foundation of the American economy was secured by lifetime jobs with loyal employers. 

Back then the old definition was further clarified by certain chain of events: last day of work, get the proverbial gold watch, start the pension, apply for social security, go fishing and enjoy your golden years.


So, ask the next Walmart greeter you see how that’s working out.

A U.S. jobs report from 2017 revealed that nearly 19 percent of people 65 or older were working at least part-time. This age group’s employment-to-population ratio was the highest it had been in 55 years. This means that more people are working in the years they had originally reserved for retirement than ever before. Whether by necessity or by choice, more and more retirees are working today than ever before. Why?

Well, it’s complicated. There is no one reason, and most retirees (another word that really needs to go) will give you a laundry list of reasons they work, but the reasons generally fall into one of two camps:

I want to work

I need to work

These reasons are not shocking, and the subtext to these reasons have become routine and predictable, as we search for familiarity and continuity in our lives, and forge ahead to the next exciting stage.

Family Finances and Health

According to a 2016 survey of 4,049 U.S. retirees aged 65 or older, by Willis Towers Watson, a multinational advisory company, more than a quarter of the surveyed retirees cited employer incentives (here’s some money and healthcare if you leave!) as their main motivation to retire.

More recently, those incentives and benefits have become less bountiful, so employers have exerted less direct influence over their employees’ retirement decisions, as workers aged and eligibility for Social Security and Medicare took center stage.

But the study made it clear that the decision to retire or not, isn’t just a money thing.

Social, Emotional, Psychological

One of the more fascinating findings of the survey is that the work environment is assuming a larger role in the decision to leave. One in five retirees cited “disengagement with my job” as a key reason for deciding to retire. The study seems to verify what many people already know: I hate my job, my boss sucks and it’s time to leave!

Yet, on the flip side, leaving the workplace creates a big social hole. No more seeing your favorite work buddies everyday, no more water cooler gossip, no more being in the loop, no more being part of something bigger. A feeling of detachment is very real for retirees, so much so that they get back to work as quickly as they can, just so they can connect and find the camaraderie they once enjoyed. This may come in the form of a new job, a new business venture or volunteerism.

Near the end of the movie The Godfather, Vito Corleone counsels his son in an effort to ensure his safety. He laments that the dreams he held most dear for his family had yet to be fulfilled. “It wasn’t enough time, Michael, it wasn’t enough time.” A most powerful and poignant scene, and who can’t relate to the sorrow of running out of time?

So, now you’ve got the time, and you’ve checked all the boxes: you’re able bodied, you could use the extra money, you miss the daily interaction and you want to regain that feeling of usefulness. You need to stay busy!

“It wasn’t enough time…”

Sure, you enjoy the initial freedom that allows dinner at 4:00 at discounted early-bird prices, and more time with grandkids is great, but they’ve got their own lives. Fishing and golfing and gardening just aren’t your scene, and even if you are financially sound you probably don’t want a meandering life. There’s so much to do, so, get up and move forward!

The improvements and advancements we enjoy in today’s technological world puts opportunity as close as our fingertips, which is not to say you will preside over the next hot startup, but why not? There is opportunity under that keyboard and out in the world, so you better get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’. (Sorry another movie reference!)

We are living longer, much longer, thanks to medical advances, biotechnology breakthroughs and a heightened awareness of how to live a healthier lifestyle, so the chance of outliving your assets and your income stream has never been greater, so a busy, working retirement may be the answer.

Whatever your reasons for working through the golden years are, you will be well-rewarded to start a long-term discussion right now, while you are still part of the working class. This helps you avoid unrealistic expectations and abrupt changes that a traditional retirement may unintentionally present. Until now, traditional retirement planning has been too one dimensional, focusing only on assets and investments.

As a coach, my higher purpose is to help my clients avoid abrupt changes by helping them create continuity, moving seamlessly from life stage to life stage. 

Never. Lose. Money.