Should You Work After Retiring?

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The period immediately following retirement can be a relaxing and rejuvenating time. But some retirees may find they want - or need - to return to the workforce. Whether they're seeking a job for financial reasons or want to stay busy and active, experts say older Americans have a lot to offer potential employers.

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Chuck Underwood, founder and president of Ohio-based generational consulting firm The Generational Imperative, Inc., identifies two generations that are currently deeply in or just entering retirement: the silent generation and baby boomers. 

The silent generation, aged 67 to 85, were the first kids to come of age with Social Security in place and therefore were the first generation of Americans to view retirement as a "reward."

"Among the younger half of their generation, there is a special passion to remain active, involved and plugged in," Underwood says. "This generation feels it grew too old, too soon in life."

Baby boomers, currently aged 48 to 66, may need and want to retire, but often continue working far into their golden years. Underwood says many boomers will conclude their first careers and launch a new career at an age their parents were often leaving the workforce. Whether they choose careers that are full-time, part-time, paid or volunteer, the boomers will "profoundly change the retirement model, career model, consumer model and lifestyle model from what they have always previously been," he says.

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Rita McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, says many people find joy and fulfillment in their work and don't feel obligated to stop working just because they hit a certain age. 

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"Often, people use their retirement years to try out careers they may not have been able to pursue when they were occupied full time," she says. "You see this a lot with people who start small hobby businesses or experiment with becoming artists or tinkerers - not enough to live on, but something to keep you busy."

Boomers who have recently retired or who have been out of the workforce for a long time may return to work in an effort to keep their minds and bodies active. "Retirement isn't always glorious - golfing, lunching, relaxing after a while becomes boring," says Melanie Winograd of IMPACT Group, a global career management firm.

"People find themselves getting depressed, lacking purpose and wanting that opportunity to connect again with others while utilizing their skill sets," she says.

Still, while some older Americans choose to continue working, others are forced to return to the workforce for financial reasons.

"Many people who were living off their assets, dividends or investments started to struggle due to the economic downturn," Winograd notes.

Executives who have recently retired could consider working part-time at their old organization to help train and mentor for succession planning purposes, she says.

McGrath suggests retirees seek out jobs that aren't "too physically or emotionally taxing, that can be scaled up or down, that aren't too stressful and generally that don't involve travel or hard deadlines."

Examples include teaching and giving seminars, consulting, writing, assisting in social service settings or becoming a "virtual" assistant.

"The way work is changing nowadays will allow many more people to have the flexibility to do some work for pay well into their 'golden' years," McGrath says.

Regardless of the career path you choose, Underwood stresses that retirees are "coveted" by employers. Their work ethic, unique skills, ethics and team play mean job choices available to them are "expanding widely and rapidly."

"Age discrimination in the workplace is dying a blindingly swift death," Underwood stresses. "There are many dynamics at play in both the jobs available to them and in the occupations that will be most satisfying to them."