As baby boomers head into retirement, many are realizing that the idea of puttering in the garden or playing golf seven days a week isn’t going to fulfill their golden years.
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Nearly half the members of this generation (47%) who are already “retired,” have either returned to some form of work (for an average of nine additional years), are currently employed, or plan to re-enter the workforce after taking some time off, according to a recent study from from Merrill Lynch.
And the decision isn't all about money. The return to the labor market was consistent across wealth levels, the report shows. Whether someone has less than $50,000 or more than $1 million in assets, the desire to remain mentally active is keeping people in the labor market. In fact, for some “work” means volunteering.
This probably does not come as a surprise to most of us baby boomers. After all, to date, we are the most educated generation to reach retirement age. Can you honestly imagine waking up one morning and realizing that the intellectual challenges, the creativity, or the social interactions and connections you’ve experienced for the past 30-40 years have disappeared overnight?
I can understand why folks who have spent their working lives involved in physically demanding jobs- coal mining, farming, long-distance truck driving, etc.- would relish the opportunity to dial this lifestyle back, or completely turn it off. Even those of us who have held jobs that took a lesser toll on our bodies might look forward to the end of the daily commute and office politics.
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Still, it’s hard to suddenly turn off an educated brain. Of those who are currently working after “retiring,” 80% say it’s because they want to, that is four times higher than those who say they’re still working out of financial need.
These latest findings are right in line with what the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has been saying for more than a decade: About one-third of pre-retirees say they intend to keep working after they retire from their current full-time job.
The real issue is that many “retirees” are unable to find new forms of work, full or part-time. What the Merrill Lynch survey has added to this body of research is that many in this generation are creating their own solution by becoming entrepreneurs. One-third of current baby boomer retirees describe themselves as “self-employed.” They are either using the skills they have honed over their careers along with their other talents to start their own businesses.
In other words, if corporate America doesn’t appreciate what they have to offer, a significant number of baby boomers are launching second careers doing things they love. On their own terms. And getting paid for it.