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Working In Retirement: A 21st Century Phenomenon

October 7, 2010 13:30 by Ann Pace

(From Families and Work Institute) -- Working in retirement may still sound like an oxymoron, but not for long. Just as people in their twenties are now creating a new life stage of transitioning into the workforce, the generation of workers currently in their fifties and sixties is redefining the notion of “retirement.” Already today, one in five workers aged 50 and older has fully retired from his or her former career job but currently is working for pay in a new role, which we define as a “retirement job.” And this will soon become the “new normal” — fully 75% of workers aged 50 and older expect to have retirement jobs in the future, according to a groundbreaking new study by Families and Work Institute and the Sloan Center on Aging & Work.

“Working in retirement” is quickly becoming a new stage in career progression.  Following the traditional path of early-, mid-, late-career employment, but prior to total withdrawal from work, this new stage is a bridge that tends to emphasize working by choice and for enjoyment.

Using data from the FWI’s National Study of the Changing Workforce (2008), this analysis of adults working in retirement reveals some surprising insights.  For example, a typical assumption is that retirees work primarily for money.  Although maintaining a comfortable lifestyle is an important motivation for more than half, it is not the only reason: 31% report that they are working to stay active, and 18% say they want to contribute and be productive. Less than one in five report working in retirement due to insufficient income, though they do earn less money than those who have never retired—the typical median yearly income among those working in retirement is $21,000 less than those who have never retired.

Download the report.

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