By Carol Hymowitz, Journalist and Author
Retirement is no longer a one-time, enduring occurrence.
Increasing numbers of Americans are retiring from jobs when they turn 60 or 65 only to boomerang back to work after a pause. Some return to their former workplaces as either part-time or contract employees, while others find new jobs.
An abrupt retirement, in fact, that continues for the rest of one’s life is becoming the exception rather than the rule. Only about 40 to 50 percent of retirees went from full-time employment to not working at all, according to the study “Preferences for Work at Older Ages,” conducted by Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. In addition, 40 percent of older workers who are employed said they had retired from a different job at some point in the past, the study found.
For retirees who lack pensions and haven’t accumulated enough savings to support themselves through their senior years, especially as they live longer, work is a financial necessity. Typically they either become self-employed in a range of ways, from running Airbnb’s to working as consultants, or they land part-time jobs that pay less than what they previously earned but provide income to supplement Social Security benefits.
But even affluent retirees who can afford to spend all their time golfing or traveling, are choosing to go back to work. They want to stay active, miss jobs that provided status and camaraderie or aren’t satisfied with a play-all-the time lifestyle.
Henry Blum, a New York City optometrist, has officially retired three times. After running his own optometry business in the Bronx for decades, he first retired in 2000 when he was 70, thinking that was what he was supposed to do at that age. Within weeks, regret and boredom set in as he found himself pacing around his apartment all day, fretting about how to fill his time. He called the new owner of his old practice and was welcomed back. Loyal customers had been requesting to see him.
Blum worked a four-day-a week schedule until he turned 72, thinking this time retirement would stick. Once again, he couldn’t relinquish a job he loved and soon resumed working –although he reduced his schedule to three and eventually two days a week. It wasn’t until Blum’s health declined as a result of a chronic pulmonary disease that he retired for the third time in 2015, at the age of 84.
His choice to work much longer than he’d initially planned—but less and less as he aged —could become a new blueprint for retirement. Sixty percent of workers age 60 and older said they plan to look for a new job after retiring from their current company, according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com.