How To Work In Retirement – Forbes Advisor

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Angela Bergelt was not yet ready to retire.

She had moved from southern New Jersey to a small town called Goodyear, Arizona, but hadn’t saved enough money to quit her job altogether. She also didn’t want to fill her days with hobbies.

“I wanted to keep working,” says Bergelt, 64. “My father worked until he was 80. I just have that in my DNA.”

Bergelt accepted a position as an independent contractor for LiveOps, a virtual call center that helps clients get information about their medications. The job allows her to manage her hours and brings in about $1,500 in a good month, much of which she saves in an individual retirement account (IRA).

She finds the work rewarding and gives it time to devote to her spouse and hobbies like photographing monarch butterflies. “It’s nice to talk to people who… need help,” she said.

Bergelt’s experience is a blueprint for millions of older workers who have left full-time employment but cannot afford to stop working forever. Many older Americans stopped working early in the Covid-19 pandemic, either to care for loved ones or for health reasons, and some are beginning to look for a part-time paycheck.

Returning to work can be challenging for older workers, but the barriers are not insurmountable.

“There is no time like the present,” said Catherine Collinson, chief executive officer of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “With so many changes in the workforce and an ongoing labor shortage, for people over 50, this is their moment.”

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More Americans are working in retirement

Americans are also living longer and less prepared for retirement. Bergelt represents a growing trend of older workers tackling both issues by re-entering or staying longer in the workforce.

A 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics report makes the trend clear:

  • The segment of the US active workforce, made up of those aged 55 and older, grew more than 26% between 2010 and 2020, compared to a 4.5% increase for all active adult workers over the same period.
  • Workers over 55 made up 13% of the total US labor force in 2000, nearly 20% in 2010, and about 24% in 2020. That number is expected to rise to 25% by the end of the decade.
  • Labor force participation among American women aged 55 and older increased by 24% between 2010 and 2020.

The typical American retires around the age of 65 and will live another two decades. Historically, defined benefit plans supported most Americans during this time. But the number of retirees has fallen sharply over the years. Among workers with pension plans, only 28% currently have access to some form of pension, compared to 40% in 1998.

Because of this, only half of all pre-retirement households have enough wealth to maintain their standard of living in retirement, according to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.

Lesson #1: Don’t stress about getting back to work

Retirement and work are much less clear-cut for most Americans.

About 40% of Americans who are 65 and employed have retired at some point in the past and then returned to the workforce, according to a study by the Rand Institute. Meanwhile, almost half of 50-year-olds who are not working would return to the labor market given the right opportunity.

In earlier eras, older workers tended to retire and remain retired, while today they tend to hop in and out of the workforce. This trend can be reassuring if you’re afraid to get back in the game: you won’t be alone.

Plus, you don’t have to wait for a nine-to-five office job that’s loaded with benefits. Research shows that if you work even an hourly job for a few extra years and defer Social Security whenever possible, you’ll greatly improve your retirement security.

Older workers are very similar to younger workers

One concern of older workers is that they will find it difficult to compete in the labor market. But it turns out that older workers don’t look much different from their younger counterparts.

The Boston College Center for Retirement Research found that 91% of workers aged 55-60 rated their health as good, very good, or excellent, compared to 96% of workers aged 30-35. Older workers are just as likely to use computers at home as younger workers, and male workers have pretty much the same level of education, regardless of their age. There is still a gap in college degrees among women, but the gap is narrowing.

While studies show that older workers may have a harder time absorbing new information quickly, there is little to no evidence that one’s existing accumulation of knowledge, verbal or language skills is affected by age.

Lesson #2: Have faith in your abilities

Bergelt worked in medical administration for 35 years, but she wasn’t particularly well versed with the technical aspects of her new job before she started. Nevertheless, she was very sure that she would not have any problems with the material after the training.

“Starting a new job is possible,” she said. “People are afraid of the jump. But if I can do it, anyone can.”

In fact, older workers have a wealth of experience to draw on when facing new challenges. And that can even give them an edge over younger workers. Research shows that believing in your ability to positively impact the world around you, especially when it comes to finances, can improve your bottom line.

Seize the moment

James Wylie wasn’t ready to retire either, although the 40-year chemical company veteran didn’t need the money. Wylie had a pension from his old job and made extra money on the side as a life coach and business coach.

Since last September, the 68-year-old has been providing tutoring in subjects such as algebra and personal finance via an online platform called TutorMe.

“When you retire you want to stay physically active, but it’s also important to me to stay mentally active,” Wylie said. “I love giving back and helping the student solve problems and make my neurons glow.”

Even if you’re not in the same financial situation as Wylie, you can learn from his example. He accepted a position that brought him emotional satisfaction, was intertwined with his work experience, and fit into his current schedule.

Lesson #3: Own your story

This is especially true for older workers who have struggled during the pandemic. While lockdowns have been particularly tough for older Americans, now is a good time to find a gig that suits your needs as job openings remain near all-time highs.

Don’t worry if you’ve taken time off in the last year or two, says Collinson. The key is not to dwell on it, but to confidently explain your story.

“A lot of people have chosen to take time off from the world of work because of parenthood or foster care or some other kind of need,” Collinson said. “It’s fair to say, ‘I had to take some time off and I’m ready to come back.'”

Basic blocking and tackling will also help. Update your LinkedIn profile, reach out to your network to let them know you’re interested in work, and update your resume to include the types of skills needed for the new position you’re considering , are relevant. For help with this last result, look at the LinkedIn profiles of people doing the work you’re interested in to see what skills they contain.

The pandemic has turned the lives of millions of retirees upside down. If you weren’t ready to fully put on your spurs, now is the time to get back involved.

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