Unretirement: to leave retirement: rejoin the workforce. (Merriam-Webster)
Although the word “unretire” was first used in 1948, it has recently gained popularity and has become somewhat of a buzzword. The reason? Well, more and more baby boomer retirees are returning to work. Simple.
I am one of those people. Yes, after 16 months of retirement, I have returned to work. I caved. The lure of some structure, purpose and yes, money, was too much. Now don’t get yourself all worked up. It’s only 12 hours a week, from September to June. And I have a parking spot! With a plug-in! (For those readers who don’t live in Saskatchewan, this may not sound like a big deal but in a province that will soon plunge into minus 20-to-30-degree temperatures, and that’s Celsius, it is a very big deal). Anyway, unretiring is all part of the retirement journey.
I must admit, when I left my full-time job of 20-plus years, the plan was to redirect my time to myself and my home business (wanderingsart.ca) And I did throw myself into that life. I started playing more pickleball, volunteered on a few committees, and spent more time playing mahjong. I was living my life and enjoying it. But I did miss having my own income. CPP just doesn’t cut it when you have bills to pay. And a girl still needs to go shopping, right?
So, when an opportunity came up for an Administrative Assistant with an organization I respect and believe in, I decided to apply. The interview itself was a jolt of reality. I had to use parts of my brain that had gone dormant a year ago. As I drove to work that first day, I was surprised at the emotions that came over me. I felt important. I was on a mission. I was full of purpose. Wow! I did not realize those things had been missing from my life. That was only two weeks ago, but I still feel that sense of purpose. It’s hidden within, underneath the layers of other thoughts and feelings that make us whole, but it is there, nonetheless.
Apparently, I am not alone in my decision to return to work. Many retirees, especially those more recently retired, are taking the same steps. In August 2020, Edward Jones and Age Wave conducted a study entitled The Four Pillars of the New Retirement and found that in Canada and the USA, 33% of recent retirees struggle to find a sense of purpose in retirement. Baby boomers said they wanted to be more active, engaged and have more purpose compared to their parents and grandparents. Returning to work was one way to do that. The study also noted that individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 represent the highest proportion of the workforce or more than 21 percent. Go figure!
Why is unretirement such a big thing now, in 2022? For many, rising costs of living are cutting into disposable income and pensions aren’t increasing fast enough. Returning to work, even if part-time, can provide those extra dollars to help balance things out. Aside from the financial end of it, many people retired earlier than planned because of the pandemic. A lot of us focused on health and well-being during the lockdown and are now revved and raring to go. Plus, thanks to advances in the healthcare field, we are in better health and living longer so working in our sixties is not as daunting as it once was. The job market is also plump right now with jobs, albeit many part-time jobs, but those are perfect for people unretiring. There is also a need to stay busy. Those of us who have retired recently may still be trying to find a routine or a schedule. We might miss the structure of a job. I spent a lot of time thinking of how to schedule my time around my new job, which is also flexible so that I can continue to enjoy my newfound passions and still have the downtime that I grew to cherish while not working.
I consider myself very lucky to have this job. It is perfect for me, in the job duties, number of hours, schedule and environment. I am lucky that it kind of fell into my lap and I wasn’t even looking for work. That’s usually when things happen though, right?
If you are thinking of unretiring, there are a few things to consider:
Hours: how many hours do you want to work? Full-time is a huge commitment after you’ve been retired for a while, especially if you chose to retire. Think that one through carefully and maybe consider starting out part-time and if possible, increasing your hours.
Schedule: how will a job fit into your schedule? The thought of unretiring may sound enticing, but what about the other things you have taken up since retiring? Will you need to give up any? How will that make you feel? Can you schedule your extracurricular activities around your work hours? I gave this a lot of thought because I recognize the benefits of my “passions” to my mental health. Fortunately, I was easily able to accommodate both work and extra activities because my hours are few and they are flexible. Yay me!
Technology: how comfortable are you with technology? It is constantly changing and if you don’t have a supportive work environment, or kids at home to help you, it could pose some challenges. Don’t forget that Google is your best friend! My new favourite phrase is “Hey Google, how do I . . .”
Income: if you are going to work part-time or full-time, look at how this income will impact your taxes. In some cases, you may not earn enough to have taxes taken off, but it will add up at the end of the year. You sure don’t need any surprises.
Comfort Level: if you are considering a job in a sector which involves working closely with the public, how comfortable are you with any Covid protocols being followed? Or not?
Routine: I know people who live by a routine and get very anxious if that routine changes. I know people who do everything possible to avoid routine. (I’m somewhere in the middle.) If you have been retired for a while, you have probably created your own personal routine. Having a job means following someone else’s routine. Are you flexible enough to honour that? I love knowing that two days of the week I must be somewhere at a certain time. The other days of the week are mine. . .to not set the alarm, to stay in my PJs if I want; to follow my routine.
To sum up, it’s been a fun two weeks learning to work again and learning to use parts of my brain that haven’t been exercised for a while. I am fortunate to have a very supportive environment and supervisor because the learning curve has been very steep. There is even some PTSD from my last job to deal with, but that will help clear some of the blockages I still harbour and help me to move forward. And that’s the best direction to go, right?
How about you? Are you looking for work? Polish up that resume, talk to your references and good luck!
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