After spending decades in the workplace, retirement may sound attractive, but many people develop second thoughts soon after leaving their jobs.
Just because someone is 65 or older doesn’t mean they’re ready to stop working. Some people miss their workplace colleagues and the income that came from holding a job. They also may discover that it was their profession that gave their life meaning.
“If you’re an energetic person who wants to feel alive, you’re not going to feel happy sitting back and watching TV in retirement,” said Liliane Choney, executive director of ReVisions Resources, a nonprofit organization that helps seniors live independently.
If you’re motivated and in good health, returning to work may be the right thing to do. Here are eight ways to tell when it’s time to unretire.
1. You’re having trouble making ends meet
Many people have trouble saving enough money to finance their retirement. Typically, Social Security benefits don’t provide enough income to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. Also, if you had your children late in life, you may face college expenses after leaving work.
One solution is to work a few years longer. That way, you can boost your income and gain more time to save money. Each year spent on the job means one less year you’ll need to rely on your savings during retirement.
2. You’re becoming too sedentary
One benefit of going back to work is that it may improve your health. According to the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, many published studies suggest a connection between job satisfaction and good health.
Idle people are more prone to illness. Some retirees are able to replace work activities with pastimes that keep them active, but not everyone is good at making the transition.
A study of individuals age 50 and older by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who had stopped working were 40% more likely to have heart attacks or strokes than those who continued their careers.
3. You just can’t adjust to your new life
Adjusting to life without a work schedule can be difficult. Some people pursue hobbies in retirement or fill their time with travel. But not everyone enjoys such activities.
If you’re bored and unhappy without a work schedule, you might be better off rejoining the workforce. For some, the right solution is going back to work part time, says economist Eric Tyson. This helps people gradually adjust to life in retirement.
4. You’ve lost social connections
Losing relationships with work colleagues can leave you feeling lost and lonely.
Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that loneliness and feelings of isolation can trigger physiological changes that increase the risks of premature deaths in older persons by 14%.
Isolation can disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure and increase stress. If you miss your work colleagues and have trouble making new friends, going back to work could make you happier.
5. You love being in the workplace
If you were lucky enough to enjoy what you did for a living, it’s understandable that you’d want to return to the workplace. Some people don’t realize how much they like working until they stop, says Tyson.
After retirement, you may find yourself longing for your old work activities — even the ones you didn’t appreciate before you retired.
6. You’re ready to start over in the workplace
Returning to work after retirement is a challenge. Once you’re out of the workplace it can be hard to get back in, so you need to be highly motivated.
You may face age discrimination. Among older workers surveyed by AARP, not getting hired is the most common type of age discrimination they have experienced.
If you have been retired a year or longer, be prepared to address the “employment gap” on your resume. This may cause potential employers who question your dedication or willingness to remain on the job for a reasonable period of time.
“If you tell people, ‘I wanted to retire but then I realized I missed working,’ employers are open to that,” says Tyson.
On the positive side, a shortage of qualified employees amid the historically low U.S. unemployment rate may make this a good time to begin a post-retirement career, Tyson says.
7. You have a great idea for a new business
If you have decades of valuable experience working for others, now may be the time to put it to use for yourself by starting a business.
If you have a genuinely good idea for a business, age should be no barrier. Your business plan should explain why your idea is a good one, how the business will operate and what your anticipated expenses and earnings will be. Just be cautious.
“You have to really be mindful of whether you have the experience to do it and how realistic [the idea] is,” Choney says.
8. It’s time to pursue your passion
Young adults raising families are reluctant to abandon the security of steady jobs to pursue risky careers, even if that is where their passions lie.
Once you have a secure retirement income from Social Security benefits, investments or a pension, you gain the freedom to take a chance on a passion-driven career — such as chef, artist or performer.
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