The Top 8 Reasons Why People Work in Retirement

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Senior woman and small business owner working on a tablet in her art studio making her hobby a business
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

Most retirees, 69% according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), have never worked in retirement.

However, EBRI research shows that there are many highly compelling reasons to have a job and only half of them (and not even the most popular reasons) have to do with money. It turns out that many retirees work because of lifestyle considerations and personal fulfillment.

The following are the top reasons to work in retirement according to EBRI research. The least cited reasons (the last two on the list below) are somewhat surprising.

Do any of these benefits make you want to “unretire” and return to work? Or, maybe consider a retirement job as part of your retirement plan – for either financial reasons or personal fulfillment?

You just might be inspired to peruse the classified ads or update your LinkedIn.

1. 84% Work To Fund Discretionary Expenses

Happy senior couple at a beach
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Discretionary expenses — travel, dinner out, new sports equipment — is spending that improves your enjoyment of life.

At a minimum, your retirement plan should account for covering all necessities. However, a retirement job is a great way to afford additional splurges.

Did you know that the NewRetirement Planner enables you to set different levels of work income throughout your life to plan for a retirement job?

2. 83% Work Because It Is Rewarding

Excited senior teacher in a classroom

It is not uncommon to lose a sense of meaning or purpose in retirement — especially for people who derived a lot of their identity and personal satisfaction from their jobs. In fact, these feelings can result in retirement depression.

Seeking a job that is personally rewarding is a great way to combat post-retirement blues.

Rewarding work — either volunteer or paid — can also be a great way to feel a greater sense of vitality.

3. 72% Work To Avoid Boredom

Senior man working in agriculture
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Okay, you have probably worked for 30-40 years before retirement. Whether you liked it or not, your working days are structured for you.

In retirement, you have wide-open time. And, if you didn’t have a plan for how you wanted to spend your time in retirement, you may indeed face boredom.

Work — assuming you enjoy it — is a great way to fill the day. (But, maybe also think about what you really want to be doing with your life.)

4. 64% Work To Fund Essential Expenses

Senior woman working on a laptop
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Cue the tense and stressful music.

It is probably not the best idea to retire before you have a plan in place to at least cover all essential expenses, but things happen and people define retirement in a variety of different ways.

For many, retirement is defined as leaving a long-held job — or leaving any job. And, retirement work is part of their grand plan. Many might transition to a job they enjoy or are working to bridge to a higher Social Security start age.

Others return to work to cover essential expenses after retirement due to an unexpected cost — home and auto repairs as well as a health event can really shake up your budget.

People who are working to make ends meet are resilient, but need to tread carefully and have backup plans for if the work dries up.

Luckily now — with workers in high demand — it is a great time to find work.

5. 63% Work To Socialize

Senior worker
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Many jobs (at least before the pandemic) were social. And, people derive a lot of satisfaction from work relationships.

In fact, a survey from VirginPulse found that 70% of employees say friends at work are the most crucial element to a happy working life, and 58% of men would refuse a higher-paying job if it meant not getting along with co-workers.

It is a basic human need to have friendships and connect with other people. And, work friendships also deliver a sense of belonging that we crave.

Friendships can sometimes be difficult to cultivate in retirement. Besides work, joining clubs or a sports team, going to coffee at a regular time every day and connecting with other patrons, and attending meet-ups are great ways to find people you might enjoy spending time with.

6. 59% Work To Learn New Skills and Have New Experiences

Senior man working from home
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Learning new skills and having new experiences is an important component of healthy aging. Participating in new activities is proven to help you maintain brain function and prevent mental decline.

There are additional benefits as well.

Time becomes more memorable and your days pass more slowly

Older woman at work
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Learning new things can improve memory, mood and motivation. It can increase your adaptability and help you overcome fears. However, did you know it can slow down time?

Yep! No joke. New experiences can function as a time machine.

As we age, routine sets in and days can blur together. According to David Eagleman, a professor at Stanford University, new experiences can actually slow down your experience of time because the novelty marks time for you.

Eagleman explains why time passes so much faster as an adult then it did when you were a kid:

“When you’re a kid, everything is novel and you’re laying down new memories about it. So when you look back at the end of a childhood summer, it seems to have taken a long time because you remember this and that, this new thing, learning that, experiencing that. But when you’re older, you’ve sort of seen all the patterns before.”

7. 22% Work To Have Access to Insurance Benefits

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This number would likely be a lot higher if EBRI had only asked people who retired before the age of 65 and needed a way to fund health care before Medicare eligibility.

Health insurance can be prohibitively expensive in your 50s and 60s. Depending on your income, the ACA has made it slightly more affordable, but still pricey. So, a retirement job with health care benefits could save you a lot of money.

Here are nine ways to fund health care before Medicare eligibility.

8. 21% Work To Delay Claiming Social Security

Social Security timing clock
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According to a NewRetirement Social Security survey, retirees would be more willing to delay the start of Social Security benefits if they knew how to retire early without that paycheck.

A job is a great way to bridge the time between retirement and starting Social Security. Explore 15 easy tips for making the best Social Security decision.

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