Never Retire: Why People Are Still Working in Their 70s and 80s | Second Careers

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It’s not uncommon for baby boomers to continue to work well into their 60s, 70s or even 80s. Some people decide to continue working because they need the money, while others love what they do and can’t imagine not doing it anymore or just need to stay busy. With continued improvements in health care and life expectancy, people can spend as long in retirement as they spent working.

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Here are the top reasons not to retire:

  • Find fulfillment in an organization’s work.
  • Improve your retirement finances.
  • Continue to support worthy causes.
  • Stay engaged and mentally sharp.

Find Fulfillment in an Organization’s Work

There are certainly baby boomers who can’t wait to retire, especially those with physically or emotionally stressful professions. However, some older Americans are choosing to stay in their jobs or find new challenges that will keep them engaged.

After more than 40 years in the TV industry, Gary Wordlaw decided to retire when his job as general manager of a TV station in Tallahassee, Florida, ended with new management. “I figured this was the appropriate time to stop doing anything,” Wordlaw says.

He and his wife moved back to Louisiana. “Every morning, I would get up and go to the community coffee shop, have my coffee and I would watch people who had real jobs come and go,” Wordlaw says. “I said, ‘Look at these people. They don’t know how great it is to sit here and have coffee.'”

That feeling didn’t last. “Minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days,” Wordlaw says. “I had all this pent-up energy of wanting to contribute to the industry I had been in all those years. I said, ‘Man, this isn’t what it was supposed to be. I’m not satisfied.'” His first thought was to write a book, but then he started watching the news. “People weren’t doing it the way I thought it should be done. At this stage in my life, I wanted to be a teacher in the industry.”

Wordlaw’s attempted retirement didn’t even last a year. “It probably lasted about six or seven months,” says Wordlaw, whose career as a TV reporter, news director and station manager took him to cities across the country before his short retirement. “It didn’t take me that long to realize I’d made a big mistake.”

Wordlaw reached out to friends and ended up with his current job as a news director at WVLA-TV and content editor for Nexstar Media Group in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he has no plans to retire again. “I got the best of all worlds,” Wordlaw says. “I get to hire young people, work with seasoned people and put a stamp on things. Going to work, for me, is like being on an extended vacation.”

Improve Your Retirement Finances

Clint Camua, vice president of EP Wealth Advisors in West Los Angeles, says one of his clients worked into her early 80s at two different jobs, even though she didn’t need the money. “She worked as an assistant to a judge from 7 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. Then, she would go to the race track and be a security guard, carrying a weapon.”

The financial benefit of continuing to work is huge. “Her money was growing and not being depleted because she was not even tapping her savings,” Camua says. She stopped working when she got sick and moved to an assisted living facility, but remained active socially into her 90s.

Continue to Support Worthy Causes

Howard Wooley retired in 2013 after 33 years in the communications industry at the National Association of Broadcasters and Verizon. He and his wife, Gail, traveled and settled down at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Gail, who suffered from sickle cell anemia, was writing a book about her life and her battle with the disease. Wooley was spending his days at Starbucks and taking long walks. “Gail said in the first six months after I was home, she felt like I was pacing around the house,” Wooley says.

“Toward the end of 2014, Gail could see that I was getting restless,” Wooley says. So, she did not object when an offer from Microsoft brought him out of retirement to do public policy consulting. But she laid down the ground rules. “She said, ‘Howard, this cannot be a repeat of your corporate work where you are on your smartphone 24/7,'” Wooley says. Being a consultant gave him the family time he needed.

Gail died in March 2015, at 58, from the disease she had battled her entire life. Wooley took her book to an agent and eventually a publisher. “Soar: A Memoir,” was published in 2017. Wooley also continues her mission and passion: sickle cell research and advocacy. He has taken on other clients and serves on several boards of directors.

Stay Engaged and Mentally Sharp

Sandra McPeak, managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors, says many people follow a nontraditional path to retirement or even unretire. “A lot of times, people, when they retire, think they will have all this time. They think they can catch up,” McPeak says. “But after a while, they are drumming their fingers. They feel out of it. They don’t feel engaged. They feel like they aren’t contributing.” But there’s no need to give up on a profession you love just because you reach a certain age.

George Fraser, a noted public speaker, author and networking expert, has never tried to retire and has no intention of doing so. “I enjoy my work more than vacation. I’m not a sit at the beach and chill kind of guy,” Fraser says. “I’ll either die sitting at a podium or at my desk dotting an ‘i’ or crossing a ‘t.'”

Fraser says he can’t imagine himself in retirement, and has no close friends who are retired. “If your health allows you, don’t ever retire,” Fraser says. “If your work enthralls you and excites you, you should keep doing it until your last breath. It will keep you interested and engaged with life. It’ll keep you curious.”

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