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Working in Retirement Survey: About Half Are Working, and You Like It

Category: Work and Volunteering

January 24, 2018 — The survey from last week asked 11 questions about your plans or experiences concerning work after retirement. Over 400 members gave back to this community by taking the time to respond (thank you on behalf of everyone who will profit from your investment!). This article will summarize the overall results along with the data for each question. And, since so many people shared their opinions, we have provided you with summary documents where you can read all of the practical ideas, experiences, and concerns given to the open-ended questions.

Top conclusions
– Slightly over half of our Members (51%) are working after they retire – a higher percentage than we would have thought. Most are doing part time work, which is a clear preference. A small percentage (7%) are doing volunteer work. Very few have a full-time job.

– Many of our members who are not yet retired are not sure if they will work or not. Although 51% say they will definitely or probably work after retirement, 21% say they haven’t decided.

– When asked what kind of work they would like to do after they retire, they cited many types, but volunteer work was the number one. Only a small percentage are interested in starting a new business.

– When it comes to motivations for working after retirement, staying busy is by far the most important reason.

– Most people spend very little time planning for work after retirement.

– Those who do work seem very content. They seem to love staying busy and engaged, and are doing an amazing array of jobs (see comments later on).

– Most people who want to work are able to find something suitable rather easily.

Results on each question
1. Retired vs. Non-retired, Age
Of those completing the survey some two-thirds are retired or partially retired. Ten percent of respondents are partially retired. Agewise, 51% were between 55-65, and 46% were over 65.

2. Already retired: Working or Non-working
A slight majority of people (51%) are working (full, part time, or have a regular volunteer job). Some 34% say they will not work.

Am working part-time
Will not work
Considering looking
Working full-time
Looking for work

There were almost 100 comments written in to amplify their responses. The majority seemed very happy with their choice to work or not work, although some wish they didn’t have to work or can’t find something suitable. To give you a flavor, here are some randomly selected responses (use this link to see all the “am retired-jobs” comments):

– I have chosen to retire early and explore entirely unrelated work to that which I did as a profession. That work is not so much for its monetary benefit as it is to grow, learn and contribute in meaningful ways.
– I have a part-time business that I’m doing from home AND I am working part-time at the school where I used to teach, doing something related to teaching but not subbing (I am testing kids on their English proficiency; not doing classroom teaching anymore.)
– I was forced into retirement 18 months prior to my goal of retiring. Now moved to South Carolina from Chicago I can’t seem to get an interview, yet a job.
– Retail. Low pay. A somewhat dysfunctional/distrusting atmosphere. Very difficult on the body. Most workers are much younger~Ageism is apparent. Most coworkers are uneducated but “street smart.” Definitely NOT an intellectually stimulating environment.
– I am signed up with temporary placement firms for temporary assignments only. I sometimes work 40 hrs/wk and sometimes 20-30 hrs/wk, and frequently I do not work at all. I would like more jobs, but the agencies do not have many clients looking for temporary workers.

3. Not retired: Will Work vs. Won’t Work
We asked folks who are still working the same question as above so we could compare their responses with those who are already retired. One big difference between the unretired and the retired was understandable – folks who aren’t retired yet are not sure what they will do (21%). Fewer of the un-retired people (18%) say they probably or definitely won’t work – suggesting that they are open to work but once they retire they either change their minds or can’t find something suitable.

Probably will
Definitely will
Not sure
Probably not
Definitely not

There were also quite a few write-in comments to this question from pre-retirees. Most said they are interested in something part-time, interesting, or on a volunteer basis. Here are a few sample comments:
– Focus more on purpose of work than salary
– I need to stay active, mentally, socially and physically. I plan to do this through charity work and part time Work.
– My current job is currently in process of setting up a half-time, remote employee position for me. I will be working via the internet, with occasional visits to my college where I work now. It feels great to be so valued, particularly at my age.
– I thought I had fully retired on 7/31/2013 and then 8 weeks later a former colleague convinced me to join him in a business venture. I have been working either full or part time with him ever since. I love it most of the time.

4. If you do plan on working, will it be full or part-time?
This question was intended for people who do plan on working. The overwhelming choice is for part-time work (67%), a preference we saw in other questions.

Not sure

5. What kind of post-retirement work are you interested in.
The strong favorite kind of post-retirement job is volunteer work – 118 said they were very interested in that, and 247 said they were very or somewhat interested. Next highly ranked for “very interested” was “something related to what they are doing now”.

Work Type
Something brand new
Hobby/passion related
Related to curr.
Start own business
Very interested
Very+Somewhat Int.

6. Motivations for working in post-retirement
“Staying busy” is by far the major reason why Topretirements members want to work after they retire (150 said this was very important, 276 said very or somewhat important). Next most important were to “follow my passion”, and “get out of the house”. Fortunately for our Members, “need the money” was one of the least chosen reasons for working.

Stay busy
Follow my passion
Get out of house
Need the money
Something new
Very important
Very+Somew. Imprt

7. Would you be to go back to school to prepare for a new job after you retire?
The answer to that question is “not very likely”. Some 63% said they were definitely not likely to go back to school; only 13% said they were very or somewhat likely to return for more job related schooling.

8. Rate the state of your planning for working after you retire.
We know that many people do not do a good job of planning for retirement. But it was still surprising to see such a small percentage of people who say they spent a lot time on retirement planning (only 13%). This might reflect that they just didn’t plan on the question of work after retirement, but did plan on other aspects of planning. One third said they spent some time planning, and another reported no time at all on the planning process.

Some time spent planning
No time spent
Intend to
Spent a lot of time

9. What kind of success did have in finding work after retirement?
Most people who were interested in working something found it pretty quickly (27% of total). Only 19% found it either took a long time or couldn’t find what they were looking for. Sixty six people provided commentary on their experience, and those are interesting – Success finding a job.

Found job quickly
Not interested
Took a lot of time
Found, but not what wanted

10. How would you rate your confidence that you will be able to maintain your pre-retirement lifestyle in retirement?
For three quarters of the 418 people who completed our survey, retirement is likely to be comfortable. That is the percentage who said they were extremely (33%) or somewhat confident (40%) they would be able to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyle. Only 10% were not all confident.

11. Concerns, expectations, and experiences about working after retirement.
Thanks to the 174 Members who generously shared your insights and experiences on this question. Since we don’t have room to provide more than the briefest sample of those comments, here is a link to all of those comments. Of course we also invite you to offer additional commentary at the bottom of this article too.

This is just a tiny sampling of the many, many comments we received, all of them are worth reading for additional insights.
– No concerns, life is great.
– What took the longest to find was a job that wouldn’t treat me like a teenager getting their first job. I had no interest in
being micromanaged. I found a job with flexibility and a great boss. I wish it was only 15 hours but they added another 5
hours a week to it. 20 hours is a lot when you’ve been retired 1.5 years! But I had to work because we moved to an area I
do not know ANYONE. Finding this job was an absolute saving grace.
– Don’t need the money for now and should not. Looked for volunteer work both within and outside my areas of expertise.
Want flexibility in whatever choices I make. Live in a tourist area and love interacting with visitors. Trying something new
in a volunteer spot is great as you can easily move on if it is not a good fit.
– Was forced to retire 5 years before I had planned to retire. I had 1/3 of the funding needed for a normal retirement. Now I am playing catch-up.. hard to do when no outside income from a job is coming in… Luckily I like what I am doing and am learning a lot more about doing it by experience.
– I can’t Imagine not working for pay or as a volunteer in something that excites my brain for many years to come. But I want the control over the amount of time and the schedule.
– I have discovered my passion for Humanitarian and Disaster Relief. I bring program/project management expertise along with logistics and operations skills. I have no interest in working for pay. It offers adventure, travel, physical work, and an opportunity to challenge myself in ways I never anticipated and I will never grow old regretting that I didn’t “go for it”. Most of all, I am learning compassion!
Bottom line: Great job everyone – each and every one of your comments is greatly appreciated!

Comments: Please share your additional comments below. Note that the invitation to this survey produced 14 comments, which we have included as the first Comment below.
Interested in more working in retirement ideas?
Topretirements Working and Volunteering Blog posts
NextAvenue – Find Part Time Work in Retirement
Turn Your Passion into Retirement Income

More Topretirements Surveys:
Retirement Planning – Our Members Are on the Move
Half of Topretirements Members Confident They Will Be Able to Maintain Pre-Retirement Lifestyle
Spousal Compatibility, Areas of Incompatibility, and Predictions of Retirement Happiness
Florida and Southeast Top Your “Where to Retire” Preferences
Topretirements Members Report High Degrees of Spousal Compatibility- 2013
Retirement Living Preferences – 2013
Medicare Survey – 2012
Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement
Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
Top Concerns about Retirement
Plans for Retirement
This is a link to your suggestions about future article topics.

Posted by Admin on January 24th, 2018


  1. So that we can try to keep the conversation in one place, here are the interesting Comments made to the Blog which invited everyone to take this survey:

    . No, that’s why they call it retirement.?by John — January 14, 2018 |

    . If I work I will do it only on a volunteer basis for something I believe in or feel passionate about. I will not adhere to or be subjected to a work schedule. Nor will I be depended upon by others to be at work or working. I’ve worked full time every year since I was 13 years old. My parents were poor and we needed the money.?Since I’m not rich, retirement for me is the ability to control what I do and how I do it. Of course, all within my financial means; therefore, my choices do have limits. I suspect there will always be “have to” stuff I need to do, but, I am adamant and steadfast I will never chase dollars again. Yes, with careful planning, I’ve saved enough to make my new reality come true. I want to spend my remaining days as an adolescent adult with a carefree enjoyment of life, a reawakening. Yup, life is short and getting shorter.?by Alan E — January 14, 2018 | 

    . In January, 2015 my Hub and I went to our Financial Advisor to discuss him upcoming retirement in April 2015. Hub was not convinced we could manage our finances even with our savings. FA convinced him it was doable! It is almost 3 years now and we at chugging along. Just can’t wait to get OFF ACA. Then we can withdraw some more income from our investments. I am thinking like 3.25% a year as of 2019 withdrawal rate. Will be off ACA as of August 1 2018. Don’t think we can take out more moola without jeopardizing our ACQ subsidy.?by Louise — January 14, 2018 | 

    . Alan E. – I agree completely! I plan on giving up my professional licenses right after retiring (February!) too. Why pay to keep them up, when I have no intention of going back to my high-pressure job? I’m surrounded by older co-workers who are terrified about having enough money to retire. Some of them are supporting late-in-life second families, and can’t retire. Some of them are supporting older “kids,” and a few have admitted they just don’t want to be home with their spouses (so sad). Some of them say they just don’t have enough money to retire because they couldn’t save earlier in their careers. There are a lot of reasons why they are continuing to work.?I see co-workers dealing with high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer diagnoses, and other illnesses associated with stress. Every time I get up early in the morning, aching and stressed out about work, drive in stop and go commuter traffic, and spend 10 hours sitting behind a desk, I recognize I’m putting my health at risk for a paycheck too. Personally, I don’t need to go on an annual cruise or pay golf club memberships. I don’t want my kids to think of my money as “their” money. I’ve got enough to meet my humble requirements for the next 25-30 years, if necessary. Yeah, it was very nerve-wracking when I gave my boss notice that I was retiring. It’s stressful to go through the Medicare and COBRA stuff, and I’ll admit that I’m going to miss a salary. But I don’t plan on ever going back to work again. Never, never, never.?by Kate — January 15, 2018 |

    . Been happily retired for 6 years from a stressful and time consuming teaching career. Never been happier! I absolutely loved being involved with kids however and do miss that interaction as my grandchildren are not nearby. But, now I can read for hours, and not children’s literature! I can go out to lunch, not quickly eat from a brown bag before my class returns from the cafeteria! No more endless parent emails, correcting papers and planning on the weekends, meetings, meetings, meetings, or crushingly long report cards to do! Work again? Heck no!?by SandyZ — January 15, 2018 | 

    . Absolutely I will never go back to the type of work I had before. If I find something I think of as fun–then okay. My job was eliminated and it was already a conversion from my stressful nursing career. I was working for a church as an administrative assistant and assistant to a new Rector from England. He reorganized the parish and decided that he needed an accounting professional more than an Administrative Assistant. My last day was Nov 30 with a wonderful send off luncheon in a high end restaurant with gifts and a great reference letter. They told the parishioners that I was retiring–which I did not feel I was. So since then I have been living on a severance package I was given which may last until the end of March if I am careful. By then I need to decide if I want to draw my SS early–I will be 63.5 and just enjoy life with my modest savings. I will be on ACA for insurance or on a healthcare co-op. So many choices to make! A part time job may do very well to supplement my income–if it is fun and I wake up wanting to do it. This year in December, I was able to enjoy a full social life, decorated the Lobby Christmas tree (12 feet), and do small chores to help my neighbors. I must admit it is nice not having to go out in the cold weather. I still arise at the same time every day 5AM, but I am searching for jobs that seem off the beaten path. Cool Works has some possibilities….life is relaxed while I make my decision. I am finding one does not need to have a huge savings to retire…just one that will meet your needs.?by Jennifer — January 15, 2018 

    . In 2013 my husband and I relocated to Virginia Beach. He has been retired since 2006. I continued my nursing career at a new job. The new job was not a good fit and so I left. My plan was to return to work in the fall but we had some opportunities to travel , so work was pushed to the side. After 45 years of nursing I do not miss it. I do not miss getting up at 5am and having to battle the elements. I do volunteer work now and set my own schedule. The freedom to do things spontaneously without a work schedule is great. The past 4 years have been dress free and happy.?by Kathy — January 15, 2018 

    . I retired at 61 and have taken art,dancing, fitness classes and tried out a number of activities. I renovated my house, and I still volunteer at 2 organizations. At 67 I had the opportunity to work 4-8 hrs a week at a local community college as part-time faculty. I discovered that I missed the random social interactions I’d experienced in my former life-long career. I love helping students and it helps me to use the knowledge and brain power that I had acquired in my previous work. The pay is excellent and gives me a little pin money. I have amassed quite a bit in my IRA so when I turn 70-1/2 the RMD I’ll need to take will probably mean that I’ll need to quit my job (because of higher taxes). I won’t need the extra income and I may feel differently about working. In the meantime I’m enjoying it and I still am able to take 2 big trips a year. I have no stress and am loving my life as it is now. It’s important for me to find something meaningful to do and right now working fits.?by Celecel — January 15, 2018 | 

    . I retired last year and have been going to school for Travel and Tourism. Will start an online travel agency soon. Will let you know how things go.?by Staceky — January 15, 2018 |

    . I am leaving my job at 64 and going into business for myself. Hopefully it will tide me over until I am 70.?by William DeyErmand — January 16, 2018 |

    . The last 8 years were so brutal on my retirement investments that I may be working until I die. Thank goodness, the stock market and economy is now booming and I pray it continues. I left my high stress job when I was 62 and started teaching in an inner city high school. It is great to give back.?by Maimi — January 16, 2018

    . After retiring from a high stress, long hours, pressure packed IT career I settled in to a 55+ community, learned to golf, volunteered and still got bored. Recession hit and I was nervous about outliving investments. I started offering computer assistance services in my community and soon found myself back to a full time job…word of mouth and community newsletter ad. Self employment meant I could take off when wanted/needed and craft the job I wanted, now I’m working about 20 hours a week….life is good. In our 55+ community a wide range of services are provided by residents who have retired and now supplement that income putting their skills to work: accountants, handyman, painter, electrician, home watch service, landscape design, seamstress, interior design, HVAC evaluation, tax prep, PT, realtor, pet sitters, airport runs, plumbing, contractor projects, car detailing….seems endless. Everyone is able to charge under market pricing due to low overhead, if you do good work…you’re set!?by ljtucson — January 16, 2018 |

    . I’m working part time as a consultant since retiring two years ago. (Is it technically retirement if I’m still working? I say, yes, because it feels like I’m no longer working.) This is the crème de la crème. I set it up so that I only do the part of my job that I enjoyed most during my full-time career, but can now work at my own pace, on my own schedule, in my own fuzzy slippers, sometimes from home and sometimes while traveling, AND I get paid for it! Heaven!?The difference between a full time career and part time consulting is akin to the difference between parenting and grandparenting. Parenting is 24 hours of responsibility, your underlings aren’t too crazy about most of your decisions, there’s lots of good, a fair amount of not so good, plus plenty of stress. Grandparenting comes in short bursts, demands little responsibility, is almost all good, and imposes little stress. Also, in both cases the people you “work for” adore and appreciate you!?With luck, my consulting gig will continue another five years. If not, I’ll be happy for however long I have it.? By JCarol

    by Admin — January 24, 2018

  2. If you are working by definition you are NOT retired.

    by Ron — January 25, 2018

  3. I retired at 55 from a very responsible, high-stess career and with a very good pension BUT felt I needed a bit more before taking SS at 62. Had thought of starting or buying a retail business but had zero experience in the field so took a part time job in a gift shop. I enjoyed the work and people but very soon realized that I did not want to OWN such a business! WHEW! So for the next 7 years worked retail and museum jobs, part-time and seasonal. After that never expected to work for pay anywhere again BUT took a full time job (plus overtime!) with the US Census Bureau in 2010 as a trainer and supervisor and made more $$ in 7 weeks than I’d made in 7 months in 2009!?! I haven’t worked a day since EXCEPT for volunteer work which I so enjoy and which keeps me out in the community and in contact with interesting and fun people! As long as you are physically able I urge people to stay involved in volunteer work!

    I feel I am fortunate, except that my partner of 26 years became incapacitated and then passed before we got to have our planned retirement together. Still … life is good and it’s what you make of it! 🙂

    by JJ — January 25, 2018

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