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What Is a Retirement Job

It used to be an oxymoron. Retirement meant leaving the workforce. But now, age 50+ workers are redefining retirement. And work is often a very important part of their plans.

Researchers are finding that, more and more, people in their so-called “retirement years” (broadly defined as age 50 and over) are planning to work in some way. A recent national Work trends survey finds that nearly 7 in 10 workers plan full or part-time jobs for pay following retirement from their main job. 14% will volunteer, while just 13% expect to stop working entirely.

What is a Retirement Job?
A retirement job is any kind of work you do after you retire from your long term career or return to work after age 50.

The possibilities are as varied as the people pursuing them. A retirement job can be anything from working part time in a nearby store to contracting with large companies as a consultant to turning a hobby like gardening into a part time landscape design business to starting a new career as a teacher.

While the type of work varies, there are certain aspects most people are looking for when they consider a retirement job.

Flexibility Is Key, Says Survey
Retirement conducted a survey asking you to define your ‘ideal retirement job scenario’ by rating the importance of fourteen job factors (see chart below).

The majority of baby boomers and seniors we heard from said they are seeking a retirement job that is “flexible.” You described “flexible” as including a partial day (e.g., 9am – 3pm), a partial week (e.g., Monday through Wednesday), or a partial year (e.g., January through June). 

You also placed importance on a job that was “close to home.” And you defined “close to home” as either a short commute (less than 30 minutes) or even something “from home”. 

Having fun and connecting with customers were also important, while working long hours in a competitive environment was not.

Flexibility: Partial day, week or year 60-hour workweeks
Staying closer to home / Telecommuting Long commutes; traveling non-stop for work
Being an individual contributor where you complete shorter, assigned tasks whose outcome you mostly control; Being managed by someone much younger Managing large teams; taking on big organizational mandates with significant risk and stress
Finding a fun, challenging, secure and stable job and staying in it for a long time Job hopping more regularly to improve pay or title
A readiness to trade pay for a suitable work/life balance (job pay is a supplement to investment and Social Security income) Needing big raises every year to meet rising living and/or child-rearing costs
Competing for business results in the marketplace Competing with your peers for promotions within the company and face-time with the boss
Providing advice to people who value your work & life experience; being a mentor to younger workers Being mentored yourself by a mature, experienced worker
Developing relationships with customers who love your reliable and service-oriented style, trust you because they’re older too, and may know you from previous personal or business dealings in the community Developing relationships through heavy time investments (e.g., industry conferences)
Giving back to society; working for “meaning” What’s in it for me?
A readiness to be trained and learn new tricks, such as specific computer programs Not having time to focus on learning new things

Why Are Retirees Going Back To Work?
Michael Smyer, Ph.D., Co-Director of The Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility and Advisory Board member of, says “people pursue retirement jobs for a lot of different reasons.” And those reasons usually fall into one of three categories. They have to work, want to work, or a combination of both.

And with people staying healthier and living longer, “[Older] people have more capacity for work and engagement than in past generations,” says Smyer.

Meeting Friends In Your Retirement Job Staying connected socially is another important aspect for many people looking for a retirement job. Being in a positive, social environment is good therapy for anyone facing loneliness in their so-called retirement years. Jeanne Chase worked for several years in a New Jersey women’s clothing boutique, thriving on the opportunity to get out and socialize. “We had so many laughs together. It wasn’t even like going to work. It was like going to a party every day,” says Chase. Even though the store ended up closing its doors, the group of women she worked with continue to meet regularly for breakfast and shopping expeditions.

Security and Stability Also Important, Says Survey
Question: Please tell us about your ideal ‘retirement job’ scenario so we may best match you and other visitors with openings.

Meeting the Needs of Both Employers and Employees
It’s a whole new ballgame for both companies and workers. For almost a decade, human resources and staffing experts have warned of the looming labor shortage. The day has arrived. Managers have taken notice, and the scramble for talent is underway. Consider these figures: the number of workers aged 55 and older is set to double - from 13 percent of the labor force in 2000 to 20 percent in 2020.

For employees, it is typically a combination of financial need and desire to remain active that has them staying in, or re-entering, the workforce.

For employers, older workers represent reliability and knowledge. “Older workers are valued for their maturity and institutionalized knowledge. Many organizations are seeking to add these skilled employees to their workforce,” explains Jan Margolis, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Applied Research Corporation. Boston College’s Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Co-director of The Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility concurs that the aging workforce has employers changing their ways, saying “the business community is becoming increasingly aware of older workers.”s

Temp agencies feel they have an important role to play in this changing make-up of the workforce. Nancy Schuman of Melville, NY-based Lloyd Staffing notes that the flexible nature of temporary work has a broad appeal to both workers and employers, saying, “many people will choose to temp their way through retirement” (Editor’s note: Lloyd Staffing has a business relationship with

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