Why you should plan for ‘unretirement’ as you prepare for retirement

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The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly scuppered many plans around the world. The financial unease created by the global economic shock has seen a growing trend towards ‘unretirement’.

There’s more evidence of growth in the number of those returning to the workforce after retirement. Research shows that up to a quarter of retired Britons are ‘unretiring’ (their word) and going back into the workforce.

Their story reflects that of 89-year-old Englishman Joe Bartley who found work in a local cafe. His reason for going back to work was ‘boredom’.

Unretirement in this study comes in two forms: those who retire completely from paid work and then start paid work again; and those who partially retire and then take up full-time work again. With this understanding, one in four retirees are returning to work. Mostly it’s within four to five years. The possibility of returning to paid work after 10 years is low.

Those who unretire
The majority of those who retire are men, and people with qualifications, better health, and a better financial situation. In this, their findings mesh with studies from the United States.

The ‘better financial’ finding demonstrates that returning to work is often about more than money. Having said that, the report found that those with a mortgage were 50 per cent more likely to go back to work, suggesting that they’re trying to improve their financial position.

In Briton, men were about 25 per cent more likely to return to work and those who had a partner in paid work were more likely to unretire an indication, perhaps, that couples tend to try to retire together.

Preparing for the unretirement option
There are some lessons to learn from this British study if you want to keep the unretirement option open in case you do want to/need to find a job after full or part-time retirement. Here are five things you can start working on now.

1. Take care of your health
This is obvious. You need to have reasonable health to keep the work option open. Health is something you can begin to build up now before retirement. And keep maintaining it then in retirement.

2. Gain qualifications
The study showed that most of those who unretired had qualifications of some kind. You may not need qualifications for some jobs, but keep in mind that there will probably be more competition for them. A qualification can also assist you to find a job you have an interest and skills in.

3. Get your finances in order before retirement
There’s quite a difference between going back to work because you want to and because finances dictate you have to. There’s freedom in the first for instance, you can take time to shop around for the right job for you. There’s pressure in the latter, along with what could be a dash of desperation.

Making sure you own your house before you retire is an excellent financial starting point for retirement.

4. Leave your workplace with them wanting you back
Your current workplace is where you currently demonstrate your skill and abilities. If your work and your presence on the work team is appreciated and you enjoy your job, of course, this could be the first point of call when looking to unretire.

The advantages are that you know the workplace and you are known in the workplace. That could be helpful.

5. Unleash the inner entrepreneur
There’s a growing trend for retirees to develop their own small business as an income earner in retirement. Is this you? There’s more risk in this than working for someone else, but there’s greater satisfaction in seeing something you developed to grow. And you are in control.

Do your homework on this. Should you attempt to get it up and running before you retire? What advice do you need? What are the worst-case possibilities? Ask these and the other hard questions.

Here’s the good news. “Older people with experience have an entrepreneurial edge in a knowledge-based economy,” says Ting Zhang, an economist from the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore.

It may seem strange to suggest that as you prepare for retirement you should also be preparing for unretirement. But it makes sense if a quarter of us are likely to unretire, however you define it. It really is about keeping your options open.

Have you considered going back into the workforce? What was your reason for doing so?

Bruce Manners has a PhD in sociology and ‘retired’ at the end of 2014 after working as a commercial fisherman, church pastor and magazine editor. He has written several books, including Retire Ready? and and founded retirement website retirenotes.com.

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Written by Bruce Manners


Total Comments: 2
  1. 0

    Contemporary work places are the pits. I wouldn’t want to go back there even if they paid me. I’ve found plenty of things that keep me interested, far more than ever happened during my last few years of paid work. Everything from doing the grey nomad across Australia, to becoming very involved with the alumni of my old secondary school.

  2. 0

    Officially I formally retired nearly 18 years ago. Since then I have done only casual work (university exam supervision and work for the electoral commission). Acceptance of work has to fit in with other things that I am doing. This year I will be doing three weeks full time work for ACT Elections. I will consider options after that but I am not desparate and as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed then I will be heading back overseas, hopefully it will be safe to go to St Petersburg where I will do voluntary work as an English teacher (I have been doing this for more than 10 years).



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