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Want to Work in Retirement? You May Be in for a Surprise

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In the next five years, over a quarter of the labor force will be 55 or older. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between what boomers want and what they might be able to get in a secondary career.

In a study called “New Expectations, New Rewards: Work in Retirement for Middle-Income Boomers,” the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement surveyed more than 1,000 boomers with household income between $25,000 and $100,000 and less than $1 million in investable assets. A supplemental survey of nearly 2,300 middle-income boomers examined the percentage of retired boomers who are working.

About a third of retired boomers are working, and of those, 61% are doing it because they want to, not because they have to. About half of the unemployed retired boomers wish they could work; their health is the most common obstacle to working.

The study asked working retirees to give boomers advice about working in retirement, and the most common suggestion was to find something enjoyable. “Work in retirement can be the perfect time to explore a passion or interest that we were unable to pursue during our primary working career,” Scott Goldberg, president of Bankers Life, said in a statement. “Don’t feel limited by prior employers, industries or work experience. Look around and find the situation that balances your needs with your interests.”

However, some still-working boomers are in for an ugly surprise, according to the study.

Non-retired boomers might think they’ll pick up a job after they retire to stay active and engaged, but they have to remember their new employer is trying to run a business. If they expect to make as much as they did in their primary career — 26% said they wouldn’t take a pay cut — or to get special work arrangements — almost all of them said they would like some sort of arrangement, like flex time, telecommuting or job sharing — they’ve got another think coming.

Bankers Life found that 53% of employed retirees are making much less than they did in their former careers. However, only 21% of boomers said they would be willing to take such a drastic pay cut.

As for special work arrangements, only 37% of working retirees said they had such an arrangement. However, 56% of boomers want flex time in their post-retirement jobs, 20% would like to telecommute, 17% would like a compressed work schedule and 14% are interested in job sharing.  

And yet 61% of boomers are worried there aren’t enough job opportunities available for retired workers.

Over three-quarters of working retirees said they are as satisfied with their job as they were with their career, if not more so. A third of those said they were much more satisfied, and the group overall reported lower stress and better relationships than the nonworking retirees.

Of retirees who are working again, almost four in 10 have received some sort of training or work-specific education. They’re just as likely to pursue that training on their own (18%) as to receive it from their employer (17%).

—Check out Gen X Says: What Retirement? on ThinkAdvisor.