I have an uncle who is pushing ninety years old. He still gets up early, gets dressed, and goes to work every day and often on weekends. He doesn’t do it for the money; he’s covered in that department. He simply loves what he does so much that retirement has never entered his vocabulary. He owns his own business and even now that he’s hired a partner who will eventually inherit it, my uncle still won’t quit. And he shouldn’t. As long as his mind and body can handle the workload and it’s what he wants to do, working is the best thing for him.
Society seems to think that we should all retire at sixty-five and hit the golf course or the cruise ships. We should want to hang up our working lives and get on with “having fun.” But for some of us, working is the fun part of life. We like what we do and/or we enjoy the people we work with. Work gives our lives structure and purpose. Asking us to hang it up is like asking us to cut off an arm. Inconceivable and a surefire way to ruin, not improve, our lives. The good news is that people who choose not to retire may end up better off in many ways. Here are a few.
Research shows that people who opt to keep working often experience better overall physical and mental health than those who retire. Work keeps your mind engaged and your body active, things many retirees don’t experience as often as they should. Working can stave off everything from heart disease to dementia for some people.
Better Emotional Health
Work can give you an outlet to help you deal with everything from the grief of losing a spouse to depression that comes from feeling useless or lonely. Work gets you out and among other people and gives you a reason to get up every day. If your identity is tied up in the work you do, losing that can bring on crippling depression even if you pursue other fun things in your retirement. Continuing to work may keep you emotionally healthier than retiring.
Better Financial Health
Working longer equals more money. While you may have to work longer if you aren’t financially prepared for retirement, choosing to work longer allows you to build up an even bigger nest egg. This is money that can be left to your heirs, donated to charity, or used should you eventually decide to retire, or if you encounter serious health problems. Working can make your nest egg last even longer or create a wonderful legacy.
You Might Save Your Marriage
If you’re used to being apart from your spouse most days of the week, the sudden closeness of retirement can cause you both to severely dislike each other. You may need to take things slowly, gradually adjusting to being together through part time work. Or you might just decide you’re better off if you keep working and give each other some space.
When people retire, they often have to look for new social groups since they get cut off from their primary group at work. They go to classes, or church, or take up group hobbies in an effort to connect socially. Some people just aren’t up to this sort of thing and instead end up isolated in their retirement. If you don’t retire, you keep your social group and it’s easier to muster groups for lunch outings or work parties.
A Chance to Change
If you work for an employer, you might not be able to continue working for them. They may subtly or overtly push you out in favor of younger, cheaper workers. If you want to continue working, you may have to start your own business or go freelance. That can seem daunting, but it can also be a chance to grow and explore your abilities. Maybe you want to do something new, or stick with what you’ve always done. Either way, having your own business can be liberating and challenging.
No one is going to force you to stop working and start watching re-runs of the Price is Right on your sixty-fifth birthday. If you don’t want to retire, don’t. Don’t do it because society tells you to, or because your friends tell you that you should. That’s what they want to do. If you want to keep working, even if only part time, do it. You’ll be better off in many ways.
(Photo courtesy of bowler1996p)