Society’s script for our 60’s says we walk off into the sunset to spend the “Golden Years” doing whatever we want. But the checkbook—or the investment account –may be saying “not so fast.” What do you do instead? Trudging along doing what you’re already doing is not your only option.
According to Tom Lauricella in Wall Street Journal Sunday, almost a third of American men and women ages of 65 and 69 were still in the workforce in 2011. Of those 70 to 74, almost 20% were still working. This isn’t just a sour economy. Many of these people simply prefer to include paid work as part of their lives. More and more studies are confirming that people who remain in the work force are physically healthier, less likely to experience early cognitive decline, and have a stronger sense of well-being. Work is good stuff for most of us. But it’s got to be work we love.
If you need or want to keep earning money as you age, take a look at your options, your priorities, and your preferences. Use that information to create a life that includes paid work, but that’s still an authentic balance of what you really care about.
Find work that’s your life calling. Work at this stage of life is best done for the meaning it holds rather than the paycheck it provides. Even if you do need the money, find something you believe in if you want to be happy (also healthy). Doing work you‘re passionate about makes the time you spend at work part of your overall “Good Life” rather than just the means of funding it.
Find work that’s flexible. When you are good at what you do or are willing to do something no one else wants to, you can often move toward more of a say in when you work and when you don’t. The first step in getting to this nirvana is getting really good at what you do—which is a lot easier if you love what you do. The second is knowing what kind of flexibility is important to you. Is it the freedom to be able to take time during work hours watch your grandson compete in high school debate? Or is it the flexibility to live where it’s warm in the winter and where it’s cool in the summer?
Sometimes, you don’t even need to change companies to find this. (Home Depot and CVS were already hiring cold climate employees to work at warm climate stores where they wintered five years ago.)
Another version of flexibility comes from using technology. If you’re available to answer client questions via smart phone or can generate a bid with a laptop and wifi, where you are physically when you do it isn’t an issue. Instead of shunning new technology, learn to use it to claim greater freedom in how you work.
Combine several small efforts to make the amount of money you need. We tend to think in the singular about earning a living. One job. One paycheck. In the traditional work force, this is true (at least for now). But when you want to give your life better balance, combining two or three choice part-time jobs may make more sense.
I have a friend who’s a very convincing Santa. Every year he returns to the warm climate of his career years to be a mall Santa for an employer delighted with his return. For the rest of the year, he parlays his teaching experience into paid gigs as a tour guide for people eager to see the wonders of the western US.
Your combination will be unique to you, of course. Let’s say you love quilting and also love dogs. You could do custom quilting or teach quilting classes and also run a dog walking business. Quilting works your mind and your fine motor skills. Being responsible for those dogs keeps you fit—and feeling that unconditional love animals offer. And you put money in the bank from both pleasures.
Anything is possible once you step into this foreign terrain called “life after 60.” But don’t wait until you’re on that stretch of road to figure out where you want to go then. You have to know what you love and have a pretty good idea of what kind of lifestyle is likely to work best for you if you want to thrive after 60—whether you retire or keep working.
Now’s the time to get started on that custom-designed life.