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Work After 60

Retiring early isn’t on most people’s radar anymore. But what about not retiring at all?  There are things to do to forge a great life for yourself in your 60’s and beyond that take work in a direction you can thrive with.

This retirement thing doesn’t have to be a yes/no one-shot deal.  A friend retired three times before he decided he really meant it.  And we all know about Bret Favre.  But even those examples are becoming simple, almost timid versions of the decision.  The new pioneers are finding ways to stay in the workforce  for the long haul instead of ever retiring.  Success at that depends on finding ways to incorporate much of what retirement would have meant to them in the work they continue to do.

Money  The first set of questions, if you are looking at whether this is the truer path for you, are financial.  How much do you need the money?  Is what you’re doing now going to provide the level of income you want?  If you just got riffed because the job you do is no longer key, you  might want to expand the range of options for what you do next.  Or if the whole industry is going away.  (Think video stores.) Is there a defined end to when you you will need this much cash?  (e.g. Paying off consumer debt or getting a kid or grandkid through college).   Get a good handle on what you will have coming in, too.  If you wait to take Social Security until you’re 70, the check will be bigger every month.  It’s your job to know how much bigger.

Please don’t tell yourself  “I’m too old to start over.” You’re never too old if you enjoy what you’re getting good at.

Meaning  After 60, you have to think about more than the money though.  Working at something you hate as a huge part of your life is hard on your physical health as well as your emotional wellbeing.  Choosing solely on how much money you can make will take you to Misery City, at least if you live long enough.  What gives your life spark?  How can you make that part of what you do for a living?

If you are totally clueless about this, make a list of what you believe in strongly.  These don’t have to be huge “save the world” kinds of effort–just stuff you value.  Maybe, “getting the county to go green” could be on the list.  but so could “arranging flowers with dynamic color combinations.”  It can be something you personally savor (cooking a great cheese omlet) or something that you want for the world (better nutrition for latch key kids).  Try to get at least 5 items on your list; 10 is even better.

Then make a list of what you’re good at.  Can you organize absolutely anything?  Repair what others are ready to send to the landfill?  Talk to anyone comfortably?  This list reminds you of what you’ve already achieved, which is great.  But it also provides important clues on how you might best make a difference with what you do next.

Mesh the two lists to come up with things you could do about what’s important to you.  Don’t stop to evaluate the ideas, just write down everything that comes to mind.  Once  you finally run out of ideas, take a break (important).  When you come back, go through the list.  Which one (or ones) make you smile, get your heartrate up, or have you wanting to get started right now?  Those are the things that are going to be fun to do at this point in your life.  Now start thinking about how can you make a job out of them.

Mix  The most important thing about work after 60 is setting it up so it’s not the only thing in your life on an ongoing basis.  After 60, the  “career arc” should be starting back down.  (I know, that’s heresy but it’s also true.)  You might still be on fire with what you’ve been doing for 50 years, but you’re likely to be looking for a way to do a bit less of it.    Figuring out this piece is highly personal.

Some of us want to be able to move through each day changing plans as we go.   Some of us are fine with the same routine every day as long as we have the month of  February off  to meditate in Bali.  Take the time to figure out what kind of lifestyle is best for you.  (The exercises in Supercharged Retirement can help with this, whether you are going to retire or not.)

Life after 60 is better if you have a clear focus and broad set of challenges.  Getting paid for addressubg them is a bonus.  If you need it, you can make it happen.  But be forewarned.  This idea that everything should happen in a nanosecond because we are “getting older” is wrong.  It’s going to take time.  Believe it or not, you still have it.


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