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The long goodbye: Unretiring has become the norm

By Tribune News Service - Dec 29,2019 - Last updated at Dec 29,2019

When people ask me what I’ve learned most about retirement in my years covering the subject as a journalist, I typically deadpan a one-word answer: Don’t.

For both financial and health reasons, delaying retirement by even a year or two beyond the original plan can make a big difference.

A new survey takes the idea a step further, contemplating a world in which the traditional concept of retirement pretty much disappears.

The “Unretirement Survey” of people aged 40 to 79 found that a majority of adults plan to work in some capacity for pay after retirement, and more than half of those say they have or would consider working until they die.

“I wouldn’t say retirement has been [completely] eliminated, but it has evolved,” said Christine Russell, senior manager of retirement and annuities for TD Ameritrade, the investment firm that commissioned the Harris Poll survey of 2,000 adults. “There is now a stage of personalisation where people make it what they want it to be.”

Of course, plenty of other studies have shown that even workers who planned to stay on the job past traditional retirement age often get derailed by age discrimination, ill health or family obligations.

But if the gold watch party never comes for us, we’re really just leaving one job and moving to the next when a longtime position ends. So, what does that mean for how we execute the departure? How much notice should the unretiring retiree give? Too little and they leave co-workers in a bind. Too much and they’re the lame duck who stayed too long.

And once we leave, how should we announce it to the world? Every person’s context will vary, but it’s clearly becoming an important piece of the retirement thought process.

“It’s an interesting question, because particularly if you want to stay with a company and try a new role or work part time, you need to start those discussions well in advance,” Russell said. It’s the same with the financial part of the retirement equation, she said. It could take some time to smoothly shift a savings portfolio from being invested for the long term to one that’s positioned to kick off income.

Perhaps the mindset that we’ll be working longer is already creeping into our mental retirement math. Releasing data this month about its retirement account customers, Fidelity Investments noted that nearly 40 per cent of baby boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) were invested too heavily in stocks in the third quarter.

“Fidelity’s Q3 analysis found that many 401[k] account holders had stock allocations higher than those recommended for their age group,” the company said in a statement. Much of that is likely due to inertia, with savers allowing the effects of a long bull market to overweight stocks in their retirement funds.

It’s also a recognition, perhaps, that if we can still earn a paycheck, we may be able to weather more volatility in our retirement accounts.

Writing in a blogpost under the headline “Retired but not dead — your LinkedIn profile is not your obituary,” technical writer Wayne Yoshida urged people not to use the word “retired” under their names on the social media platform.

Just as people wouldn’t use the word “unemployed” in that space, there are always more interesting ways to describe anyone’s current pursuits, he said.

In a follow-up conversation, Yoshida said he’s still working, a decade now past his original intention to retire at 50. He says what works for him in staying “unretired” — whether it’s for financial or mental health reasons — is developing a strong personal brand via social media.

“These are the folks who will enjoy companies reaching out to them for opportunities,” he said. “Kinda neat to be the hunted rather than the hunter when it comes to employment.”

 

By Janet Kidd Stewart 

 

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