Retired But Still Working? Examining the New Trend of Returning to the Workplace After Retirement

Written by: PeopleKeep Team
Originally published on April 24, 2015. Last updated April 15, 2022.

When you think about the concept of retirement you think of no longer being in the workplace and contributing to productivity, right? You may think of reaching your advanced years and focusing on aspects of life other than work, for example, family, hobbies, and volunteer work. However, Americans are at a tipping point: a majority of people will be continuing to work after they retire - and often in new and different ways than they have before.retire

Nearly half of all retirees today say they either have worked or intend to work during their retirement. And an even greater percentage say they want to keep working after they retire. Merrill Lynch predicts that it will become increasingly unusual for retirees not to work.

What’s the Explanation for this Phenomenon?

Why on earth would a person work hard for 40 to 50 years, then reach retirement and want to continue working? Wouldn’t they want to concentrate on other aspects of their lives? Wouldn’t they want to give their minds and bodies a break from stress and pressure that goes hand in hand with full time work?

Nearly three out of four retirees launch into a new line of work after retirement, according to the Merrill Lynch study, and working retirees are three times more likely to be entrepreneurs than pre-retirees. This new phenomenon is driven by four forces:

1. Increasing life expectancy, which has produced a retirement that can last 20 years or more. People simply cannot imagine doing ‘nothing’ for the remaining 20+ years of their remaining life. Some fear boredom, a lack of purpose or meaning in life, and truly want to continue to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

2. Recent economic uncertainty, which has been a major reality check for many people. For many individuals and couples, their current financial picture is insecure and current lifestyle is unsustainable without some supplemental income. Some find that they do not have the adequate funds in their retirement accounts, or never started one in the first place, and social security is not enough money to live on. Additionally, an unknown financial forecast is disconcerting to people, propelling them to stay in the workforce in some capacity.

3. New vision for later life, as retirees seek greater purpose, social engagement, intellectual stimulation, and fulfillment in retirement. Retirement today is a much more dynamic and fluid process where people reinvent themselves and go through phases of transition. For some people, finding a new outlet for work is not all about the money. Staying mentally active is equally as important to working retirees as the money.

4. Elimination of pensions for many workers, shifting the burden for funding retirement from employers to retirees. The guaranteed security of pensions has been attacked and many people no longer have access to them. Many people enter retirement with low and/or fixed incomes and they have a genuine need to work and supplement their income.


As Americans hit retirement age, many are not opting out of the workforce. Whether they’re staying in their current jobs, switching to a new field, or starting a business, 40 percent of people over age 55 are continuing to work into their retirement years. Some do it for the money, some for the personal progression, and some do it for community contribution.

What do you think of working after retirement? Is it something you anticipate doing? Leave your thoughts below. 

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Originally published on April 24, 2015. Last updated April 15, 2022.


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