At an extended-family gathering over the Mother’s Day weekend, an uncle confessed that he was working again.
He had retired a few years ago, and with my aunt had adopted the “snowbird” lifestyle of wintering in Florida. But work crept back in whenever he came north – first helping various nephews in their businesses, then occasionally filling in at his former workplace.
Now, the latter is more than just occasionally when he’s in town. “I don’t have any hobbies,” he said matter-of-factly. “I like to work.”
And with that, he joined the “unretired” -- formerly retired individuals who have returned to the labor market.
They represent about 39 percent of currently employed workers aged 65 and older, according to Rand Corp. The think tank also found, as part of its 2017 American Working Conditions Survey, that more than half of retirees aged 50 and older indicated they would work in the future if the right opportunity came along.
The results show that retirement has become “a fluid concept,” according to one Rand economist, where “significant numbers of older people move in and out of the workforce.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is seeing it, too.
The agency says it expects the so-called labor force participation rate -- representing Americans working or looking for work -- will increase the fastest through 2024 for the oldest segments of the population (ages 65-74 and 75-plus).
By contrast, the rate for most other age groups won’t change much in the 2014-24 decade, according to the agency.
That makes the unretired “good for the economy,” Rand said in an essay on its website in March. A rising labor force participation rate among older workers can offset declines in other age groups to help keep the economy humming.
But why return to the grind?
Older workers “are healthier and have a longer life expectancy than previous generations,” notes a Bureau of Labor Statistics career outlook publication. They also are better educated, which increases their value to the labor market. Finances also come into play.
Rand says its research found that for the vast majority of workers who retired and then returned to work, that was their plan all along. For the “small minority” who unexpectedly returned, it was because retirement was less satisfying, Rand says.
Renee Walrath, principal of Walrath Recruiting in Colonie and Saratoga Springs, says she has gotten some calls over the last couple of years from retirees interested in returning to work.
Their motivation is not money, she said, but “to feel valued.”
Many have extensive experience -- “They have so much knowledge to share” -- but want consulting or part-time work. Walrath Recruiting, though, focuses on full-time placement.
Renee Walrath says she always listens when retirees call. Her suggestion if they’re not in the market for a 40-hour-or-more workweek? Volunteering might be a good fit.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected].