As you might expect, the concept of retirement is not for everyone. Boomers today are much less likely to traditionally "retire" than past generations. In fact, almost 40 percent of workers age 65 or above who retired "boomeranged" back to work, according to a RAND Corporation study. The challenge is that older workers often want to change careers after fifty or so years doing the same thing -- so when they return to work, it could be to a new "second career."
Author Chris Farrell has a good way of looking at it -- as a "sabbatical." In an interview in Forbes, he says, "When we think about retirement as a sabbatical, people are going to retire, take a break and start thinking about what they want to do next. That hopefully will be incredibly liberating. It’s a wonderful idea that you take a year off, recharge and rethink."
Farrell advises those wanting to return to work focus on their skills instead of their job title. While you may have worked in a particular career all your life, in your second career, you may be better off evaluating your personal skill set and pursuing a completely different line of work. Reinventing yourself -- and taking some time to explore what you enjoy and what you are good at -- may be exhilarating. To the extent that you are financially secure, you can even pursue something because you love it, not because you intend it to produce income.
I can totally relate to this perspective. Both my wife and I reinvented ourselves after professional careers. We followed our passions and did something different for our second act. She was a sales professional and became a dog groomer because she loves working with dogs. She worked in her own mobile dog grooming business for seven years and generated income. Then she stopped grooming for money because it was too physically strenuous. Now she grooms when she wants just because she enjoys it, as an unpaid volunteer at an animal shelter. I ran a direct marketing agency, but I always had a love for writing. Now I'm a freelance writer and I work when I want. Some of the writing I do generates income, and some I do just because I enjoy it.
One of the things my wife and I had to learn during our boomerang back to work was that the value equation is different. In our previous professional careers, our perceived value was based on how much revenue we brought in. That monetary value was important to our self-image. It took a while to realize that value doesn't always have to be related to money. Now we are more comfortable with the notion that self-worth isn't based on financial and material assets alone. In fact, we both get a great deal of satisfaction doing things that do not directly result in generating income.
The retirement boomerang is a common condition for Boomers. Don't be surprised if it happens to you.