First Person: Test Driving a Working Retirement

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With the way things are going with Social Security, Medicare, retirement account funding, and the economy in general, it appears that a increasingly larger portion of the public will find themselves working -- to some degree -- in retirement. I really have no problem with this, since I enjoy being productive, like what I do, and find the idea of a little added financial security during my golden years appealing. However, many people have no idea of what a working retirement will actually be like. My wife and I do though, since we've already test driven the idea.

Our Testing Methods

We're been relatively lucky in our ability to test drive working retirement plans. My situation has revolved around my leaving of a regular job about five years ago to test my hand at freelance writing and being an at-home dad. This has been an interesting pairing in which my time is largely mine to do with as I please (similar to retirement), but with a certain level of responsibility built in through my work and parenting duties.

My wife on the other hand works for a school district, which affords her multiple months off each summer. In my personal opinion, any teacher or person with a similar schedule should have at least an idea of what retirement is like due to having these summer or extended (multi-month) vacations.

What We Found

It can be somewhat of a shock when those regular paychecks suddenly stop. In our case, not only did this income have to be replaced either by new income streams or cuts in costs to other areas, but there was a certain sense of financial security that diminished as well. Suddenly we were left eyeball the checking account balance a little more closely. Expenses were trimmed a bit more significantly than in the past. And even little forms of entertainment were suddenly on the chopping block to be cut.

All this made us realize that retirement can be a huge adjustment. We find ourselves breathing a financial sigh of relief when those summer months during which my wife is without an income and we are solely dependant upon my lesser income are over and she heads back to work. Then we aren't paying out-of-pocket for our health insurance, her regular weekly income is back, and things are a little less stressful financially speaking.

This kind of has us both thinking that retaining some form of employment in retirement might not be a bad idea. It doesn't have to be a great income or even carry with it health insurance, but I think it would provide some sense of security and peace of mind that we might not have otherwise.

Other Issues

During our working retirement test drives, I've found that working can actually fill voids that might otherwise be filled with costly activities rather than money gaining ones. I have hobbies, but my wife doesn't have many other things to keep her occupied during down times. The things that I like to do cost money. The time that my wife doesn't have things to do ends up costing us money through her boredom leading to shopping, heading out for ice creams, and similar activities that cost money. However, by my continuing to work through times like my wife's summer break, I find that when I'm at home working, she tends to find things to do around the house or to stay occupied other than spend money. And should she pick up a part-time job in retirement, it could help her stay occupied through other means than ones that cost money.

Finding work that we both enjoy can therefore have us looking at our income earning activities almost as hobbies. This can help us kill two birds with one stone, not only earning income through our hobby-type jobs, but keeping us from ennui that leads to spending more in an effort to stay occupied.

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The author is not a licensed financial professional. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.

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