Most of us aspire to a comfortable retirement in the future when we will travel, spend time with family or just relax and enjoy life. However, I believe that for many Americans the goal of full retirement at 60 or 65 may not be achievable or even desirable. If asked, my advice to those looking forward to leaving the work place and enjoying full retirement would be to strive toward that goal, but, at the same time, prepare to keep working. I believe that working in retirement may be the new normal for many of us for two reasons.
First, many Americans are still very active at retirement age and not ready to give up working entirely and kick back and relax all day.
Second, going cold turkey financially and relying only on pensions, Social Security or savings to fund two or three decades of retirement may not be realistic.
Therefore, I think that preparing to keep working after retirement is a smart strategy. Here's how I would go about it.
Find Ways to Cut Back Hours
If I loved my work, but not the hours, I would investigate the opportunities to cut back rather than retiring. I'd start by finding out how receptive my employer is to less orthodox work arrangements. Those that allow employees to work from home or offer flex time, job sharing or four-day work weeks might be most receptive to part-time work as an alternative to retirement.
Have a Transition Plan
I would develop a plan before approaching my employer about a change in hours or responsibilities. In particular, I would be to be ready to answer questions about how my change in status would work and to offer concrete solutions to issues such as who would take over some of my responsibilities and how I could provide training and support to those individuals during a transition period. My goal would be to make it as easy as possible for my employer to see the benefits to the firm of this change and, therefore, to say yes rather than no.
Become an Independent Contractor or Consultant
I would consider the outside contractor or consultant options. Especially for professionals, becoming an independent contractor who is available for special projects or consulting assignments can sometimes be a perfect solution for a retiree who wants to stay involved. This is the route that I took with my small business and, while it has its challenges, I have found that it also has many advantages, such as working from home, flexible hours and independence. On the other hand, an independent contractor has to be prepared to handle the administrative end of the business, including taxes, which can be time consuming and requires learning new skills.
Turn a Hobby into a Business
Another avenue I would explore is whether a hobby or avocation could be turned into a small business in retirement. My parents did that. They started a business selling antique Christmas ornaments that arose out of my mother's love of these collectibles. They found that the not only did their business supplement their retirement income, but it was satisfying and fun to try and succeed at something new.
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