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A Compelling Case for Work in Retirement

Dave Bernard
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: An older job-seeker takes notes during an employment seminar at a "Work Search" event aimed at older unemployed people January 18, 2011 at a high school gymnasium in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The event, sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), consisted of workshops for basic job skills like resume building targeted to an over-50 job seeking demographic. Unemployment for older worker has decreased slightly in the past year, though rates are still three times higher than they were a decade ago, when only 2.5 percent of people over 45 were jobless. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Many baby boomers want to keep working in some capacity after retirement. Whether the choice is theirs to make or they are forced to extend the length of their career, more and more people are building work into their retirement plans.

Reasons for wanting to remain a member of the working world vary, but a major factor is money. Most Americans don't have enough savings to maintain their current standard of living in retirement. The median retirement savings balance for near-retirement households is just $12,000, according to a recent National Institute on Retirement Security report. And an incredible 45 percent of working-age households have no retirement account savings at all.

Social Security alone isn't likely to provide enough income to make up for a lack of saving. The average monthly benefit for retired workers in August 2013 was $1,270, while the maximum monthly benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age (age 66) in 2013 is $2,533.

Although some costs tend to trend downward as you enter retirement, such as the costs for education for your children and reduced mortgage balances, other expenses cannot be avoided, especially when it comes to health care. The typical 65-year-old married couple without chronic conditions will pay $220,000 to cover medical expenses throughout retirement, according to calculations by Fidelity Benefits Consulting. That figure includes Medicare insurance premiums, but it excludes nursing home care.

Money issues can definitely be a driving motivation to incorporate work into your retirement plans. But it is not always just about money. There are certain aspects of work that some people actually enjoy.

A job can provide an opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than just yourself. You get to engage with co-workers, work toward and achieve goals and receive recognition for your efforts. Even if your boss does not commend you on your efforts, you receive recognition in the form of a regular paycheck.

Work can also help to channel your energy into worthwhile results. Rather than just keeping busy living your retired life, you have the opportunity to make a difference. A job often feels more meaningful than reading a book, completing a hobby or taking a trip.

New challenges might be a regular part of your work. Dealing with them effectively requires you to use your mental and physical capabilities, and helps you to stay sharper for your life outside of the job.

Of course, not all jobs are rewarding, and not all companies provide a positive environment in which to spend your hours. Monotony, stress, deadlines and conflict can be unfortunate parts of the daily grind.

And not everyone has the option of choosing whether they will work or not. Some people, for reasons beyond their control, are unable to continue with their career. Many people end up leaving their jobs earlier than planned due to health problems, layoffs or to care for family members.

Some people continue to work in retirement for both the paycheck and the social benefits. Whether the underlying motivation is adding to a retirement nest egg or continuing the benefits of working with others to achieve something of worth, work is an option that baby boomers are increasingly adding to their plans for retirement.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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