Discovering the why and what of work in retirement

Two small business owners behind the deli counter

Image: mavoimages/

Joe Bartley of Devon (UK) was retired, but found himself ‘dying of boredom’. Aged 89, he had been fine until his wife died a couple of years back. He decided to look for a job.

He advertised in the local paper: ‘Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!’

The Guardian reports that he was offered two jobs—at a café and at a bakery.

‘The [café] owner phoned me and said she was interested and asked me to come in. So I arrived at the café and we’ve had a bit of a chat . . . and shook hands.’

The café’s co-owner, Sarah Martin, said, ‘Most people have got something to offer and Joe is someone who is keen, who is putting himself out there. What is not to like about that?

‘A lot of people who come here don’t just come for coffee, they come for a chat, so Joe is perfect.’

Considering the why

Joe began looking for a job to escape his boredom. Yes, the money helps pay his rent, but that wasn’t his motivation. He needed social connections. His flat had become like ‘solitary confinement’.

If you’re thinking of working on in retirement, ask why? Money is always a strong motivator, particularly if you aren’t as financially prepared as you want to be.

Is it to keep structure in your life? Some find it helpful to have things they must do to keep their life focused and balanced. This is also a valid reason to keep working.

Is it, like Joe, to keep up the social connections you can build in the workplace—with the wage as a bonus?

Knowing why is important in two ways. It gives you a reason for working that makes sense to you. That’s important. Besides, how can you explain it to others if you can’t explain it to yourself?

And, if the why is something that has a goal (enough money, for instance), when you’ve achieved it you can quit and do other things. On social connections, you can also work on building these connections while working in retirement and fully retire after achieving that goal.

Considering the what

Nancy Collamer in Second-Act Careers, suggests that those who now choose to work in retirement will do it differently: ‘We intend to work—but this time around, we want to be able to do so on our own terms, on our own timetable, and in our own way. This time, we plan to call the shots.’

What will that look like for you? And in what kind of work?

Will you continue to work where you are—full time or part time? If you’re employed, part time will need negotiation.

Will you set up or buy out a business? If setting up your own business, Jill and Owen Weeks in Retire Bizzi say the risks ‘can be minimised by starting slowly and in many cases, while still working’. If you can build it up before retiring you will reap the benefits in retirement.

Will you make a hobby work? The danger is that your hobby becomes work and may not give you the same joy. And it will take time to get it established—which, again, could be worth starting before retirement.

Do you have a passion you could turn into a job? A passionate golfer, for instance, may enjoy a job in the pro shop. Think creatively.

Will you be able to turn your life and work experience into a self-employed endeavour?

Will you find another job? The Startsat60 website recently listed the top six jobs available for seniors as: sales assistants; in call centres; market researchers; trainers (with experience and a confident presentation); and delivery or limousine drivers.

Whatever your reason, if you want to keep working and are in reasonable health, it’s worth giving it a go. And, if you want a change from what you’re doing, there may be another job out there with your name on it. After all, 89-year-old Joe Bartley found his. There’s a fair chance you can, too.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of


Category: Working

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Retire Notes