The other reason people go back to work after retirement

Side view of senior man working in hardware shop

Image: leaf/

Stanley* had retired early, at the age of 55. He didn’t like being retired so he decided to go back to work. He’s now 70-ish, still working and loving it.

I was at a large Bunnings hardware store when I met Stanley. He works there. I forget what I was looking for, but I was having problems and I went to him for help. He solved my problem quickly. The conversation then went something like:

‘It’s always good to have a tradesman to help me know what to do,’ I said.

‘I’m not a tradesman,’ he replied, ‘I’m a chemical engineer.’

Excuse me? I didn’t actually say that out loud, but that was what I thought. The conversation reminded me that there are two basic reasons why individuals go back to work in retirement.

People do go back to work because of finances

Often people go back to work after retirement—or continue working—because of their finances. For instance, when I was writing Retirement Ready? there was a woman past retirement age working at our local Coles supermarket, ‘Until she paid off the mortgage,’ she said.

She’s not alone in this. And the impact can be really helpful.

Money and Life notes the obvious: that working part-time in retirement ‘can have a significant impact on how long your retirement savings will last. By earning even a modest salary for a few years into retirement you can reduce the amount of income you draw down from your super.’

The other reason people go back to work in retirement—boredom

‘Although the majority of Australians returning to work after retiring are motivated by financial need, 28% are still working just to keep busy and stave off boredom,’ says Money and Life.

I was curious about Stanley, the chemical engineer, and asked, ‘So how come you’re working here?’

He said he’d had a fairly high position in a company with a lot of responsibility but decided to get away from the rat-race that came with his work and retired early.

He enjoyed the lack of responsibility but found that life was ‘boring’ (his word).

He approached Bunnings for a part-time position, was hired, and enjoys his work there.

‘I love talking to the people,’ he told me. And he doesn’t have the pressure he felt before.

A warning

Whether you’re thinking of going back to work in retirement or continuing to work part-time before retirement, it needs thought. Money and Life cautions: ‘It’s important to take a good look at your whole financial situation to make sure adding a new income stream is actually going to make you better off.’

However, being bored or at a loss as to what to do also needs a solution. Going back to work will help with that. Or, if the income stream isn’t a problem, supporting a cause can work just as well.

We all need something to get us out of bed in the mornings.

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

*Not his real name.

Category: Working

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