The New Retirement: Meaningful Work, Thoughtful Living
Life + Money

The New Retirement: Meaningful Work, Thoughtful Living


Although previous generations viewed retirement as the permanent end of work and the beginning of continuous leisure time, baby boomers are relentlessly redefining what retirement means.

It’s become an exciting new stage of life, according to a study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave based on a new survey of more than 7,000 respondents.  This stage is more about finding harmony between meaningful work and leisure time spent with friends and family.

Related: 8 Common Retirement Mistakes You Should Avoid

“Working in retirement is likely going to be more common place,” said David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in a conference call announcing the study. “But it’s a new idea of work with a life balance.”

Here are four retirement myths and the new reality that completely debunks them:

1- MYTH: Retirement means the end of work.
Reality: 47 percent of retirees currently work, plan to work or have worked earlier in their retirement. Additionally, 80 percent of working retirees say they’re doing so because they want to work, as opposed to because they have to. The meaning of work, however, differs from earlier in their careers: Today they’re more likely to work part time or to volunteer.

2- MYTH: Retirement is a time of decline.
Reality: Today’s retirement is a four-phase process, according to the study. The first five years are typically spent planning what retirement will look like, followed by about two years of career intermission, when retirees take a break from the work life to relax and recharge. In the third phase, which lasts about nine years, retirees reengage in the work force, until the last phase begins – when they focus solely on leisure.

3- MYTH: Retirees who work do so for financial reasons.
Reality: Only 31 percent of retirees primarily work to pay the bills, while 62 percent work to stay mentally active and 46 percent to stay physically active. Forty-two percent of retirees also work for the social connections they make on the job.

4- MYTH: New career ambitions are for young people.
Reality: Nearly three out of five working retirees (58 percent) transition to a different line of work in retirement. They are also three times more likely than younger workers to be entrepreneurs, or, as the study calls them, “retire-preneurs.” The goal is typically to find a better life-work balance, more flexibility, more fun, and less stress.

Related: The 9 Best States for Retirement

When asked to share their best advice with those who want to work during retirement, 76 percent of working retirees said to be open to trying something new, while 73 percent advised being willing to earn less than before in order to do something truly enjoyable.

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