The Role of “Work” in Retirement

The Role of “Work” in Retirement

The concept of retirement is undergoing a metamorphosis.  Demographic, societal, and workplace trends have all converged to offer a stage of life that is much more fluid and flexible than what most of us previously imagined.  In fact, retirement has become a matter of personal definition.


What Is “Retirement”? is an extensive report based on a 2019 survey conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.  It explores the meaning of retirement and examines the attitudes and behaviors of three generations currently represented in the workforce:


Baby Boomer:           Born 1946–1964

Generation X:           Born 1965–1978

Millennial:                   Born 1979–2000


Changing Expectations

Across all three generations, results indicated that workers are looking forward to an active phase in life that includes continued work and time for leisure activities including travel, spending more time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, and volunteer work.


In addition, many envision a flexible transition into retirement that differs from prior generations when retirement was marked by an abrupt stop to work.  For example, a majority of Baby Boomers (69 percent) either expect to work or are already working past age 65.  Similarly Generation X workers (57 percent) expect to work past age 65 or not to retire at all.  In contrast, a majority of Millennials (58 percent) plan to retire at 65 or sooner.


Among workers who are working or plan to work past age 65, 80 percent cited financial reasons and 72 percent cited healthy-aging reasons . The top financial reason was for the income (53 percent), while the top healthy-aging reason was to be active (47 percent).

In addition, all three generations expressed a positive vision of retirement, but also communicated concerns related to financial security and declining health.  The researchers observed that despite the fact that a majority expect to extend their work lives beyond age 65, few are adequately preparing by focusing on their health, keeping their job skills up-to-date, and planning financially for a long retirement.


New Paradigm

Because of increasing longevity and more active lifestyles, many individuals are viewing this time of life as an opportunity to explore their potential.  Instead of “not working,” retirement has come to mean emancipation, the freedom to choose the activities and pursuits they find the most satisfying and rewarding.


In addition to extra income, post-retirement work also provides non-financial benefits that most adults find liberating and compelling.  That is because a growing majority of adults don’t view retirement as a respite from work, but rather as an opportunity to explore new arenas, stretch their comfort zones, and engage in purposeful activities that contribute to their own life satisfaction and the well-being of others.


Therefore, the authors of the “What is Retirement?” study concluded:

Workers across generations share similar expectations of extending their working lives and continuing to work in retirement.  Another commonality is how they dream of spending their time in retirement.  At the same time, the diversity of survey responses illustrates that retirement is a deeply personal chapter in life.

Note: What Is “Retirement”? Three Generations Prepare for Older Age explores the perspectives, attitudes, and preparations of American workers for longer lives and the meaning of “retirement.”  It is based on the 19th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, one of the largest and longest running surveys of its kind.


“Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP”