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Working Into Your Seventies

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Healthy? Active? Over-70 with time on your hands? You shouldn’t completely retire if you don’t want to 

By Bill Storie 

On the whole, many of us are living longer and are healthier than our predecessors as we head into our 70s, however health insurance and other living costs are rising, meaning many may need to supplement their income. What are the options for those who still want to work full or part-time in their 70s? 

Like many over 70s, this author included, our purpose in continuing to work is for the fun of it. It gives us something to do to pass the time. Many of us led active and busy lives during our working years, so to switch from dashing around to dozing around is not something that comes easy to us. In fact, we won’t do it. 

“The body may not be as agile, but the mind is in great shape” said a local auto repair man over 80. He has no doubts that he is as sharp as ever when it comes to knowing how to fix cars, even with all the new-fangled gadgets in today’s automobile world. 

“Are you still working because you need the money?” I asked. 

“Not really. Of course, a little bit extra pocket money is great, but I could lie on the couch every day and not make a dime, but that would last for a couple of days at best. I love getting my hands covered in oil and grease. I like meeting my customers every day, although some days I will take a day off just to let the old bones recover. I can’t see me stopping.” 

Another St. George’s lady I spoke with had been a registered nurse and still works part-time as a care-giver. 

“While the money is useful, I also enjoy helping people and keeping myself busy. It gives me purpose in life to keep me active both physically and mentally”. When asked if she would encourage others to work in later years after retirement, she said “absolutely! Go for it.” 

Martha Harris Myron, renowned Royal Gazette financial columnist and author, and a member of the 70s club, insisted she would go crazy if she lay in bed every morning pondering what to do today rather than looking forward to researching her next article or book, before getting up and hammering away at the computer. 

“I couldn’t live with myself if I chose to stop writing. Sometimes I think I’m addicted, but so be it. I love writing and will continue as long as my mind remains active; and the writing helps to keep my mind active.” 

As we move from working life to retirement life, we all question what we will do in our latter years. 

For some people the choices are clear. We can work for money or work for pleasure. Ideally, we’d prefer the former and not the latter. If we must keep working to have an income in retirement, then we have either planned badly or our expenses may be too high. If we have no option but to work then we want to ensure we are doing something that doesn’t take its toll on our body, because as we get older, the body will become less willing to participate. 

It is reasonable to supplement our income in retirement for little extras such as the grandkids birthdays – just to spoil them and upset the parents again. But the trick is not to be dependent on that extra income for daily living expenses. Saving for a world cruise is a great reason to save that extra income, but don’t get caught in the trap of depending on it for groceries, utilities, medical costs, insurance, prescriptions and so on. 

If we can work for pleasure, we can decide whether to work for pay, albeit a small amount, or work for the pleasure of helping others through volunteer work. It may be possible to persuade our employer during our work years to keep us on the payroll after retirement age, maybe on a part-time basis, with less wages. Our knowledge and experience may be something the company wants to maintain. Good talent is hard to come by. 

Another lady I spoke with, also over 80, has been a bookkeeper and accountant all her life and was always very active working many hours every week. She officially retired several years ago but still does the books for her son’s business. 

“I don’t need the money these days as my expenses are very low, so I didn’t charge him anything because I get so much pleasure every day working with numbers and handling the banking,” she confided. “I’m happy to work from home and I have no intention of giving it up.” 

Many people see retirement years as the ideal time to start their own business. They may have been tied to the full-time job for years to ensure a steady income with no risks, but now that the ties have been cut, and there is some extra cash in the retirement fund with pensions and investments, then the desire you’ve had for years to start a sideline business may be possible. 

Starting a business in retirement, however, always carries risk. How much money can you commit to capital for the business without jeopardizing your retirement income if you lose it all? Do you have a business plan? 

There is huge risk in starting a new business because you’ve always fancied it. It requires a reasonable and sensible plan addressing all the risks. Starting a business in your latter years and failing to plan is planning to fail. 

One of the most satisfying activities in these latter years is teaching in some form or another. It may not necessarily mean working at the College, but merely helping others with your experiences. 

Writing a blog; writing for the newspaper; starting a website; writing on social media; speaking at an organisation’s events; having a radio show are all examples of sharing your expertise. If you charge money that’s ok. If you don’t charge that’s equally fine. 

The attraction is that you’ve seen the bad bends in the road, so you can caution other people, especially the young. Don’t assume you will be deemed to be “an old fogey” by the younger generations. You have the toolkit through years of hard work and ups and downs. The toolkit that those youngsters crave access to for their own advancement. 

This author was once asked for some advice by a young local lad who wanted to give up his teaching job to go back to school and learn underwriting. I met with him several times and laid out the pros and cons. He listened. He took the plunge. Today he is a highly successful executive in the insurance industry, locally. I won’t name him because, truth be told, he made the big decisions himself, I just re-directed his driving. I am so proud of him. 

One thing to bear in mind is that our generation is the healthiest generation to walk this earth. We are healthier than our predecessors and will live longer than any generation before us. The words, “life expectancy” were rarely, if ever, used by our parents, and certainly not by our grandparents. It was not an option by and large. Living well beyond the 70s was an exception, not a rule. Those days have changed. Another twenty years is a strong possibility. What will you do with all that time? 

One lady in her 70s was in the retail business all her life. She didn’t own the business, but worked behind the counter sometimes six days a week. 

“I pop in now and again as I enjoy seeing my old customers and have a chat with them. I sometimes take a turn behind the counter still. It’s just a joy to get out of the house and socialise again. I really do miss the daily routine but going in a couple of days a week seems to perk me up. I like keeping the brain in gear,” she said. 

Working either part-time or full-time into your 70s must be by choice, not by need. It must be enjoyable and worthwhile for your peace of mind. The need to be ‘useful’ in retirement is high on most people’s lists. If you can make some extra cash that always helps for the long-term retirement fund, or unexpected costs that may lie ahead, or even to leave to the kids and grandkids. 

In other words, if you are able, willing and can get an opportunity to keep active, just do it. 

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