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I’m 65 and Here's Why I May Never Be Ready to Retire

Why the thought of unscheduled days gives me the shivers.

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illustration of a woman working on her computer during yoga class, retirement, staying busy
Jared Oriel
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I happen to love what I do. The idea of all day, every day, as an unscheduled open canvas with no work deadlines, meetings and outcomes gives me the shivers.

When I think of retiring, I replay in my head the 1971 Paul McCartney song about his own eccentric uncle: “We're so sorry, Uncle Albert/ But we haven't done a bloody thing all day/ We're so sorry, Uncle Albert/ But the kettle's on the boil and we're so easily called away.”

I understand viewing retirement as aimlessly sipping tea all day is not the norm, and is not what really happens.

I am 65, and many friends in my demographic are retired and love it. They travel, play pickleball, go for long lunches and claim they have found bliss. For me, I relish — and need — the sense of accomplishment I have at the end of a day, checking off projects completed, keeping colleagues happy, sending my ideas out in the world. I feel fulfilled.

The work I do as a journalist, author, editor, mentor and coach is extremely fulfilling. I get to write articles and books on issues I care about deeply.

I also get to work every day with people who are committed to changing the world with their ideas. I have the opportunity to learn from incredibly smart individuals who want to learn how to put their work into the public landscape.

I am not alone in this.

“I’m in a good work environment, with nice people and it is not stressful,” says Lisa Lauren, 67, a senior sales manager at a Renaissance Hotel in the Chicago area and a recording artist. “The workplace makes a huge difference. Here people are friendly and respectful. I find the no-stress part frees up emotional space, so I have more time to be creative.”

Her husband, Bill, also a musician, has a recording studio in their home, and his wife adds: “I enjoy doing creative projects with my husband. Still, most of my friends who are retired do a bit of gloating.”

Accountant Julie Shelgren, 68, also enjoys the sense of accomplishment that comes with her career as an accountant.

An avid runner who also enjoys yoga classes, Shelgren says she would need to fill her retirement time with volunteer options. This, because, she says: “I feel like other people who are retired have more hobbies.” And unlike many of her friends who babysit their grandchildren full time in their retirement, she says “I prefer to babysit on demand” for her two-year-old granddaughter.

Yes, more people in the U.S. are retiring, and much of the exodus from the workforce was due to the pandemic. According to the latest statistics on this trend from the Pew Research Center, in 2021, 50.3 percent of U.S. adults 55 and older said they were retired, compared to 48 percent in 2019. In 2021, 66.9 percent of 65- to 74-year-olds in this country were retired, compared with 64.0 percent in the same quarter of 2019.

“Continuing to work gives you a daily connection with people,” says Dr. Leann Schaeffer, associate professor at The University of Akron. “It is absolutely important to remain active and have quality of life."

“If you’re not ready to give up the momentum, then don’t give it up,” she adds. “I think the psychological aspect is, ‘I have a purpose, I have a routine, I get up and accomplish things’.” Schaeffer, who serves on the board of directors of Vantage Aging, has had three careers as a dietitian, nursing home administrator and is now doing academic gerontology and dietetic research.

There are vibrant, successful popular culture role models for professionally active non-retirees. CBS News Sunday Morning host Jane Pauley, 73, is an inspiration as an excellent journalist, as is Christiane Amanpour, 66, chief international anchor for CNN, and Martha Raddatz, 71, chief global affairs correspondent for ABC's World News Tonight.

Of course, then there is Oprah Winfrey, founder of Harpo Studios, who at 70, and with a projected net worth of $3 billion, is one of the most professionally active women anywhere.

In her 2023 book, My Name is Barbra, the iconic performer Barbra Streisand, 81, writes: “When you have the privilege of being on a stage, raised above the audience, you owe them something more. Something truthful. It seemed to me that truth has an energy that touches people.”

And of course, for many at the age of retirement, finances are an issue. You start drawing from your 401K and there is no replenishing it. Some fear they could not live off Social Security income alone. So not retiring and doing what you love is the ideal choice.

Earlier generations were met with forced retirement at 65, when they had a party and received a gold watch. “Employers are more willing to extend retirement,” says Schaeffer. “They rely on older employees to mentor younger employees.”

For those of us who see retirement as something we are not ready to embrace, we can continue doing what we love for as long as we choose. Our retired friends may claim bliss, and really feel it, as their pace has slowed down. As for me, bliss is on a fast track that replenishes me every day.

Are any of you 65 or older with no plans to retire? If you are retired, what do you love about it? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Fulfillment
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