Working Part Time in Retirement -- Not Just for the Money


By Jeff Yeager, Contirbutor

With Americans living longer than ever and retiring at the same age as before -- or often electing to retire at an even younger age -- many people will spend a record number of years living in retirement.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy for American women increased to 81.2 years and 76.4 years for men in 2012, reports Medical News Today. When you consider that in the 1930s, life expectancy was age 62 for women and 58 for men, it's plain to see that our retirement years are growing to be an ever larger percentage of the total years of our lives.

Of course, some financial and lifestyle challenges come with that increased longevity.

Why Many Retirees Get Part-Time Jobs

On average, people are spending many more years in retirement than in previous generations, causing a number of shifts in the way Americans view retirement and the lifestyle choices they make. One of these changes has been in the number of Americans who now choose to work at least part time during some or even all of their retirement years.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 61 percent of employed Americans at the time said they plan to work part time once they retire. And most of those people said they plan to do so because they want to -- not because they need to for financial reasons.

This was a common phenomenon among the "cheapskate" retirees I interviewed for my book "How to Retire the Cheapskate Way." While talking with them, it was clear that the issue of working while retired could best be summed up by the wise words Calvin once uttered in the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes:" "It's only work if someone makes you do it."

For my frugal retirees, whether they work for themselves or someone else, they have the financial freedom to walk away if a job no longer satisfies them. Their post-retirement work is more about filling their time with activities they enjoyed, not about collecting a paycheck.

Working While Receiving Social Security

Many people are under the impression that you can't work and draw Social Security benefits at the same time. That's false, although the rules on how much you can earn and how those earnings will impact your Social Security payments are a little complicated and change from time to time.

Here are the latest rules from the Social Security Administration's website, where you can find additional information on the topic and updates whenever the rules change:

"You can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time. However, if you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, we will reduce your benefit. Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, we will not reduce your benefits no matter how much you earn.

  • We use the following earnings limits to reduce your benefits: If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, we deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit.
For 2015, that limit is $15,720.
  • In the year you reach full retirement age, we deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a different limit, but we only count earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age.
If you will reach full retirement age in 2015, the limit on your earnings for the months before full retirement age is $41,880.

Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can get your benefits with no limit on your earnings."

So if you plan on starting to draw Social Security before full retirement age, you can currently earn up to $15,720 per year without any reduction in your monthly Social Security benefits. You might want to keep that magic figure in mind when you go in search of part-time employment opportunities.

Who's Hiring Part-Time Retired Workers?

The answer to that question is "just about every business," since older workers have a lifetime worth of experience to share and often a very strong work ethic.

Websites like let you search current job listings with businesses specifically looking for older works, and has a job search section with job hunting tips and a list of companies seeking employees. Some companies I've seen ranked high on lists of the best part-time employers for retirees include: Barnes & Noble, FedEx, JCPenney, JPMorgan, Chase, Costco, Lands' End, Lowe's, Nordstrom, Publix, REI, Starbucks, Target, Trader Joe's, U-Haul, UPS, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and YMCA.

And don't overlook the possibility of part-time employment with federal, state, county or municipal government, as many offer part-time and seasonal jobs. The benefits for government part-time workers are often better than in the private sector, and age discrimination in hiring is less likely to be an issue. Check out the website to get started.

I'm Not Retired, I'm Selfishly-Employed!

"Selfishly-employed" is the term I coined more than a decade ago to describe my status when I quit my last real job to pursue writing and anything else that catches my fancy. I define it as not being retired but rather as having "at least enough financial independence to do whatever the heck you want to do, with the expectation that at least some of the time someone will pay you some money to do it." You're not just in business for yourself; you're ultimately in the business of yourself.

This is the time in life to try some type of small business venture you've always wanted to attempt or maybe turn a favorite hobby into a cottage industry. Don't set your expectations too high, and don't put a lot of money at risk by going out and buying a bunch of equipment or hiring other people. In my book, I discuss dozens of low and no-risk selfish-employment opportunities, including writing, consulting, website design, arts and crafts, professional organizing, party and wedding planning, blogging, corporate training and more.

For me, being selfishly-employed has resulted in the most enjoyable, most rewarding professional period in my life. And I've been fortunate to have a lot of interesting jobs throughout my working years. Once you no longer have the stress of having to bring home a regular paycheck and you're no longer scared to take some chances to pursue your dreams, success might very well be unavoidable.

Plus, being selfishly-employed also means you're a shoe-in for Employee of the Month, every month of the year.

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