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To Work or not to Work

Relatively speaking, we are retiring earlier now than any generation before us, because we now have a longer life-expectancy. Also, because of improved diet and fitness, most of us are still very active when we retire and we want an active lifestyle in retirement. Whereas retirement used to be an end, it is now a start and we look forward to many more active years.

For many of us part of that active lifestyle involves some form of work, be it full-time, part-time, paid or voluntary. This Guide is not about working in retirement (there are two guides on the Laterlife web site to help with that, the Guide to Part Time Jobs and the Guide to Voluntary Work); what we look at here is why considering whether to work in retirement and, if so, the type of work to do, should be part of our planning. It may be that we see lots of opportunities available to us in retirement if only we could afford them. If that's the case, we may feel that some form of part-time work will help us to achieve all the things we want to do. It may just be that, as we saw above, we just want to keep active and work as one way of achieving that. Having thought about those issues, if we believe that we might like to do some form of work, we need to think about it in more depth.

Throughout our lives, work will have given us some positives and negatives and you can make a list of both. On the positive side, you might well include some or all of the following (as well as others of your own):

  • Social contact
  • Job satisfaction
  • Learning new skills
  • Helping others
  • Structure
  • Travel
  • Team working

and amongst the negatives, you might well think of:

  • Constant change
  • Bureaucracy
  • Poor management
  • Routine
  • Commuting
  • Long hours

So if we are thinking about doing some kind of work, we need to think about the positives and the negatives that work has given us and, as far as can, choose work that will give us the positives and eliminate the negatives.

What's more, we should consider these things even if we think we won't do any work in retirement. This is because if we're not working we need to consider how we will get the positive things that work has given us. If we do nothing, those positives will be missing and there will be a void in our life. Probably the most obvious example is social contact. When we leave work we leave a great deal of social contact and we should think about how we will get that contact in retirement.

We should also think about what it is about ourselves that helps us to be good at things - our skills, personality traits, personal characteristics and personal qualities. For example, if we are a teacher, or a fisherman, one of our qualities is likely to be patience. Once we have analysed our strengths we should then think about what sort of work will use our skills, personal qualities etc because we are much more likely to find satisfaction and fulfilment in work which uses our existing strengths. That's not to say we can't develop new ones, but we're unlikely to enjoy something that uses none of our qualities and strengths.  We can use the same process when we're thinking about new leisure pursuits.

Finally, we need to think about our values and preferences in life. What is it that's important to us?

  • Is it being able to interact with other people?
  • Do we want to be creative?
  • Do we want to give something back to society?
  • Are we keen on having complete independence, without being told what to do?
  • Do we want to do physical things so that we can keep our body fit?
  • Do we like things to be highly organised or more free-flowing?
  • Do we want a set routine?

These are just a few examples of the issues that might be of value to us. We should make our own list and then, when choosing work (or, again, new leisure activities) choose something that we believe will fit with our values and preferences. If we don't, the chances are that we won't enjoy it nor get fulfilment from it.

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