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Rethinking Retirement: Why Complete Retirement Shouldn’t Necessarily Be the Goal

For many, the word “retirement” evokes images of relaxation, leisure, and the long-awaited freedom from the daily grind. However, a growing body of research suggests that complete retirement may not be the ultimate goal for everyone. We explore several reasons why maintaining a level of engagement can lead to a more fulfilling and healthier life post-retirement. And how a Career Ownership Coach can help in planning alternatives to traditional retirement.

golden retirement watchThe Changing Landscape of Retirement

The traditional concept of retirement—completely exiting the workforce at around age 65—originated in a different era. The average life expectancy has increased significantly, from 47 years in 1900 to over 79 years today (National Center for Health Statistics, 2023). With people living longer and healthier lives, the period after retirement can span 20 to 30 years or more. This extended timeframe necessitates a reevaluation of how we spend our post-career years.

Health Benefits of Continued Engagement

Research has shown that staying active and engaged can have profound health benefits. According to a study by the National Institute on Aging, older adults who remain socially and intellectually engaged have a lower risk of dementia and cognitive decline (National Institute on Aging, 2021). Engaging in meaningful activities can also reduce the risk of depression, which is prevalent among retirees who struggle with the transition from a busy work life to a slower pace.

Financial Stability

Financial concerns are another reason why complete retirement may not be ideal. While some individuals have sufficient savings, others may find their retirement funds inadequate. A report by the Economic Policy Institute found that nearly half of Americans approaching retirement have no retirement savings at all (Economic Policy Institute, 2019). For those who do have savings, unexpected expenses, rising healthcare costs, and market volatility can quickly deplete their funds.

Sense of Purpose

Work often provides a sense of purpose and identity. Upon retiring, some individuals may find themselves grappling with a loss of purpose. A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that retirees who remain engaged in work report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction compared to those who do not (Journal of Happiness Studies, 2020). Maintaining a sense of purpose through continued professional or volunteer activities can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying retirement.

Asian retired femaleSocial Connections

Workplaces are often a primary source of social interaction. Retiring can lead to a sudden reduction in social networks, contributing to feelings of isolation and loneliness. According to the American Psychological Association, social isolation is linked to increased mortality and poorer health outcomes (American Psychological Association, 2020). By staying engaged one can maintain their social connections and improve their overall well-being.

The Role of a Career Ownership Coach®

A Career Ownership Coach® can be instrumental in planning alternatives to traditional retirement. These professionals help individuals explore various pathways to stay engaged, financially secure, and fulfilled.

Here’s how they can make a difference:

  • Personalized Career Planning: A Career Ownership Coach® works with clients to identify their skills, interests, and values. This personalized approach helps retirees discover new career opportunities that align with their passions and expertise. Whether it’s starting a new business, consulting, or transitioning to a part-time role in a different industry, a coach can provide the guidance needed to navigate these changes.
  • Financial Planning and Security: Career Ownership Coaches® collaborate with their clients to create a new career plan for those post 60 years of age to achieve financial stability and reduce anxiety about their economic future.
  • Networking and Connections: One of the significant benefits of working with a Career Ownership Coach® is access to their extensive network. Coaches can connect clients with industry professionals, potential employers, and like-minded individuals. These connections can open doors to new opportunities and provide valuable support during the transition.
  • Emotional and Psychological Support: The transition to retirement or a new career phase can be emotionally challenging. Career Ownership Coaches® offer support and encouragement, helping clients navigate the psychological aspects of this life change. They can provide strategies to cope with stress, build resilience, and maintain a positive outlook.

Retired Hispanic maleCase Study 1: The Part-Time Professional

John, a former marketing executive, decided to retire at 65. However, after a year of retirement, he found himself missing the challenges and interactions of his work life. John decided to return to work part-time as a consultant. This allowed him to stay engaged in his field, continue earning an income, and maintain a flexible schedule. John reports feeling more fulfilled and balanced, enjoying the best of both worlds: professional engagement and leisure.

Case Study 2: The Entrepreneur

David, a retired engineer, always dreamed of starting his own business. With the guidance of a Career Ownership Coach®, he was able to turn his passion for woodworking into a profitable business. The coach helped David find an opportunity, secure funding, and navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. Today, David is enjoying both the financial benefits and the satisfaction of pursuing his lifelong dream.

The Psychological Impact of Retirement

Retirement is a significant life transition that can have a profound psychological impact. While some individuals experience a sense of relief and happiness, others may struggle with the loss of routine, identity, and social connections. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

For many people, their job is a core part of their identity. When they retire, they may feel a loss of self-worth and purpose. Research has shown that individuals who strongly identify with their careers are more likely to experience difficulty adjusting to retirement (Wang, 2007). By maintaining some level of professional engagement, retirees can preserve their sense of identity and purpose.

Work provides structure and routine, which can be beneficial for mental health. The sudden absence of a daily schedule can lead to feelings of aimlessness and boredom. Engaging in part-time work, volunteer activities, or regular hobbies can help retirees establish a new routine, providing stability and a sense of accomplishment.

The reality is that many people are not financially prepared for retirement. According to a survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 40% of workers believe they will need to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all (Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 2021). The survey also found that 61% of workers have less than $100,000 in retirement savings. These statistics highlight the financial challenges faced by many approaching retirement age.

woman with social security formsHealthcare Costs

Healthcare expenses are a significant concern for retirees. The Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate reports that an average retired couple age 65 in 2023 may need approximately $315,000 saved (after tax) to cover healthcare expenses in retirement (Fidelity, 2023). This figure does not include long-term care costs, which can be substantial. Working part-time can provide additional income to help cover these expenses.


While the idea of complete retirement may seem appealing, there are numerous benefits to staying engaged in some form of work or activity. Whether it’s for financial stability, health benefits, social connections, or personal fulfillment, continuing to contribute in meaningful ways can lead to a more enriching and enjoyable retirement. Rather than viewing retirement as an end, it can be seen as a new beginning—an opportunity to explore passions, develop new skills, and maintain a vibrant, purposeful life.
Our Career Ownership Coaches® help define your goals and explore diverse retirement options, ensuring you find clarity in your path—all at no cost.

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We help them define their Income, Lifestyle, Wealth, and Equity goals and provide education on the best ways to achieve them. We don’t sell franchises – we help people achieve their dreams of self-sufficiency through business ownership. The approach is different, the experience is different. And it works.

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