We’ve recently discussed perhaps the most powerful retirement strategy of them all - work a bit longer.
Well, now it seems that leaving retirement behind to return to the workforce is increasingly popular among older Australians. I came across this article originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald which shares the experience of 2 such people, and highlights the challenge of getting your retirement decision right.
'Unretirement' growing trend as cost of living climbs
Nearly two decades ago, Roger Pugh unretired. He’s now 84.
The Sydneysider had forged a long career in management at some of Australia’s top advertising agencies.
At one point, it was his job to hand out the obligatory gold watch to employees who had turned 65.
"I still remember the look on their faces," he says.
"These people, who had been loyal to our company for years, suddenly felt like it was the end of the line for them.
"I swore I would never be in that position of being forced to retire before I was ready."
However, Mr Pugh eventually succumbed to the lure of retirement, leaving the workforce early at 55 and looking forward to a break. He took a decade off and, newly refreshed, decided to re-invent himself and return to work as a writer.
"Doing nothing and vegetating into retirement was never my plan," he says.
Finding a way to make writing pay the bills wasn’t easy, he admits. He started a blog but found it difficult to monetise.
"Initially, it cost me a lot of money to be a writer, to be honest," he says.
Unretirement more common
In due course, he secured a role as a copywriter for a Sydney publisher. He is still active in the workforce and has no plan to stop any time soon.
Roger is one of a growing number of Australians quitting retirement to return to work.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that 177,500 Australians aged 45 years and over who had previously retired returned to work or were planning to in 2016-17, the latest stats available.
Nearly half (42 per cent) were doing so for financial reasons, while 32 per cent stated they were "bored and needed something to do".
The trend is hardly surprising as the cost of living is continually on the rise.
According to the ABS Living Cost Index, after-tax incomes needed to increase by 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent over the past year in order to keep up with living expenses – the fastest increase in four years.
The biggest increase in expenses was for pensioners, who saw costs soar more than 0.7 per cent alone in the December quarter of 2018. Over the same period, the living costs of employee households rose 0.6 per cent, while self-funded retiree household expenses rose 0.5 per cent.
Sydney’s Louise Di Francesco also retired early four years ago.
At first, it was like a shiny new toy.
The public relations professional left behind an agency job and spent the next two years enjoying life while her husband continued to work.
"It was blissful at first," Louise says. "I could wake up when I wanted or go to lunch with friends."
She particularly enjoyed the outdoors, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2015 as well as trekking to Everest base camp in 2017.
However, Louise admits that boredom eventually set in.
"I just didn’t want to sit around and do nothing," she says.
Even more than that, money – or lack of it – was continually on her mind.
"I was suddenly aware that I wouldn’t be able to have the lifestyle I had enjoyed all my working life," she says.
"The thought of no more overseas trips spurred me back to work."
At first, she met with a couple of recruiters in a bid to find work but the experience left a bad taste. Two never called her back.
"Ageism is alive and well in the workforce, there’s no doubt about that," she says.
Now in her late 50s, Louise decided to rent a co-working space in the city and now travels to work to be surrounded by "young, energetic people" as she builds her own PR client base.
Retirees returning to work often seek a career change, according to Transitioning Well, a company that supports employees in mature-age transitions.
"Unretirement is an increasingly common phenomenon," according to Transitioning Well's Sarah Cotton, a specialist that helps people with late-career navigation.
"People come to me somewhat surprised by the fact that retirement isn’t the nirvana people think it will be," she says.
"There’s also the fact that retirees are living a lot longer and their superannuation savings don’t always last.
"There’s a huge focus on employees topping up super during their working life, but some people haven’t thought through the non-financial elements of retirement, such as feeling bored or feeling lonely."
Ms Cotton says many retirees don’t want to go back to a high-pressure job, but something more meaningful.
However, finding work isn’t always easy after the age of 60, or even 50, she says.
"I see a lot of people in retirement living frugally, instead of enjoying it.
"Rather than spend within their budget, they’re trapped in savings mode."
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Thankyou to author Nina Hendy for allowing me to reproduce her article.