Retirement is changing. The question is how? A scan of retirement headlines suggests that it’s largely negative, driven by overburdened retirement structures and elderly people working minimum wage jobs long into their so-called Golden Years. I think the reality is more complex, and a lot of it is simply the recognition that we have new choices.

That was made clear by a recent surveythat found 72% of pre-retirees, defined as people older than 50 but not yet retired, plan to work in some form during retirement. 5% said they plan to work full time, 35% plan to work part time and 33% hope to cycle between work and retirement. Only 28% replied that they planned never to work again.

It is easy to fit this into the narrative of retirement hardship, and certainly that is the reality for some, but a deeper look suggests there is more going on. While money is a factor, 51% of pre-retirees listed staying mentally active, 43% listed staying physically active and 32% listed social connections as reasons for working.

Interestingly enough, 58% of current retirees who are working are in a different line of work than their pre-retirement careers, with flexibility, more fun/less stress, and the desire to learn new things the top reasons for the switch. Marc Freedman, in his book, The Big Shift2, was one of the first to understand the change toward working retirement and the benefits it can bring, giving the phenomena the name Encore careers.

His research suggests that up to nine million people are engaged in Encore careers, which he defines as a new phase between what we would consider our main career and what we would traditionally consider old age. Freedman focuses a great deal on inspirational stories of reinvention, people who pursued their passions or became entrepreneurs who in a previous generation would have simply retired.

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