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  1. Business
  2. Entrepreneurship

What Is Unretirement? (And How Can It Help Your Business?)

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Read Time: 11 mins

While the news media focused on the Great Resignation, a different phenomenon has been trending: unretirement.

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Why are retired workers going back to work? Keep reading to find out. (Image source: Envato Elements)

What is unretirement? Unretirement, also known as “retirement reversal” or “post-retirement work,” is when a retiree comes out of retirement and goes back to work. The All-America Workforce Survey by CNBC found that 68% of workers who retired during the pandemic would consider going back to work.

In this article, we’ll discuss why unretirement is growing. We’ll also go over what to consider when weighing the pros and cons of unretirement, from the points of view of both the employer and the retiree.

Reasons Why People Unretire

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Retirement may be fun at first, but some retirees soon look for more stimulation and meaning. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The word “retirement” conjures images of traveling the world, sleeping in, spending hours at the golf course, or finally decluttering your home. But in reality, retirees soon discover that retirement isn’t the blissful existence they expected it to be.

Retirees may choose to unretire for one or any combination of the following reasons:

1. Boredom 

“Retirement is just a never-ending vacation” is a common belief. But when you’re suddenly confronted with an empty calendar, boredom can quickly set in. Among Canadian retirees surveyed, for example, the top three things they most miss about work are:

  1. the people and social stimulation (39%)
  2. the pay (22%)
  3. having goals and projects (8%).

2. Purpose

It’s common for new retirees to have an identity crisis. After all, they’ve spent the majority of their adult lives working. And for many of us, our jobs or careers are a significant part of our identity. We may also derive a lot of confidence and self-esteem from our accomplishments at work. And so, when that's suddenly gone, it’s sure to leave a gaping void. 

Traveling and being able to do pretty much whatever you want and when you want to are all great—at first. Eventually, a person can grow tired of having too much leisure and look for more meaningful activities.

"You can't retire from being great." - Anonymous

3. Finances

Another reason retirees might return to work is because they need the money. A study in the United Kingdom found that retirees who have a mortgage are more likely to leave retirement than those who’ve already paid up and own their house. 

As post-pandemic inflation rises, more retirees are finding it harder to live within their limited and fixed incomes. Many of them may be forced to seek employment for financial reasons. Sadly, some people simply can't afford to retire.

4. Opportunities

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The Great Resignation has opened up many jobs for retirees. (Image source: Envato Elements)

A retired person could unretire because of the plentiful and attractive opportunities available. The Great Resignation means that many roles are open, including retirees' jobs. Employers are piling perk after perk to lure employees. A hot labor market is very attractive to retired workers who are bored, broke, and looking for meaning.

5. Health

"You don't stop laughing when you grow old. You grow old when you stop laughing." - George Bernard Shaw

Finally, a retired person may choose to come out of retirement because they believe it'll improve their physical and mental health. Retirement may cause a person to become sedentary (despite having the time to exercise). Whereas employment may force them to be more active, both physically and mentally. 

A study by the Oregon State University found that working beyond the age of 65 years is associated with a longer lifespan. Even respondents who considered themselves unhealthy were likely to live longer if they kept working. Moreover, researchers in France found that working longer reduces a person’s risk of getting dementia.

As you can see, there are many reasons why retired people can find unretirement very attractive! But unretirement can also be advantageous to employers.

Unretirement and Your Business

If you’re an employer desperate to fill vacancies, unretirement may sound like a good solution. The question remains, should you encourage retired employees to return back to work for you?

The Pros of Hiring Retired Employees

Hiring former employees who’ve retired has many advantages. They already have the skills and experience for the job. This means you don’t have to spend as much money and time training them when they return to their old jobs. 

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Older employees bring many strengths to the job. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Another benefit of rehiring retired workers is that it lowers your recruitment costs and time. You don’t have to spend money advertising the opening far and wide. You don’t have to conduct three interviews or do skills tests.

There’s also less risk. You already know this employee. They've got a track record with your company. And most importantly, you know exactly how they’ve performed the job and interacted with co-workers in the past. 

The Cons of Hiring Retirees

Rehiring previously retired employees isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, though. It can have disadvantages as well.

For one thing, if the employee retired several years ago, their knowledge and skills may be outdated. This is especially true for cutting-edge industries where innovations grow by leaps and bounds every year. You can of course still hire a retiree but know that you’ll have to invest in their training to get them up to speed.

Retired former employees may also be looking for different work arrangements than what they had when they were working for you. In the same workforce survey by CNBC, they found that retirees would consider returning to work if the job offered:

  • flexible hours (47%)
  • a good salary/pay (44%)
  • better work-life balance (30%)
  • some of them are also looking for care and retirement benefits (10%).

Another disadvantage of hiring retired workers is the risk that they may not stick around long. They may simply be looking for part-time work as a way of gently transitioning into full-time retirement. This means you could be in the same situation, looking to fill the job, a few months to a year down the road.

How to Entice Former Employees to Unretire

Ready to call retired former employees and offer them jobs? Increase your chances of success by making the offer as attractive as possible. Remember, in this post-pandemic job market, employers are throwing all kinds of benefits to attract workers. If you decide to offer jobs for retired people, your offer must be competitive. 

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Make jobs for retirees more attractive by offering perks. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Keeping in mind the reasons people unretire and the CNBC survey findings mentioned above, think of offering the following perks:

  • flexible working hours
  • competitive salaries
  • performance bonuses
  • more paid vacation days
  • paid sick days
  • remote work options
  • learning opportunities
  • mentoring programs
  • health insurance coverage
  • dental and vision coverage
  • retirement benefits
  • gym membership allowance
  • computer and/or mobile phone allowance
  • team bonding activities

These are only some of the benefits and perks that make jobs after retirement more attractive to former employees. 

Should or Can You Unretire? Things to Consider

Let’s turn the table around and look at unretirement from the point of view of the retired worker. If you’re already retired, should you unretire? Here are a few things to consider:

1. How Many Hours Do You Want to Work?

You may be bored now, but does that mean you want to work eight hours a day, five days a week? Or would working part-time give you enough of the social interaction, physical activity, and intellectual stimulation you crave? Also, think about the activities you've got right now. If you're the primary babysitter of your grandchildren, can you unretire?

2. Do You Want to Do the Same Thing?

Another area to consider is whether you want to return to your old job (or something similar) or try a role that’s completely new to you. With the job market being hot right now, you may find plenty of job opportunities. Now's the perfect time to pursue a passion you've always been interested in but never had the chance to do professionally.

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Unretirement is the perfect opportunity to switch to a different line of work. (Image source: Envato Elements)

If you want to do what you’re good at but without a lot of stress, another option is to go into the same field but at a lower level of responsibility. For example, if you retired as a marketing director, you could go back to the workforce as a marketing coordinator.

3. Where Do You Want to Work?

Something happened during the pandemic. Employers and employees alike discovered that many jobs can be done just as well at home as in an office. And so, another consideration is whether you want to work in person, remotely, or a combination of both (hybrid).

4. Can You Afford to Work?

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Do the math to determine if you can afford to go back to work. (Image source: Envato Elements)

As you think about getting employed again, don’t forget to factor in the cost of working. This is especially important if you’re returning to employment for financial reasons. The cost of working includes the cost of getting to work, such as fuel for your car, parking, commuting fare, and the like. You may also need to buy a new wardrobe. If you’re working remotely, you might need a better computer and internet connection. Some employers cover these costs, but not all.

Also think about how the new income will affect your pension benefits and taxes. It may put you on a higher tax bracket, for instance. This means your after-tax income may not be as big as you thought it would be.

And consider how extra income will affect your pension and old age benefits. These may be reduced or taken away altogether, depending on how much salary you’re making. Can you unretire without compromising your pension income? Laws are different depending on where you live, so consult an accountant or financial planner to know what applies to you.

5. Is a Job the Answer?

Whether you’re looking to unretire for stimulation or for financial reasons, realize that employment isn't the only solution. If you’re bored, maybe volunteering a few days a week at a local charity could provide enough stimulation—without the pressure and stress of a job.

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Starting your own business is another form of unretirement. (Image source: Envato Elements)

If you want to augment your income and none of the jobs for the retired appeals to you, starting a home-based or online business may be the way to do it. Entrepreneurial ventures and volunteer service are other forms of unretirement, too, according to Chris Farrell in his book, Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life.

Unretiring is an important decision. Here are some articles to help you think through unretirement:

Ageism and Unretirement

Unretirement is optimized when we break down ageism or the negative stereotypes we have of older people. There may be societal beliefs that life beyond a certain age is a time of physical and mental decline, obsolescence, and worthlessness. Some managers may also perceive older workers as being set in their ways and resistant to change. That’s ageism.

Ageism in the workplace causes older employees to miss out on professional development opportunities. It also forces workers into mandatory retirement once they reach a specific age—even if they've got excellent health and mental capacity and are happy to keep working. Another form of ageism is opening up job opportunities only to people who belong to an age demographic.

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The percentage of older employees who experienced ageism has increased. (Image source: Envato Elements)

And ageism seems to be getting worse. According to research by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in 2020, 78% of older workers have either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace—up from 61% in 2018.

Unretirement helps fight ageism, too. With more older employees in the workforce, they can prove that age doesn’t matter. In fact, having a longer work experience can be an asset.

"Retirees who return to the workforce now are finding employers desperate for their skills and experience," noted Julia Pollock, ZipRecruiter’s chief economist.

Unretirement: A Fresh New Option for Work

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Retirement doesn't have to be forever. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Unretirement can be a terrific new option for both employers and retirees alike. Employers can use it to gain experienced, trained workers while saving on recruitment and training costs.

For retirees, unretirement can give meaning, stimulation, socialization at a more relaxed pace than regular employment. It can also provide financial and health benefits. Who knew working could be so good for you?

The bottom line is: retirement doesn’t have to be forever. If you’re an employer, remember that retired former employees may be enticed to come back. They’re another talent pool and resource you shouldn’t overlook. If you’ve gone into retirement and found it underwhelming, then see if unretirement could be for you. This just might be your moment for a comeback.

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