Ed Sergi, the dockmaster for the small Lake Erie resort town of Vermilion, Ohio, is a fit 77-year-old. He works five and a half months a year helping visitors tie up their boats, collecting fees and pointing boaters toward good restaurants and grocery stores.
It's a rigorous job -- even for a younger man -- because it requires pulling the boats against the current to secure them, and sometimes it means climbing on and off to assist a captain who just can't maneuver well enough in unfamiliar waters.
Ed and his wife Nancy spend summer months living in a small house they bought after he retired from IBM where he worked for 20 years. When the Lake Erie boating season ends, they head for Brunswick, Georgia, where they store their 40-foot trawler, a slow-moving, but spacious, motor boat. From there, they set out for Key West, Florida, and the Caribbean, living aboard and escaping the cold.
Nancy Sergi, a registered nurse, works, too. She runs a small business, providing utilization review, examining charts for insurers and hospitals to make sure that patients received appropriate care.
Work is an anchor, Ed says. "We can't sit around and do nothing. We have to keep busy."
Retirees working part-time
A recent study from financial services firm Bank of America Merrill Lynch, conducted in partnership with retirement consultancy Age Wave, found that 72 percent of pre-retirees over the age of 50 want to keep working after they retire, and 47 percent of current retirees either plan to work or have worked during their retirement years. The study concluded that within a few years, it will be increasingly unusual for retirees not to work at least part-time.
The study found that retirees don't usually go directly from one job to another. Fifty-two percent of working retirees took a break from employment for 29 months -- on average -- before the "bucket list started getting empty," as one focus group participant put it. The biggest challenge to resuming work is "skills slippage," retirees told researchers. Other factors making returning to work difficult can be found in the accompanying chart.
Of those who return to work, 83 percent work part-time and 32 percent are self-employed.
The study divided working retirees into four categories:
Driven achievers. This 15 percent see themselves as being at the top of their game and they aren't willing to quit.
Caring contributors. About 33 percent say they work to give back. Four out of 10 work for nonprofits. Seventy-five percent say they are highly satisfied with what they do.
Life balancers. For this 24 percent of workers, employment allows them to keep social connections and earn a little extra money that makes retirement better.
Earnest earners. This is the 28 percent who work because they really need the money to pay the bills.
If you plan to keep working in retirement, researchers point to these factors as considerations that affect satisfaction and success:
- Start mapping your new retirement career path before you leave full-time employment.
- Get buy-in from your spouse. When one person works and the other doesn’t, there can be conflict.
- Develop your technology skills.
- Talk with your pre-retirement employer and see if there could be post-retirement opportunities.
- Consider starting a small business of your own.
- Estimate your potential income, but don't count on it. Health and other factors could change your plans.
Here's how to overcome inertia and save for retirement.