Retired, But Still Working

How to ease into life after government if you’re not ready for a life of leisure.

An essential part of retirement readiness is planning for your life after retirement. Many of my friends and associates are making this transition and I’m beginning to see a pattern.

There are those who jump into retirement headfirst, like my husband. He adjusted naturally to life without an alarm clock, rush hour traffic and someone else setting his schedule. (It helps that I’m busier than ever, so we’ve reversed our roles—he’s now the primary caretaker at home.)

Then there are those who phase into retirement, like my friend, Georgia. She returned to her government employer for short stints as a reemployed annuitant. She took time off in between to welcome three grandchildren into the world and to help her mom and grandmother be more comfortable near the end of their lives. Many federal retirees are not only financially prepared but also mentally ready to build a life of volunteer activities, leisure pursuits and hobbies that provide a sense of fulfillment.

Then there are people like Dennis Damp, who retired after 35 years of federal service. Dennis writes a popular federal retirement blog, where he shares experiences of life after retirement and offers tips and ideas for living out your retirement years with a purpose. In addition, he manages 10 internet properties, and just wrote his 27th book published by Brookhaven Press LLC, which he created while he was still employed in government.

I can relate to what Dennis is doing. I started my career with eight years of traditional federal employment and then moved into teaching opportunities, writing assignments (which led to this column), designing and conducting online training and providing personal one-on-one retirement counseling. Since what Dennis and I do is not governed by a supervisor or scheduled by anyone other than us, we tend to choose assignments that interest and challenge us.

When people ask me if I will ever fully retire, I find it hard to answer. At this point, what would be the point of retirement? With my kind of career, I can schedule independent work around my personal life. My husband and I take time to travel, visit our grandchildren and simply enjoy each other’s company.

There’s a name for the kind of work arrangements Dennis and I have: the gig economy, which Investopedia defines as one in which “temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.”

In a recent article in Investment News, Mary Beth Franklin writes, “more than one in three U.S. workers are now freelancers in the gig economy, relying on do-it-yourself employment either as their main source of income or as a side job. As the shift in the traditional employer-employee relationship continues to expand, the gig economy is changing the way Americans earn, spend and save for retirement.”

Franklin references a survey conducted by the financial investment firm Betterment, Inc. that found the largest group of people engaging in this type of work are those 55 and older. Their main reason for doing so was to save for retirement.

There are, of course, some negatives to working in the gig economy. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, many such workers have experienced personal, social, and economic anxieties without the support of a traditional employer. But they also indicated they wouldn’t want to give up the benefits that came with working independently.

For many federal retirees, such problems wouldn’t come into play, because their employment would come alongside the security provided by a lifetime of federal retirement benefits. Creating a post-retirement income stream might allow a retiree to delay receiving Social Security benefits and defer withdrawals from retirement savings. This would allow these benefits to increase so they provide a greater stream of income throughout the years of full retirement.

Are you eligible to retire, but maybe aren’t financially or mentally ready to live a life of leisure? Thanks to internet technology, getting part-time work on your own terms is easier than ever.