Until recently, retirement> was an either-or proposition. Either you retired, or you worked. Now an increasing number of Baby Boomers and seniors find themselves somewhere in between, either returning to work after a few years of full retirement, or working part-time, in the oxymoronic stage known as a working retirement.
This is a new life stage, says Cathy Weatherford, president and chief executive of the Insured Retirement Institute. In a 2010 study that looked at the work patterns of retirees, the Urban Institute found that 26% of men and 29% of women born from 1933 through 1937 had re-entered the workforce in a full-time or nearly full-time position after retirement, compared to 20% of men and 22% of women born two decades earlier.
Full-time retirement is simply more difficult than it was a generation ago. It s certainly more expensive. Many employers have reduced or eliminated retiree health benefits, and the full retirement age for Social Security benefits (66) is higher than it once was with more increases on the table. Would-be retirees can play some financial defense as well: The longer you can make money, the less you need to dip into your retirement savings, which has the added benefit of allowing recession-damaged portfolios a little more time to recover.
Financial reasons aside, for many workers, a job confers intellectual and personal rewards that equal or exceed the monetary ones. About half of Baby Boomers say they plan to work into their 70s, many citing the desire to stay busy and intellectually engaged, according to a survey by First Command Financial Services conducted in May.
Whether out of necessity or desire, looking for work is always arduous. The good news is that the unemployment rate for people over 55 is better than it is for the rest of the population. But at around 7%, that s still not great. Here are four ways for retirees to triumph in today s job market:
Redo your resume.
You re not paranoid: Age discrimination in the workplace is real. A 2006 survey by the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College found that about one fourth of employers said they were reluctant to hire older workers. More recently, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that after looking at only a resume, employers discriminated against women they perceived to be 50 or older. So on your resume, emphasize experience and skills, says Sherri Thomas, founder of Career Coaching 360, without overemphasizing age. List tangible achievements at prior employers, she says, and highlight current technical skills if you have them. Flexibility counts here, too: if you re applying for a job online, it helps to tailor your resume to include some of the keywords used in the job description, says Allison Nawoj, a career advisor for CareerBuilder.com. Those small changes can help a resume get through the company s automated filing system.
Rejuvenate your network.
If you ve already been out the work force for a few years, it takes effort to reconnect with former coworkers and bosses but not as much as it used to, thanks to the professional social network LinkedIn. Spruce up your profile on the site with an updated resume (your profile on the site is public to anyone in your network, so you might want to remove your phone number and physical address from the version of your resume you post). Then search for others you know on the site, reach out, catch up, and inquire about job leads or opportunities, says Thomas. If your network fails to provide any leads, try industry events and online job boards specifically tailored to retirees such as RetiredBrains.com or RetirementJobs.com.
Rethink your definition of part-time.
For some retirees, a temporary assignment offers more benefits than a half-time position. Temp jobs give workers the flexibility to work for a few weeks or months at a time, then take as many weeks or months off as they choose perfect for snowbirds or world travelers. And many companies prefer temporary workers to part-timers, because they give the company more flexibility in these uncertain economic times, says Art Koff, the founder of RetiredBrains.com. CareerBuilder.com says it has seen a significant increase in temporary job postings in the past year, and there are plenty of temp and staffing agencies like 10 til 2 and MomCorps that specialize in part-time and work-from-home options.
Refuse to quit.
Full-time employees who would like to work fewer hours can ask their employers if part-time work is an option. Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, says an employee considering such a transition should come up with a detailed plan of how the part-time job would work: what it would pay, and how it would benefit the company? Then, after carefully weighing the potential fallout of making public a desire to downgrade, he or she should share the idea with their boss.