Though many Americans look forward to retirement, there are those who spend the tail end of their working years dreading that period of life. And the reason often boils down to money, or lack thereof. For many people, particularly those without robust nest eggs, the idea of no longer earning an income and living solely off of savings is enough to result in all-out panic. But retirement doesn't have to be that way, and the sooner more people rethink their approach to it, the less sleep they're likely to lose.

You don't have to give up on work

Many of us are wired to think of retirement as a hard stop on the work front. But when we really think about it, it's hardly natural to go from working full-time to not working at all. Financial implications aside, losing that purpose is enough to induce feelings of depression and self-doubt, and that hardly makes for a happy existence. So rather than associate retirement with not working, think of it as more of a shift from a structured work schedule to one you get to dictate yourself.

Senior man reading a book on a couch.

Image source: Getty Images.

In what manner might you end up working in retirement? The possibilities are virtually limitless, but one option is to consult part-time in your former field. If you spend the latter part of your full-time working years networking extensively, you can build a client base so that when you do decide you've had enough of those 40-hour workweeks, you can easily transition to a schedule that works better for you.

If you're tired of your former line of work, there's also the option to start a new business -- and if you do, you'll be in good company. Seniors 65 and older are more likely to be self-employed than any other age group, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, so if you have an idea you're excited to pursue, retirement is a great time to go for it.

Another direction you might go to earn money in retirement is monetizing a hobby. Whether you enjoy baking, gardening, or crafting, you never know what sort of income stream you might generate by taking something you'll be spending your time doing anyway and turning it into a revenue source.

Of course, you might also decide that your ideal work setup in retirement involves a combination of the suggestions above. Maybe you'll spend a few hours a week consulting in your old field, 10 hours a week on your business, and a couple of hours here and there focusing on that money-making hobby. Again, the choice is yours, but the point is that you don't have to write off the idea of earning an income in retirement, nor do you have to resign yourself to bagging groceries or answering telephones all day to bring in a little extra cash.

It's not just about the money

Earning an income in retirement will help alleviate the concerns you might have about depleting your nest egg prematurely and struggling to cover the bills. But working as a senior can do more than just give you an income stream -- it can help improve your health, thereby saving you money on medical bills. It's an unfortunate statistic that retirees are 40% more likely to fall victim to depression than workers, and much of that stems from boredom. By avoiding that fate, you'll be taking good care of your health, which might help stave off other issues.

Just as importantly, working during retirement gives you something to do with your time that doesn't cost money. And that could help preserve whatever savings you're coming in with.

The notion of no longer managing to earn money is unquestionably scary. But that's not what retirement has to be about. The beauty of retirement is that you can custom design it to suit your financial and emotional needs. And that's certainly something to get excited about.

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