Why You Should Never Retire

by Dan Caplinger | Oct. 19, 2018

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If you're living life right, why change it?
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Older man in a suit and hardhat holding a clipboard.

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Everywhere you turn, you can find advice on how to prepare for retirement. With information on everything from how to build up your savings to finding the right broker to help you invest more effectively, a lot of financial advice centers on the assumption that you eventually want to make the huge life transformation of retiring.

But what many people have experienced firsthand is that retirement isn't always as good as they had thought. The retirement you spent your whole career looking forward to can turn out to be unsatisfying once it becomes a reality. It's therefore not a big shock that some now believe that you should never retire. Here's why -- and what they suggest instead.

Why shouldn't you retire?

There are many reasons why retirement might not be the best answer for you:

  • Health experts point to adverse health effects from retirement, including greater incidence of obesity, depression, and even mortality rates. Remaining active and engaged, on the other hand, can support both mental and physical health well into old age.
  • You actually like what you do for a living, and giving it up would be a sacrifice rather than a benefit. After having developed a career's worth of experience and expertise in your chosen field, simply turning off that part of your brain isn't very appealing to those who were passionate and committed to their fields during their careers.
  • Even if you're ready to stop working in your current profession, there are other jobs that you'd like to spend time trying out. Sometimes, it's only after you have the financial security that a long career in one field provides that you can feel confident starting out in a different direction -- especially if it involves a massive pay cut compared to what you're making now.
  • Your social life might be entirely tied to your job, and so retiring from work would simultaneously involve giving up a network of friends you've had for years. Whether it's the co-workers you spend time with at the office or the regular customers you see on a daily basis, it can be a huge shock to your social life to stop working.

These positive aspects of continuing to work also complement the financial benefits. Fully retiring puts massive strain on your finances all at once, as you go from having a healthy paycheck to having to fend entirely for yourself. Even though income from savings and other sources like Social Security can help cushion the blow, it's still a big transformation. The uncertainties involved are a big part of why one has

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What you should do instead

Just because you decide not to retire doesn't mean you have to keep everything about your life exactly the same. There are several options open to you.

One smart move can be to cut back on the amount of time you work. Many employers are increasingly recognizing the value of keeping more experienced workers on board, especially as demographic trends make it harder to get new, younger employees. Arrangements involving reduced hours or part-time work can help workers keep many of the benefits of full employment while also having more free time to do the other things they want.

Other workers find it lucrative to pursue opportunities to become consultants. Especially in professional fields, consulting lets you call your own shots, naming a price for your time and letting you work for any combination of former employers and potential new clients that you choose. It can also come with the challenge of running your own business, but that challenge is appealing to some who already have a career's worth of experience under their belt.

The one thing to keep in mind

Unfortunately, there's a warning that anyone considering lifelong work needs to remember: You might not have the choice not to retire. Employers can lay workers off at any time, and illnesses or injuries can prevent you from staying in the workforce.

That's why it's important to have a financial plan for retirement even if you hope never to use it. By having a substantial financial cushion, you'll be able to handle every contingency while also having more flexibility to make changes to your work aspirations as you age.

Make the right choice for you

When -- or whether -- to retire is an inherently personal decision, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer that will work for everyone. But rather than feeling like you have to retire even if you don't want to, embrace the idea that you can choose never to retire if it's what will make you truly happy.

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