Work: Among the 10 Elements of Retirement Success

Isn’t the whole point of retirement to stop working? Yet, as you look at your family or friend group, you may have already seen that working in retirement has become more the norm than the exception. In our experience, some form of continued work is one of our 10 elements of retirement success. This article seeks to help you assess your approach to work in retirement and set some meaningful goals.

To many, working in retirement is a sign of vitality, not failure. They work, but they do it on their terms in less stressful and more fulfilling roles. Many don’t do it just for the money. They also work for a purpose, to avoid boredom and even to combat aging.

In our view, there are three broad phases of working in retirement that you might find yourself considering.

The Next Chapter phase of work in retirement

Many younger retirees, say between 55 and 65, are not considering the cessation of work but are instead looking for The Next Chapter. In fact, the only thing retired about them is their official status in their previous working role. They are looking to take on a new challenge, a new role.

This could range from a consulting job within the same career to starting a new business or even a complete reinvention. Sometimes, this can mean slowing down the pace and reducing the hours, but often, that is not the case. We have seen that those who enter this new chapter often work very hard and hyper-focus on their new passion.

If this is where you see yourself heading, do it with some soul-searching into what you want to accomplish and why it matters to you. Going from feeling trapped in Corporate America to being trapped by your own ambition may not be satisfying or sustainable. We think this is a blind spot to watch out for.

The Downshift phase of work in retirement

When retirees think about working in retirement, many envision The Downshift. It entails finding some sort of work, whether in or out of their current industry, that can be done at a better pace and with balance.

They want the stimulation of work, of feeling connected to others in a working relationship and to have a sense of purpose on Monday morning. They just don’t want that purpose to be anxiety-producing and burdensome. And it doesn’t hurt to make a few extra dollars along the way to cover cash flow gaps before Social Security kicks in or to delay the need to start taking distributions from their retirement portfolio.

In some cases, companies are thinking about being more flexible to keep knowledgeable older workers. This could mean phased retirements or allowing employees to reduce their responsibilities over time before fully retiring. For some, this could represent the best of both worlds: maintaining work culture and relationships and working in your preferred field but reducing the stress on you and your family. If done well, this can be a win-win for both employee and employer.

The Volunteer phase of work in retirement

The desire to “give back” is strong with many retirees, in our experience. They realize they have decades of wisdom and experience that can be put to good use as The Volunteer who serves others.

Charitable board work can be a fantastic way for those with business and executive experience to provide value for a cause they care about. Others might build houses, serve the poor or assist people in their community, such as helping seniors with tax preparation.

For some, this phase captures their imagination and their passion, and they pour their lives and time into their cause. They do it for free, which often contributes to their satisfaction. This type of work is also a smart way to engage with the charities you already contribute to or to get to know organizations that you are considering adding to your philanthropic portfolio.

As you think about working in retirement, here are a few questions we think you may wish to consider: Does your work offer phased retirement? If not, is this something you could discuss or implement? What are your income goals for working in retirement? Why do you want to work? What is it about work that you like or may miss? Why do you not want to work? What is it about work that you do not like and won’t miss? What kind of flexibility or autonomy do you want with your work in retirement?

Here’s a quick exercise that you may find helpful:

  1. Write down your current satisfaction with your work plans on a scale of 1 to 10
  2. Now write down what you would like that score to be one year from now
  3. Finally, write down the top three things you can do to raise your score

Work may not even feel like work when you’re doing it on your own terms.


Continue to explore each element of retirement success:

  1. Work
  2. Family
  3. Home
  4. Growth
  5. Leisure
  6. Social
  7. Giving
  8. Money
  9. Aging
  10. Health


Charlie Jordan, CPA, CFP, CeFT

Charlie Jordan, CPA, CFP, CeFT

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Charlie is a Partner, Wealth Advisor in our Atlanta office. Previously, he led the Retiring Well Practice Management group at legacy firm Brightworth. Charlie focuses on helping clients think differently about retirement, integrating the technical and personal sides of money. Charlie is a CPA, CFP® practitioner and Certified Financial Transitionist (CeFT). He is a graduate of the University of Florida and received a Master in Accountancy from Kennesaw State University.


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