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Why you should continue working after retirement


Bored with retirement, 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) works as an intern at an online fashion site in the 2015 movie The Intern. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
I have no plans to stop working. I hope to remain active in a professional or personal capacity for as long as I can. A trip to the bank one evening and an interaction with the security guard at the ATM only strengthened my resolve to continue working after retirement.

The guard usually worked the night shift from 8 pm until 8 am. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him how his job was. He told me but it wasn’t the answer I expected.

He said, “It will last as long as it lasts. Till then, I’ll keep working. Anyway, what have I got to lose? Instead of sitting at home after retirement, I sit here next to this machine. At least I’m active and I get to talk to people.”

“Is the pay good?”

“Not very good. They pay me something every month, but rarely on time. If I complain then they might fire me and I can’t afford to lose my job. I’m okay with whatever I take home.”

“Why don’t you apply at a better security agency?” I asked him.

“Who will hire me? The bigger agencies want young and able men, not a retired person like me. The important thing is that at my age I still have a job.”

Later, as I walked away, I thought about what the security guard had said about having something to do after the end of his career. I suspect it was as much about preserving his self-worth and being useful in some way, to himself and his family, as it was about making some money.

After all, retirement is not necessarily the end of the road after a lifetime of hard work and financial responsibilities. It can mark the beginning of a new phase in life, one that will bring its own struggles and rewards as well as a sense of pride and satisfaction.

While some look forward to living a retired life in the relative comfort of their home, occasionally socialising and travelling, others retire officially but continue working for money as long as they can or want to. Still others get their finances in order before going on to lead an active life in some form or the other, whether it is serving the community, being useful to the society or for once simply following a passion instead of a profession.

In recent years, and especially following the pandemic, more people in India are inclined to work or remain active after retirement. As a June 2022 report by the NGO HelpAge India notes, many among the elderly are now keen to work after they retire; 44% of the survey respondents in Delhi alone said they would continue working after sixty, if only to avoid depending on their families. Besides, with the increase in life expectancy, continued job security allows them to forestall psychological issues often associated with retirement.

Representative Photo: Vlad Sargu/Unsplash
Here are four main reasons why the sixty and above are increasingly saying no to retirement.

One, the global health crisis has triggered financial uncertainty among those inching towards retirement, forcing many to alter their lifestyles and make tough decisions such as cutting discretionary spending or non-essential expenses. They want to work and earn so that they can be prepared for whatever tomorrow brings.

Two, parents don’t want to be financially dependent on their children who marry and set up their own home or immigrate to another county. In the absence of shared household expenses, the existing and new class of retirees are left to fend for themselves which isn’t easy given the volatile return on investment, rising prices, unforeseen expenditure and depleting savings.

Three, with no one to talk to, retired people are often prone to loneliness and depression which affects their quality of life. Being active after sixty, for money or otherwise, gives them a sense of purpose and an opportunity to socialise and make new acquaintances with like-minded people.

Four, and this is probably more important than the rest. Post-retirement activity motivates the just-retired to stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, which means it can stave off age-related illnesses for some years at least. Being active for as long as possible also helps to keep the mind sharp, prevent dementia, and improve cognitive functions like thinking, reasoning, learning and remembering.

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” It can be similarly said of retirement — you don't stop working when you grow old, you grow old when you stop working. So think well before you decide to hang up your hat.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

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