For many, retirement is the light at the end of a long career tunnel. Picture sitting on the beach, relaxing with the grandkids and enjoying your golden years without a care in the world. But how realistic is that dream?
Only 21% of workers expect to retire at the age of 65, according to the 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Nearly 31% of workers expect to retire at 70 or older, or not at all.
For many Americans, retirement may not always mean the end of working. We’ve taken a look into how common it is for retirees to keep working in retirement and why they continue to work, to help identify some of the best part-time jobs for retirees.
The best part-time jobs for retirees
If you’re one of the millions of seniors looking to work in retirement, you have many job options to choose from. Below, we’ve found some of the best jobs for retirees that don’t necessarily require full-time or year-round employment, giving you more flexibility with your schedule. We looked for jobs that allow you continued use of your skills as well as positions that offer both productivity and fun.
Becoming a consultant can allow you to make extra money in retirement using skills that you already possess. Consultants work independently with companies, often to identify problem areas or to recommend new processes for a team. This can be a great avenue for folks who still have professional connections in their industry and believe they have a lot left to give.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the largest employers of consultants are professional, scientific and technical services; government; finance and insurance; and company/enterprise management. The BLS also reports a positive job outlook for consultants — consultant employment is projected to grow 14% from 2016 to 2026.
Consultants don’t necessarily have to work full-time, either; they often work on a part-time, hourly or contractual basis. This allows retirees to keep both the income that a job provides and a flexible schedule. Ultimately, your hours as a consultant will depend on your preferences and the industry in which you work.
Your industry and hours will also determine how much money you can make as a consultant. For example, the median annual wage for management consultants in scientific and technical services is $89,370, while consultants in finance and insurance earn a median wage of $83,090 a year, according to the BLS.
By the time you reach retirement, you’ll have a wide-ranging skillset and decades of experience to boot. Much like consulting, freelancing in your industry means you get to continue to put your skills to use even after you’ve stopped working full-time. While freelancing and consulting sound very similar, understand that freelancers typically provide a “deliverable,” such as a finished product or a service, whereas consultants provide advice guidance to a business.
You can find freelance jobs in just about every industry, from software development to tax preparation to customer service. You could even look for freelance jobs that serve your hobbies, rather than your previous career. For example, it could be a great opportunity to take up photography or writing more seriously.
Since you’re your own boss as a freelancer, you get to set your own rate and your own schedule. That way, you have more control over your income to better ensure you’re making as much money as you need.
Of course, the ballpark rate for freelancers will depend on the industry. For example, the average hourly pay for a freelance technical writer is around $29, while the average hourly rate for a freelance photographer is $25, according to PayScale.
Retired teachers and folks who like working with kids can find fulfillment working part-time as tutors or teacher’s aides. You could tutor kids in subjects where they’re struggling or help them boost their SAT scores. Teacher’s aides help both teachers and students in the classroom and involves more clerical work like grading papers. Plus, spending time with kids allows you to pass on wisdom to the next generation.
Tutoring allows for a more flexible schedule and pay scale than being a teacher’s aide. The median wage for tutors in 2018 was $14.83 hourly or $30,850 annually. However, you typically set your own rate as a tutor, and can charge more based on your experience.
Teacher’s aides, on the other hand, make $26,970 per year on average. Depending on the job and the school, you can typically find part-time or seasonal jobs as a teacher’s assistant.
If you’d prefer a change from your former professional career, consider becoming an athletic coach, an umpire or a referee. Check with your local high school athletic departments, various youth programs and amateur leagues for any openings. Depending on the sport, this avenue may require more physical activity and time spent on your feet and outdoors. It may also require some travel on your part to travel to away games.
In 2018, the median annual wage for coaches at elementary and secondary schools was $28,930. The median annual wage for recreational coaches was $36,110, while at the collegiate level it was $45,350. The median annual pay for umpires, referees and other sports officials in 2018 was $27,020.
If you’d like to be more physically active in your retirement, consider becoming a tour guide. Places like museums, historical sites and even wineries or breweries need tour guides. You can also check with your town or neighborhood community center to see if they are in need of tour guides. Keep in mind that the job will require a lot of walking and plenty of time on your feet.
On average, tour guides can make just over $12 per hour. However, this hourly rate can be as much as twice as high depending on where you snag a job.
Blogging can be an especially lucrative part-time job for retirees if you’ve got the technological savvy. The average median salary for a blogger is $39,344. Blogging from your computer allows you to work from just about anywhere, especially the comfort of your own home.
With blogging, you can take your pick of subject areas, whether it’s an educational blog pulling from your workplace expertise or a blog reflecting on being a working retiree. Blogging offers a ton of flexibility, so long as you can find a way to effectively monetize your content with advertisers and sponsors.
How many seniors are working in retirement?
According to data from the BLS, 19.3% of people ages 65 and older were still part of the labor force in 2016, up from 15.4% in 2006. That percentage is expected to climb further, reaching 21.8% in 2026.
More specifically, 8.4% of those aged 75 and older were working in 2016. That percentage is expected to climb to 10.8% by 2026.
Experts throughout the country are noticing this phenomenon as well. “I find more and more that retirees are looking for other employment opportunities in retirement,” said Cole Hammack, a CFP with John E. Sestina and Company.
Jim White, a CFP at J.H. White Financial, has noticed the same thing over the past decade. “During 2008 to 2012, it was clear that many retirees were scared, and for many, it was a necessity to continue to work, or re-enter the workforce in retirement,” he said.
White also noted that even those who could weather the recession still chose to work part-time to help their portfolios last longer. Nearly 10 years later, he still hasn’t seen “a mass exodus into full-retirement,” finding instead that more and more retirees want to work part-time.
Why are seniors working in retirement?
The BLS numbers make it clear that more and more seniors are working through their retirement, but their reasons for doing so can differ greatly. From earning extra income to fulfilling their dreams, these are a few of the most common reasons that seniors keep working.
Gain extra income to supplement retirement savings
One big reason that retirees continue to work is that they may not have a choice. According to the Retirement Confidence Survey, 42% of retirees who worked for pay in retirement reported doing so in order to make ends meet.
Further, a survey from the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies indicates that many retirees have limited household income and savings, especially given the number of years over which people will be spending in retirement. While rule of thumb states that you should have around $1.5 million saved by retirement, the survey shows that retirees have an estimated median of $75,000 in household savings. About 31% of those surveyed have savings of less than $50,000, including 9% who didn’t have anything saved for retirement.
Hammack believes that many retirees nowadays also need the extra sense of security that an active income provides. “Gone are the days where you could comfortably retire at 60 or 65 with a healthy pension to get you through retirement,” he said.
On the other side of the coin is the group of retirees who just want some spending cash. According to the Retirement Confidence Survey, 67% of retirees work for money to buy extras. This group already has enough savings to live comfortably, and just wants some extra money for a spontaneous vacation or other additional expenses that weren’t in their financial plan.
Keep busy and engaged
For some retirees, getting a part-time job has nothing to do with their financial situation. The Retirement Confidence Survey found that a whopping 90% of retirees who worked for pay in retirement cited wanting to stay active and involved as a reason for continuing to work.
Barbara Ristow, a CFP at Buckingham Strategic Wealth, shared that she has a client who works part-time for the structure it provides in her daily life. “It’s not about the money. If her time is unconstrained, she tends to put things off and then finds a good bit of time passes and she’s gotten nothing done,” Ristow said.
Indeed, many retirees may find themselves disappointed with the lack of structure and potential for boredom in retirement. Working part-time helps people like Ristow’s client maintain purpose and productivity.
Continue a successful career or pursue a second career
Amy Irvine, a CFP from Irvine Wealth Planning Strategies, LLC, has seen many of her own clients choose to keep working for either mental or emotional reasons. “Some still feel like they have a lot to offer, so in other words, they aren’t mentally ready to leave their jobs,” she said.
Others cannot leave because they are emotionally attached to their jobs. In these cases, Irvine and her colleagues tell clients to “expect to grieve” and to consider how they might be able to keep themselves busy in retirement. This might be by taking on an “encore career,” or doing something different than what they’ve been doing for the past few decades.
”I had a recent client who was at a very high level in a company and always wanted to be a librarian,” Irvine said. “So that’s her encore career and she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her.”
Social Security when working in retirement
A significant benefit to working in retirement is that you can defer Social Security payments. Deferring your payments results in a larger benefit when you do actually start taking Social Security. This is especially true if your post-retirement job can make up for a low-earning or “zero” year, since your Social Security benefit is based on your 35 highest-earning years.
For example, if your full retirement age is 66 but you keep working until you’re 68, delaying your Social Security until then, that’s two years of delay credits at 8% each. Your future benefit for life will be 16% higher than if you’d claimed at 66.
If you’re collecting your Social Security benefits before your full retirement age, you’ll see a temporary reduction in benefits. In 2019, you lose $1 in benefits for every $2 earned over $17,640. However, those benefits are not lost forever. Once you reach your full retirement age, Social Security increases your monthly benefit to account for the prior reduction.