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Could A Part-Time Job Improve Your Retirement Could A Part-Time Job Improve Your Retirement
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Could a Part-Time Job Improve Your Retirement?

Northwestern MutualVoice Contributor •  June 4, 2015 | Enjoying Retirement

By Sarita Harbour and Katie Morell

Life in retirement is going through a dramatic shift. While yesterday’s retirees expected to live between 15 and 20 years after giving up work, today’s retirees should plan to live for three decades into retirement, according to Northwestern Mutual’s recent white paper, Social Security Simplified: Select the Right Options to Help Maximize Your Income. This longevity has spurred many retirees to seek new activities to keep them mentally and physically active for the long haul.

Working Part Time in Retirement

“I think when people, particularly high achievers, retire, they realize the transition from working to not working isn’t as easy as they expected,” says Robert P. Delamontagne, an expert on the psychological dynamics of retirement and author of the book The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement. Therefore, he says, it’s important for new and aspiring retirees to have a retirement plan in place that includes fulfilling, enjoyable activities such as volunteer or paid part-time work. This helps lessen the dramatic difference between the jam-packed work week of a former career and the leisurely days of retirement.

Research also suggests that working part-time during retirement may help retirees enjoy improved physical and psychological health.

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, retirees who have some type of post-retirement employment function better on a daily basis and experience fewer major diseases than those who don’t work at all. Working in retirement may also help delay cognitive deterioration, according to French research findings reported in the January 2014 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor magazine.

Getting Out and About

Finding post-retirement opportunities to connect with others may seem challenging at first, Delamontagne says, but the best answers may be found by answering two questions: “What am I passionate about?” and “What pastime gives me great pleasure?”

For Kris Huttenmiller, 70, of Beaverton, Ore., the answer was dogs. Soon after she retired in 2008, a friend asked her to dog sit for a lengthy period of time. A dog lover, Huttenmiller perked up. It wasn’t too long before word spread and she was getting pet-sitting offers from other friends.

Spending time with other people’s dogs became so enjoyable that she registered with Rover.com, a dog-sitting network that matches owners with boarders. “I only take two at a time; I’m not a kennel,” she jokes.

Caring for these furry friends has given Huttenmiller access to a whole new community. “I love being able to connect with other people who have dogs and also really enjoy having dog company in my house,” she says.

Plain Sailing

Seventy-year-old Jerry Koncel is also enjoying his retirement, and a part-time job is a big reason why. He worked for 35 years, until 2011, as the editor of a trade magazine. But when a friend asked him to fill in part time as associate editor for the magazine Great Lakes Boating, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I work there an average of three days per week—usually two but up to four in our later stages of production,” he says. “It is pretty great, though, because I’m able to be flexible on which days I come in.”

An avid golfer, Koncel also enjoys writing a column on golf for Senior Connection, a newspaper for senior citizens in his community. Although he doesn’t need to work for the money, he enjoys it. “I’m doing things I love to do, and I have a creative outlet.”

Find What You Love

Being highly engaged in work is key to maximizing the psychological benefits and impact on well-being for retirees, according to findings from Jacquelyn B. James and her team at Boston College’s The Sloan Center on Aging & Work. The Life & Times in an Aging Society study found that subjects over the age of 65 who self-identified as “highly” engaged also reported significantly higher levels of well-being.

To reap the health benefits of working in retirement, retirees should pursue a part-time job they’re excited about, author Delamontagne says. “[They] need to find jobs that represent an extension of their interests.”

This means retirees could find part-time work in a field completely different from their pre-retirement careers, but one that reflects their hobbies or pursuits. “For example, someone who’s been a voracious reader their whole life can get a job at a library, a bookstore. Find some connection, an extension of the self in the workplace,” Delamontagne says. Doing so, he adds, is likely to increase a retiree’s engagement at work. Ultimately, the secret to finding the part-time job that will benefit you most in retirement is knowing yourself.

“The key is self-awareness,” he says—to know what makes you happy. “Choose a position that is going to give you pleasure. Life is too short to do a job without joy.”

Sarita Harbour writes about personal finance, business and technology. She is a former financial adviser and holds the Personal Financial Planning Designation from the Institute of Canadian Bankers.

Katie Morell is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. She specializes in business, travel, human interest and social justice topics. Her work has appeared in Hemispheres, BBC Travel, Crain’s Chicago Business, American Express OPEN Forum, USA Today, and other print and online publications.

Originally published on Northwestern MutualVoice on Forbes.com.

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