Retirement should be peaceful. That's what everyone thought not so long ago. Then, there was a realization: We get older and we’re healthier than ever before. There are just as many years between 30 and 60 as there are between 60 and 90. So we should just sit it out? Hard to imagine. And yet, few people have a concrete plan for it except to enjoy their peace and quiet.
It’s a well-earned and well-deserved plan. But life expectancy continues to increase. The average Austrian and German today lives to about 80. Women live even longer until about 84. By 2060 - i.e. in only 40 years - men will live on average until 84 while women are expected to live until 89.
"This is a new phase of life. One that no generation before us has had," says Leopold Stieger.
Leopold Stieger is the founder of the "seniors4success" platform and as an author and lecturer, he is committed to ensuring that people think about what comes after their professional life. Stieger will be 81 years young next week. He goes to his office every day.
He would like everyone to rethink old age: "We used to have these phases of life: Education, employment and then came the giant break - the transition to a well-deserved retirement. Today, life expectancy is increasing so fast that after retirement, people still have a lot of time to do something. Today we say: there is education, there is professional activity, and then there is free activity. In other words, I will continue to work, but I will be free. I decide when and how, and there’s no one to tell me what to do.
According to a senior4success survey in 2017, 56 percent of those surveyed stated that they would work during their retirement. In 2019, this number increased to 66 percent. "15 years ago, the number would have been different," Stieger says. Back then, his friends would have said: "Are you crazy? You still want to work?" But today, it is en vogue.
“Peter”, 61 years old, who would rather remain anonymous, has been retired for almost two weeks. He was a busy manager and consultant, but today, he only works a little because of the additional income limit which will only be topped up again when he reaches the legal retirement age. So why work at all?
"For me, work was never a hassle. Many people make a distinction between work and leisure but everything was insanely fluid for me. Now I don't do anything I don't want to do, whether it's paid or unpaid."
The advantages and disadvantages of working during retirement
Working during retirement can be emotionally and financially rewarding. Society is moving in this direction. People are healthier and live longer and thus also benefit from pension and retirement systems for longer. This is not sustainable in the long term. Nevertheless, for those who continue to be active in retirement, the fun of working is the main priority. After speaking with numerous individuals and experts, we have found seven pros and three cons for working during retirement.
Pro: Maintaining identity
When you take your pension or retire, you give up your job title - and with it a piece of your identity. "At work I say: I am an accountant. I am a carpenter. And in retirement, I am suddenly a...retiree? That's not an accurate description," says Leopold Stieger. "A person wants to continue to have a professional identity." Maybe it is time for a new one?
Pro: Challenge yourself
With an activity you are challenged, stay agile, and on your toes. "If you're not challenged, you get tired quickly. Maybe you give up a little early and simply fall asleep," says Stieger.
Pro: Recognize and take advantage of opportunities
Experts and senior talents often say that retirement is something like a second chance. A period of life in which you no longer have to do anything, but can do everything. Anyone who recognises this and dares to pursue his or her talents and passions, to possibly become self-employed, or to finally tackle what they have always wanted to do, will experience fulfillment.
Pro: Experience appreciation
The fact that one's own activity is seen as meaningful and is also valued by others is what drives Peter to work. "That way you don't get the feeling that you're useless and that you’re just consuming federal funds."
Pro: Contact with others
Being without work from one day to the next can be lonely. Being among people and building relationships is always nice.
Pro: Financial support
Of course, many people also work because they cannot survive with their meager pensions and retirement income. Women in particular are often affected by poverty in old age.
Pro: Freedom to choose
Obligations that had to be fulfilled in the past are now no longer necessary. "I can choose when I want to work," Peter says about his work.
Con: Additional income limit
In Austria, the additional income limit for early retirement is constantly being criticised. It is set at 460.66 euros per month for minor employment. According to the seniors4success survey, 45 percent of working senior talents reject it.
Con: Family expectations
Leopold Stieger describes this as a "great crisis" when married couples look forward to retirement together. And one of them quickly realises: "Being alone together is too boring for me.” The expectations are overwhelming for many. Stieger compares it to the tension before a long holiday - only that this holiday never ends. Many people are overwhelmed by this idea. Not surprisingly, the divorce rate rises in retirement. For couples, this phase is a joint learning process.
Con: Blind escapism
Philosophers and ethicists have always criticized the exaggerated zeal that people have for work. If there is money in retirement, what is the point of looking for work? One must pause here because taking refuge in (possibly the wrong) job out of boredom, fear, or blind escapism does not help anyone. "Doing a lot of work is no guarantee of a real challenge or even a vision," says Stieger. And that's what it's all about in the end.
If you do not approach your retirement the right way, you will never find peace in the end. Running pointless miles doesn't pay off here. Rather, your retirement should be seen as an opportunity to pursue those things that give you pleasure - whether in return for payment or on a voluntary basis.
In this respect, Leopold Stieger, who is almost 81 years old, still has a lot of plans. "I see no reason why I should stop working."