Staying on the job just for the fun of it

Fulfillment is one reason that many Americans plan to work beyond eligibility age

Oct 19, 2008 @ 12:01 am

By Andrew Coen

An increasing number of American workers are delaying retirement until their late 60s, and while financial need does play a role in this trend, non-financial considerations often come into play as well.

The decision by more Americans to remain in the work force past the age when Social Security benefits kick in — 66 for those born between 1943 and 1959, and 67 for those born later — was backed up in a Sun Life Financial Inc. study. The study showed that 48% of respondents indicated plans to work past 67, and the top reasons cited for this decision were non-financial: wanting to stay "mentally engaged" (83%), loving their career (72%) and not being ready to end their career (66%).

Toronto-based Sun Life in August interviewed 1,515 full-time and part-time workers between 30 and 66.

In some cases, even affluent workers who have the means to retire decide to continue in their careers because of the overall enjoyment and fulfillment they receive from going to work every day.

Often, financial advisers can tell that clients want to delay retirement out of a desire to stay active, as well as to meet financial needs. The trend toward delaying retirement is also the result of the gradual increase in Americans' life expectancy.

"People really like to stay engaged in different [activities]," said Michelle Van Leer, senior vice president and general manager of retail insurance and annuities at Sun Life."

One subset of workers who are particularly reluctant to retire before age 67 is business owners, according to Ray Mignone, president of Little Neck, N.Y.-based Ray Mignone & Co. Inc. "It's usually their whole life," he said.

Mr. Mignone endorses continuing to work part time as a way for clients to ease into the concept of retirement.

"It's a nice transition for them into retirement both financially and psychologically," said Mr. Mignone, whose firm has about $170 million in assets under management.

While most of financial adviser Kive Strickoff's clients are delaying retirement for financial reasons, some wealthy doctors he serves don't want to even think about stopping working.

"When you have been doing something for 40 years, it's hard to turn it off," said Mr. Strickoff, founder of Strickoff Financial Services LLC, a Merrick, N.Y., firm with about $80 million in assets under management.

Many of Sharon Rich's clients — successful professors at Boston-area colleges as well as psychologists — are also choosing to delay retirement because of the fulfillment their careers provide. The psychology profession in particular lends itself well to working more-flexible hours or part-time work because many psychologists run practices out of their homes, said Ms. Rich, owner of Womoney, a Belmont, Mass.-based solo practice that charges an hourly fee.

"I have some clients who are never going to retire, because they are totally engaged," she said.

One planner who can speak from personal experience about a desire to continue working long past retirement age is Bill Olson, 77, a sole proprietor in Mesa, Ariz., who has worked as an investment adviser for 23 years as a second career after retiring as a farmer.

"I talk to a lot of my clients who are retirement age and beyond who change jobs, cut down from a 40-hour work week to a 20-hour work week or change careers, but either way, they are doing something," said Mr. Olson, who has about $10 million in assets under management.

E-mail Andrew Coen at acoen@investmentnews.com.

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