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How You Can Love Your Job To Age 70 And Beyond

people still working after the age of 70Recently I’ve run across a slew of people who are over 70 years old and still work full time. To me that sounds worse than Chinese water torture, but by being nosy asking questions, I’ve confirmed what I suspected was true. Working because you want to is much more rewarding than working because you have to. I think work satisfaction depends on a number of factors, but from what I’ve found, this is how you can love your job to age 70 and beyond.

Sense of Purpose

When I ask people over 70 why they are still working, one theme rang true for the ones who actually love their jobs. They held positions that gave them a sense of purpose. Some were heads of their division and headed up projects that no one else knew how to do. A couple of others were in health care. If a job provides a valuable service or makes progress for something other than the company bottom line, that’s a huge bonus on the job satisfaction scale.

Flexible Schedule or Lots of Time Off

All the older individuals who loved their jobs had the ability to adjust their schedules or work from home. They all had ample amounts of time off as well. One 75 year old, who works full time as a surgical nurse, told me she likes to take long, expensive trips so working full time allows her to afford that without sacrificing normal retirement savings.

Not Living Paycheck to Paycheck

I’m not sure anyone can love their job while living paycheck to paycheck. All the energy goes into paying bills, and there is really no option other than to continue working. Once people have adequate savings and are out of debt, more choices present themselves.

The couple who live next door to me both work full time, but I know they have no debt and plenty of savings. I tease them all the time about needing to retire, but I know they both secretly enjoy their jobs. Financially speaking, they could certainly quit tomorrow if they wanted.

On the other end of the spectrum, I know a fellow who works for the city as a janitor on a senior job placement program that pays minimum wage. He had to take the job because he can’t get by on social security alone. He hates his job but truly can’t afford to quit. I can’t imagine being that age and still having to hustle for a paycheck. It makes me want to transfer some money into retirement as we speak.

Positive Attitude

Obviously positive people like things more than negative people, but attitude goes a long way in job satisfaction. Going back to my neighbors, I love to listen to their life stories. They have reinvented themselves probably a half dozen times and have done everything from sales to HR to owning a restaurant. I think they realize that no job is perfect or forever, but they have learned to take the good and move on to other opportunities when one thing ends or becomes stagnant.

Another lady I work with at the government clinic went back to work after her husband passed away. She was sad and bored and decided to put her energy into something positive instead of feeling sorry for herself. She also volunteers for hospice, which would normally seem like a very depressing job, but her attitude and personality are just what you’d hope for if you had a family member in that situation.

I think positive people can look at a job and think about how lucky they are to be able to work and earn money while keeping their mind occupied. Negative people can’t let little things go, and they obsess over that one annoying thing so much that they can’t appreciate what they do have or think of ways to make it better.

No Debt

I was kind of shocked to read a statistic that senior citizens 65 years or older account for $18 billion of the student loan debt in the U.S. While that’s not a huge percentage of the overall student debt in the country, it is a factor. Student loan debt can never be discharged through bankruptcy, and the government will garner social security wages if you default on federal loans. The article did say that 80% of loans were for personal use, but 20% comes from parents borrowing money to send their kids to college. How sad would I be if my parents could not retire because they were paying off my education costs? They’d probably hate their jobs.

The other very depressing thing I found was that nearly a third of seniors still have a mortgage. With low interest rates, I understand that might be OK if there are passive income streams that cover the payments while allowing savings to grow through other investments, but I suspect lots of seniors have to keep the paychecks coming to make their house payment. Working with the fear of losing a home to foreclosure would not make me feel lots of love for my job.

The people I know who love their jobs into their 70’s have no debt, mortgage or otherwise. Ironically, not having to pay bills makes a paycheck that much sweeter. People in their 30’s, 40’s and beyond really should think long and hard about taking on debt and how they plan on paying it back. Even if the payment seems manageable now, how would it be at age 70?

Thing like using a home equity line of credit to take vacations or refinancing into a longer mortgage term to pay for your daughter’s wedding might mean not being able to retire. We only have ten years left on our mortgage if we pay the minimum payment, and I would never,ever take out a 30 year loan at this stage in my life.

Secrets Of Loving Your Job

It seems that loving a job mostly comes from our own attitudes and personal behaviors. While you can search for a position that give you a sense of purpose and lots of time off, a career alone does not guarantee good financial habits or debt freedom. Spending hard earned money in ways that will be a benefit instead of penalize down the road is the only way you can achieve those goals. It’s really hard to think about retirement when you’re 25 and wanting a new car or an updated spring wardrobe, but every choice made today affects future happiness. If you don’t believe me, ask a 70 year old!

Do you know people who are over 70 and still work full time? Do you know senior citizens who still owe student loans?

 

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About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

33 comments

  1. I don’t know such who still pays student loan at that age. But, I know someone who is still working at that age. My grand father who is at 68 y/o still work as a part-time professor in college. I notice that he enjoys what he does and it seems like it’s really part of his life and calling that he needs to fulfill. This is what I want to be become when I am in this stage.

    • I think it would be very rewarding to teach college students. Some of my college professors were in their 60’s or older. It made them seem more distinguished.

  2. My dad is 72 and still works part-time. He just does it to have something to do more than anything else. I think the key to loving your work when you’re old is having the option whether to work or not.

  3. I don’t know anyone currently in this stage – working and over 70, though have in the past, and it was always refreshing to talk with those that were doing it because they wanted to. I think so much of it goes back to having that freedom, which makes complete sense, to do what they want as opposed to being forced to out of some financial situation.

    • When I run across someone that should technically be retired who isn’t, I always ask why. Most of them do enjoy their work and seem lots younger than their actual age. The ones who are just hanging on to pay the bills all seem tired and beaten down. It’s an amazing contrast.

  4. I think having a sense of purpose is the biggest one. Experts say that having that after official retirement is the key to a longer, happier life. It’s not just about golf and taking trips. Even if it’s just volunteering, having that sense of a greater good is very healthy. And not having to do it…I’m sure that is a lot more enjoyable that having to do it.

    • I remember when my Grandpa retired from being a dentist, he was a bit lost at first. Then he got really active being a part time minister and it was all good. Certainly would not be my thing, but it was really good that he could channel his energy into that.

  5. Our company president is quickly approaching 80 and has no plans to retire or give up the company ever. He simply loves it!

    • I saw an article in an optometry practice about a doctor who was 82 and still going strong. I guess it keeps your mind active, but I can’t imagine working that long.

  6. My grandmother worked (at least part time) until after 70 because she loved the social engagement and the free tennis court time she got from her job. I always say I am going to work until I am 70, not because I have to but because I enjoy it. When you can work for fun and not to pay bills, I think it completely changes the dynamic of work and makes it so much more appealing.

    • Free tennis! That’s awesome that she was still so active into her 70’s. There is a group of seniors in our town who play tennis regularly. I get a kick out of watching how much fun they seem to have.

  7. My mother “retired” from her Corporate position several years ago but still continues to work. Like you said, when it is a choice, it’s very different. She works to stay busy and active and has lots of flexibility and can do work she enjoys, rather than out of necessity. Chris and I both know that even after we retire “officially” we both still work because it is our nature but it will be passion projects we choose and on our schedule. The best thing with technology today (and I imagine even better when I retire) is that we can also work wherever we want.

    • I don’t think I’d ever be one to sit around and watch game shows all day, but it would be cool to do work when I want and only on jobs or projects that I’m passionate about.

  8. The family members I know who love their jobs are those who own their own businesses. They live to get up and run through their company business knowing they’ve built it to where it is today. Having to go into an office and give your time to someone else can have a draining effect, but doing it for yourself can be invigorating and make you feel valid.

    • My Dad is that way. He sold his share of his business several years ago but still has a consulting role and doesn’t want to retire, even though he’s now in his late 60’s.

  9. I know a number of people who are in their 60s and a few in their 70s who work. My last manager was probably around 65 years old and loved working. I think he could realistically afford to retire today but he just loves being there and probably feels a great sense of purpose. He also loves talking to people, which you can obviously do in retirement but when you are at the office you are kind of forced to be around people so there’s always plenty of people to talk to.

    • I should have added social interaction to the list. I think people persons have to be around people in one way or another.

  10. I’m amazed too at the number of people who still have debt while in their 60’s and 70’s. One of the results of the lack of financial education in schools in this country. I would imagine that work would be MUCH more fun for those who aren’t having to work b/c they’re strapped down by debt or because they’ve never been taught the value in budgeting.

    • I think there are tons of people who keep refinancing their home or moving and next thing you know they have 20 years left on the mortgage at 65 years old. It would make me a nervous wreck I think.

  11. The people I have met who are happily working past 70 are those who are choosing to work. They don’t need to keep working to live their lives, their mortgages are paid off, little debt etc. They want to work because they enjoy what they do, feel like they are making a difference and gain a lot of purpose from their jobs.

    Those whom I have met who lament angrily the fact that they are still working past 70 are those who do not have the choice. They need to work to live.

    My goal is get to the working by choice milestone as quickly as possible (hopefully in the next 5 years). I will probably still work in one form or another for the rest of my life but I want to be able to choose what I do and when.

  12. I thought the senior citizen thing was ludicrous until my mom pointed out that it’s mostly from people who took out loans to help their kids. Made a little more sense but… sheesh.

    My grandfather retired as a teacher, but then he ended up teaching country line dancing. I think some people just like to work and bring in a paycheck. I’m one of them.

    After you’ve been on disability, you’re reluctant to give up the power of a paycheck. If we won the lottery tomorrow (which would be impressive since we don’t buy tickets), I’d still not want to quit right away. I’d visit a financial advisor and find out how it would shake down, what kind of annual draw we could take, etc. And I still might work a couple of days a week because… paycheck!

    But even with the lack of a lottery, I’d probably just go down to part-time once we could afford it. I don’t like my job, but I love my boss who is the owner of the company. It’s hard to give that up. Or it will be once I get to the point that retirement is even remotely feasible.

    • Actually the article said 20% was from parents helping kids but 80% was for loans people took out later in life to go to school or went through a divorce or other life altering event and had to go into deferment while interest still accrued. I know there were a couple of people in their 40’s who were in optometry school with me. If they’d borrowed $100K like most of my classmates, that could easily stretch into retirement unless really high payment were made.

      I’m always hoping someone will gift me a lottery ticket that will be the big winner. Here’s to hoping!

  13. One more factor to mention is good health. Even if someone wants to work past typical retirement age, they may not be able to do so if they are ill. I know poor health was the deciding factor when I retired, even though it has improved since that time. I think it’s great to find work that is meaningful and rewarding no matter what your age, whether it is paid or volunteer. But when you’re a senior, you want to be working by choice not because of debt or poor planning!

  14. My mom is 65, and loves working. I suspect she´ll continue working until she´s no longer physically able. She gets to be creative, and think hard (aka. exercise her brain), and meet people. It definitely gives her a sense of purpose, and makes her happy. She has some debt to pay off but the debt is pretty new and I suspect she´d be working even if she were debt-free because her work is so much fun for her.

  15. My Dad is eighty-six and still working as a part-time pastor. He does it because ministering to people is what he does best. However, he has decided to retire this June to spend more time with my Mom. She has Alzheimer’s, and has reached a stage where she needs more care and he needs more help. Once things settle down in their new home, he plans to finish his book when he has free time.

    • That is really amazing. My Grandpa worked as a part time pastor as well after he retired. It kept his mind active and let him visit and socialize.

  16. Oh my! Student loans at that age freaks me out. Thankfully we don’t have student loans ourselves but we will be helping our kids through college. We won’t be taking out student loans though.

    My parents are over 70 and enjoying life! In fact, they just purchased a ‘winter home’ in Arizona! I’m thrilled they have their financial ducks in a row!

  17. There are so many reasons to be working beyond 70. I had custody of grandchildren for years. Raised my daughters alone after desertion from their father. I returned to college for 2 more degrees which changed my life and retirement but set me back with student loans. I am doing wonderfully have a happy marriage paid off student loans have a pentiin and 401k. Finally I have a dollar in my pocket to decorate the house and travel. Love my job and financial freedom. Not everyone inherits money and can save early in life when life hands you setbacks. What is important is knowing you succeeded at haning all that you had to do and steoed up to the plate. Lived a purposeful life

  18. The journey is not that long depending on why your here? We come.for so many reasons, so many bodies and so many times. To be 70 plus years and still going is not that hard if we do one thing. We be come.what we think about. We are nothing more then our total sum of thoughts at the end of the day, and nothing more then our total sum of thoughts at the end of times. Just be careful what you wish for, you might just get it, and there is a price to pay. Lessons learned past 70 plus. Love them and still working.

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