By Susan Adcox
One of the funniest moments of the 2018 Super Bowl was the E*Trade commercial featuring senior citizens in unlikely jobs, bopping to a calypso beat and singing “I’m 85 and I want to go home.” The joking message was that if you haven’t saved for your retirement, you might find yourself stuck in a job far past the appropriate age. But even though we got a laugh out of the geriatric deejay and the airborne firefighter, the ad didn’t tell the whole story about jobs for seniors.
Of course, people should save for old age, but working after the age of usual retirement isn’t always something to dread. For many retirees, a job is a ticket to a fuller life, as well as offering a paycheck.
When the Social Security System was approved in 1935, the average life expectancy was 58. Many died before they ever drew the stipend they could receive at age 65. But that soon changed. After a few decades of soaring life expectancy and dropping retirement ages, Americans became used to the idea that they should have a few years of carefree and work-free life.
As life expectancy has continued to grow, however, many individuals have decided that they don’t really need 30 years to play golf or watch television. Jobs for retirees have become a hot commodity.
Applause for Encore Careers
Some workers choose to stay in their jobs past the usual age of retirement. Others either don’t have the option or yearn for a change. Enter encore careers! Remember that job that always interested you but that you never had a chance to pursue? What about the hobby that you’ve wondered about turning into a career? How about sharing your expertise through teaching classes?
Encore careers make great retirement jobs because you can decide how much time you want to spend. Most of the time, retirees opt for part time, so they can still travel and spend time with the grandkids. Part-time jobs for seniors offer myriad benefits besides income. They can provide social interactions. They can give us a feeling of accomplishment. They can push us to learn new skills (great for brain health). Those new skills should include job search tactics, because we’re living in a different economy than the one of our youth.
The Gig Economy and Jobs for Seniors
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “gig economy.” It refers to a system in which businesses hire independent contractors and part-time workers rather than full-time workers with benefits. The gig economy may be a negative development for some young workers, but it has been a boon for retired people looking for jobs.
Consider home-sharing. It’s a good example of an income-supplementing job for seniors. Older couples and individuals who are left with over-sized homes can rent out space through Airbnb or one of the other platforms. Although you might not think of home-sharing as an actual job, you will have to handle reservations, arrange for payment, provide housekeeping, keep records and report income. So, yes, it is a job.
Those with other marketable skills can hook up with websites that match workers with clients, such as Upwork, Freelancer, Guru or Fiverr. Through these sites, you can market your skills in writing, editing, accounting, graphic design and other areas. If you are an artist, craftsman or collector, you can make money selling on Ebay, Etsy and similar sites. Doctors, lawyers and computer coders have their own platforms for contract work. Other workers use apps to find jobs driving for Uber, walking dogs for Wag! or pet-sitting for DogVacay. It really is a different world out there!
Taking Care of Business
Post-retirement jobs do have some financial repercussions. These shouldn’t scare you away. Still, you should be informed.
- If you took Social Security benefits early, before full retirement, you are only allowed to earn a certain amount of money before your Social Security payments are reduced. To learn more, go to this page on the Social Security site: Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working.
- If you work as an independent contractor, you must pay self-employment tax (SE tax). This takes the place of the Social Security and Medicare taxes which would be withheld from your pay if you were a regular employee. To learn more, visit the Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center at the IRS.
- If you have income other than Social Security, under certain circumstances you could have to pay taxes on part of your benefits. Learn more from the IRS about when Social Security benefits are taxable.
These publications will help you determine how much of your post-retirement earnings you will get to keep. Don’t worry too much about calculating your income tax. If you do your own taxes, these calculations will be included in your tax preparation software, and they are routine matters for tax professionals.
The Joy of Work
When I see a “Now Hiring” sign, I still feel a little zing of interest. I guess I’m like an old racehorse who still lifts his head when he hears the starter’s pistol, except that I don’t consider myself out to pasture. While I’m not a candidate for most of the jobs that are posted on placards, I still enjoy meaningful and rewarding work.
If you are a retiree, you shouldn’t feel guilty about still being interested in jobs. Most seniors never thought of work as a dirty word. It gave us financial independence, opportunities to better ourselves, intellectual stimulation and the satisfaction of making a difference.
It still can.
The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life, by Marci Alboher. https://encore.org/encore-career-handbook/
“Great Second Careers.” AARP the Bulletin, January/February 2018. https://www.aarp.org/work/career-change/info-2018/great-second-careers.html
“40+ Alternatives to Upwork: Best Freelance Websites for 2018.” Codementor. https://www.codementor.io/blog/40-upwork-alternatives-316o841kmx
Susan Adcox is a web journalist with a special interest in generational issues, including grandparenting and healthy aging. She is the author of Stories From My Grandparent: A Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild.