THE BLOG

There's No Desire To Retire If You Love Your Work

02/22/2015 08:58 am ET | Updated Apr 24, 2015

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Recently a Baby Boomer boldly declared: "At this stage in my life, I would love to work on the issues I truly care about!" After a brief pause she added: "If only the Golden Handcuffs didn't hold me back."

Many Boomers would like to change to a career with more passion and purpose, but they are held back for similar reasons. Some of the typical statements I hear include:

  • "I am too old to start over in a new career."
  • "People won't pay for the work I am passionate about."
  • "A new career wouldn't allow me to make nearly as much income as I make now."

When I probe deeper, I often find that the underlying reason for these concerns is the fear of jeopardizing a financially secure retirement.

I don't want to play down the financial risk of a career change. I can fully understand why anyone would decide to stay in their career or job because of this fear. However, a person who has found a career that brings joy and fulfillment often has no wish to retire and continues in his or her career beyond that person's expected retirement age. When this happens, it totally changes how someone can financially plan for retirement, adding years of income not originally planned for. This can alleviate the fear of jeopardizing a financially secure retirement.

This happened to me. Around the time I turned 50, I had the following dilemma to consider: either continue working for another 10 to 15 years in my old career to ensure a financially secure retirement, or change to a new career that is better aligned with my passion and purpose. After a period of struggling with this question, I finally decided to change to a new career in my mid-50s. Having rediscovered passion and purpose in my work, I realized that my wish to retire had suddenly disappeared. I felt liberated by this realization because the future suddenly was open to new possibilities.

I have seen a similar effect with many of my clients, who were in their 50s and 60s, and for some even in their 70s. They had dreamed of their retirement only to find this dream change once they were in new careers better aligned with their passion and purpose. Their wish to retire had gone away.

Observing this effect, it is not surprising that:

  • Nelson Mandela became president of a new South Africa at the age of 75,
  • Peter Drucker, described as the "founder of modern management," wrote the majority of his books after his 75th birthday,
  • Stephen Hawking, cosmologist, at the age of 73, has no plans to retire, and
  • Gloria Steinem, at the age of 80, continues to work on issues of equality and social justice, and recently said, "The idea of retiring is as foreign to me as the idea of hunting."

What a loss if they had retired at the age of 65!

And what a loss if the millions of boomers who wish to contribute to a better society were held back by their golden handcuffs, rather than transitioning to careers to make those contributions now!

So when a retired friend recently asked me, "You must be thinking about retiring soon, aren't you?" I replied without any hesitation, "I don't want to retire EVER!"

To learn more about how to align your career with what you truly care about while reducing the risk involved in making that change, you may want to look at my book: The Boomerang Approach

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Move Aside: 6 Ways Female Investors Are Changing The Face Of Modern Retirees