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Work after retirement helps keep you interesting

The hours I volunteer each week preparing lessons and giving chess classes to children at the public library represent, nobody has to tell me, lots of work.

When Georgina plans every detail of our family vacations, or puts together little books for our two grandchildren with stories about our travels together, she is working too.

Mine is work for the community and Georgina’s is work for the family. They offer no pay but give us great joy, just as we get immense satisfaction from the articles we write as paid freelance writers.

We got to thinking about this extended meaning of work after talking to Anne D. Hartman, managing partner of Working Differently LLC, a Massachusetts firm that consults with individuals and organizations on work after retirement.

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“Work doesn’t have to be for pay,” Hartman said. Work can simply be learning for learning’s sake. If no longer working for pay, retirees can work for the betterment of their communities as volunteers, or work to be reconnected to their families.

“Certainly taking care of my mother before she died last year was work,” Hartman said. Or work can be helping with the grandchildren to help a daughter go back to school.

With a combination of good fortune and resolve, we’re living this new definition of retirement work.

By gaining my bosses’ trust over the years, giving nine months notice and compromising when needed, I was able to transition from a demanding, 24/7-on-call full-time newspaper job at age 55 to part-time work at home on the hours I choose. Georgina, by continually developing and cultivating sources and outlets for her writing, and delivering her work as promised, has thrived as a freelance travel writer while still enjoying quality free time.

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As we get older, we see gradually cutting back on our work for pay (although we may never stop) while adding other types of “work” to our lives.

How about you? Millions of retirees are continuing to work and aging baby boomers say they want to keep working and be “engaged” in retirement (besides, many will need the money). Hartman offers advice on different ways to “work” in retirement:

-Keep working for the current employer

You may want to stay but work fewer hours. First, see whether anybody else has done it where you work. If not, ask somebody you trust whether the organization would be amenable. “You have to be discreet initially,” Hartman said, because you may not want your employer to know you are thinking of quitting full-time work.

-Move on and work for a new employer

“Begin the exploration process while you are still working,” Hartman said (it’s easier to find a new job while you still have one). Associations of retirees in your area, such as a local AARP chapter, can offer helpful suggestions.

-Start or buy a business

“Some people are looking for more purpose and adventure,” Hartman said, and may seek it by starting their own business. Without curbing your enthusiasm, make sure there is a solid business plan rooted on financial reality.

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-Do independent or freelance work

Same comment as before and, we would add, never stop reaching out to potential clients.

-Work in the community, work in the family, learn.

They are not mutually exclusive - you can do all three.

The right volunteer work for your interests and talents can provide deep personal satisfaction and a sense of purpose. Work in the family can include care-giving for children or aging relatives. Learning, on your own or by attending courses, “helps keep you interesting,” Hartman said.

In conclusion, finding the type of retirement “work” that’s best for you “is a combination of planning, opportunity and serendipity,” Hartman said. You must reach out inside to reflect on what truly interests you, but you also have to go out and talk to people to help in that discovery.