Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

For Some, Retirement Offers New Work Options

By JULIE ASHER, CNS | Published May 27, 2004

Bill Reed of Westbury, N.Y., sees retirement as a new chapter in life, not a final chapter.

After 23 years of working in human resources for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the last several of those years as vice president of employee relations, Reed, who at the time was in his late 50s, took early retirement from the company in October 2003 when his position along with several others was being eliminated.

But he knew he didn’t want to stop working so he saw it as an opportunity to start his own business—as a career management consultant helping others with their own career transitions.

“I wanted to use the skills and competencies that I had and to keep my mind going and to keep being able to meet and socialize with people and learn new things,” said Reed.

With average life expectancy increasing well into the late 70s or early 80s, “you’re talking about a pretty good chunk of time that you really need to be able to manage” after retirement, Reed said.

He noted that those retiring have “gaps you have to fill” in time, socialization and mind. “You want to keep your mind going and occupied and learning new things because we’re still able to do that,” he said. “We still have a lot to contribute.”

For many, another significant gap is finances, he noted. Many older workers say they need to keep working to supplement their pensions and also to get affordable health-care coverage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by the end of the decade, workers 55 and older will comprise 20 percent of the workforce, compared to 13 percent in 2000.

According to a 2002 AARP study on the perspectives and needs of workers ages 45-74, many workers over the age of 45 want to keep working past the traditional retirement age.

“But they often want to finish their careers in different roles and on different terms. Some want to work part time or start their own businesses,” according to the study. “Many like the appeal of bridge jobs that sustain them, offer new experiences and provide work-life flexibility.”

A “bridge job” is employment between the end of one’s full-time work and the beginning of full-time retirement.

Reed said he knew he didn’t want another full-time job after leaving J.P. Morgan Chase, and wanted more control over how much he was going to work, especially as he gets older.

But he also knew exactly what he wanted to do with his new-found freedom from the 9-to-5 grind. He had been thinking about starting a career management consulting business for a while, and he suggested that people who want to work after retirement should think about what they want to do and where they want to do it.

“Don’t jump before you know what work you want in retirement,” agreed Sara Rix, a senior policy adviser at AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. People are more successful making the transition to a job after retirement if beforehand they plan what kind of job they want and even determine what kind of skills they are going to need.

Once out of the workforce, people’s skills can become obsolete fairly quickly, Rix noted. She added that age discrimination in the workforce is real, and trying to get back into the workforce at an older age “after being out of it for a while is tough.”

Before he left J.P. Morgan Chase, Reed went back to school to work on a certificate in career management. Returning to the classroom also provided a chance to network, which Reed said is key to finding a job after retirement.

“It is networking, networking, networking,” he said. “Start with people you know and target what you want to do and where you can get the information” for the job you want to do.

“It’s not a time to be shy. Let people know where you’ve been, what you are pretty good at. Let family know, colleagues where you used to work, vendors you’ve done business with. Let people in your parish know,” added Reed, who with his wife, Donna, is a member of St. Brigid Church in Westbury.

“Let your barber know, your auto mechanic know—let everybody know. As you get deeper down into the networking, you find the hidden job market,” he said.

What people who are 50 and older bring to the workplace “is experience,” Reed said. “They have a great work ethic, they have team-building skills, they are experienced as work project managers,” he added. “They have a lot of good stuff to bring to the table.”