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'Stay-tirement' instead of retirement

An elderly carpenter works at his workshop in Havana, Cuba, on April 17, 2012.

We all know the American retirement dream -- after 30 years, you collect your gold watch, sell your home, and move -- preferably somewhere sunny. That’s what Ben Huggins did in this 1961 promotion for a new retirement community: Sun City, Ariz.

Ben Huggins: I finally made it. No more hurry. No more pressure. From now, on I’m going to enjoy myself.

The retire-and-move lifestyle emerged after World War II. Middle-class Americans had enough financial independence to retire to the Sunbelt. Men like Ben Huggins and their wives played golf in the morning and enjoyed cocktails at night.

Huggins: An active new way of life. Golf course. Activity center. It’s like a resort!

Well, for most of us, those days are over. Gold watch? Forget it. Retirement savings? Slim to none. These days, most people aren’t even planning to retire. They’ll work until at least 70. And because people are working longer, they’re not moving like they used to. Today retirement’s been replaced by “Stay-tirement.”

But staying put is a savvy choice because it reflects both a desire to work and the need to make money.

Here’s the thing: Jobs come largely from friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Workers spend years building their networks. And those networks are the key to a part-time consulting gig, a job at a local business or a place at a nonprofit organization.

So, come 65, a retirement move from the Twin Cities to Orlando, or Boston for Corpus Cristi, might sound alluring. But it will make that priceless community network suddenly worthless. And without the backstop to retirement that a network represents, the prospect of a long life after 65 looks a lot less comfortable.

Moving used to be a good investment for a retiree to make. But for this new generation of retirees, it’s a bad play.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.
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Some older folks prefer to stay involved in the world of work regardless of being able to retire. My parents 'retired' to Venice, FL in the early 1990's and continued working. My father had retired from IBM (just in time to avoid the mass forced-retirements), and he started a new part-time career of doing tax returns and also creating a very successful newsletter about the RV community. He started the newsletter after he wrote a book about RVing that was also well-received. He wrote it after being unable to find a good intro book. He wrote a letter to a publisher complaining about the quality of their books on the topic, and their response was, "Well, why don't YOU write a book?" So he did. The RV letter became very popular in the southeast region of the US, and was thriving until about 4 years ago when advertisers started pulling their accounts because of the recession. So he closed that down. I guess he's now 'retired,' at the age of 75 and not by choice. My mother made him stop doing tax returns because of the demands of his customers. She thought it was wearing him down.

For myself? I'm 46. I don't anticipate 'retiring.' Times have changed, and the days of working for one company (like IBM) are gone. But really: expecting young people these days to 'create their own jobs as consultants' is unrealistic as well. Instead of a nation of former cubicle dwellers (as we have now), in 20 years we will have a nation of 'consultants,' which is worse, in my opinion.

I am glad for the career I have. I am a welder fabricator specializing in scenic construction for the theme park, retail, and entertainment community. I'm college educated and I work with my hands and get dirty, sweaty and sometimes cranky as a result. But I am employed by a great company with decent benefits. I'm so glad I didn't go to law school :)

Double posted by accident, sorry.

Greg:
You ask:

How are people going to be working until age seventy when nobody is hiring anybody over age forty?

We need to get rid of this idea that jobs are a commodity created by someone for us to use. There are no more jobs. They are all gone, and they are not coming back. If you want a job, you have to make one for yourself. As you point out this is especially true for people over the age of 40 or so. Young people need to anticipate not having access to a traditional job after about the age of 40 and make plans to start their own consultancy by that time. Those of us already over 40 need to stop waiting for someone to create a job for us, and start showing young people how to create our own job. So let’s start figuring it out and sharing what works.

Vic Napier
www.JoblessEconomy.net

Why do commentators keep making the poorly thought out observation that because of the current financial crisis, those who had been planning to retire at fifty-five or sixty are now expecting to work until seventy? These commentators must all be set for life, self-employed, or not paying veryclose attention to the job market. How are people going to be working until age seventy when nobody is hiring anybody over age forty?

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