Working Into Retirement
Retiring…and Keeping Your Day Job
When we think of a “retirement community,” we tend to picture seniors at leisure, playing games and polishing their golf clubs. But that picture can be quickly shattered by a number of well-dressed CEO-types striding purposefully out the front door of Beaumont at Bryn Mawr. They’re
setting off for work. For these Beaumont residents, keeping their day job into retirement is a choice. As a 2011 AARP study suggests, 31 percent of people turning 65 are still working full or part time, many simply to remain engaged. A Wells Fargo study goes a step further in saying that fully 74 percent of new retirees expect to continue working in some capacity beyond retirement.
Beaumont is a 5-star Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in the heart of the Main Line, the purview of the highly educated, accomplished and successful. No surprise then that Beaumont has its share of MDs, PhDs, CEOs, senators, and so on. These folks don’t keep their day jobs out of economic necessity. “Why would I give up my career and sit around, just because I moved to a retirement community?” asks Paul Mecray as he pats his briefcase full of nightly reading. Paul is managing director of a financial advisory firm, a leisurely 10-minute drive away. “I have spent my entire career analyzing the oil and gas industry… I am passionate about understanding things like productive capabilities of specific oilfields and the geo-politics of OPEC countries. It’s my hobby and my work wrapped into one.”
Heading off to work, Evelyn Rosen, PhD briskly walks out the door. Dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, she is an
energetic full-time professor of English at a local college. “I really resisted moving to Beaumont three years ago for fear of losing my independence,” she says. “But I actually feel more independent. Instead of the daily grind of working, shopping, cooking and cleaning, I have time to do the things I love. Everything is taken care of for me…great food, superb facilities and a wonderful staff. Sometimes I feel like I’m on vacation,” she adds with a smile.So what’s going on at Beaumont? A 2009 study by ASHA (American Senior Housing Association) found that the average age of new residents of CCRCs was 81. That’s certainly older and more “retired” than these vibrant professionals.
As James Zug, another working resident, puts it, “We moved to Beaumont at the perfect time… while we were fully able to manage the move mentally and physically.” Jim retired from a ‘Big-4’ accounting firm when he was 60, moved to Beaumont at 72, and is fully engrossed in his encore career: angel investing in tech and pharma start-ups and serving on the boards of four major public companies.That’s more than a full day’s work; yet Jim says brightly, “Life is so much simpler now. And my wife and I didn’t lose anything…like control over our lives. Beaumont is resident- owned and resident-run, so you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want to be in decisions that affect you and the community.”
Margit Novack, expert on senior relocation and moving, echoes Jim’s sentiment. “The main reasons seniors wait too long to make the move are that they can’t let go of their “stuff” – the big house, the antiques, the mementoes – and they fear a loss of control. But doing nothing until age or events overtake you…that is a loss of control.”
Jim introduces Adolf (“Dolf”) Paier, who has a twinkle in his eye and a handshake that demands respect. Dolf has been a resident for a little over two years, “an escapee from the hassles of maintaining my old house,” he said. Dolf also started his career at a ‘Big-4’ accounting firm, but followed his entrepreneurial bent as President/COO of a large technology and healthcare incubator, CEO of an early stage medical software company, and now board member of a number of public companies. As a “side job”, he is chair of Beaumont’s finance committee “proud of our positive balance sheet” and board member and treasurer of a local arts university.“I like going to my office and interacting with other professionals… I call it being externally engaged while internally taken care of,” said Dolf. When asked what prompted his move to Beaumont, he smiles and says, “My wife. She was a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner and insisted we move to a CCRC with a Nurse Practitioner on staff. For me, it’s Beaumont’s location, its non-institutional character and the fact that it is owned and run by residents.”
Granted, these “retired” professionals provide only a snapshot, but they exude energy worth bottling. They turn the old notions of retirement living upside down. As 7,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day and represent the leading edge of a senior population swell, will a working retirement become the new normal?
Mr. Paier’s words “externally engaged…internally taken care of ” perhaps sum it up best. Words to live by, regardless of age.