During retirement: The inevitable job offers

As you blissfully go about your daily retiree routine, you’ll be blindsided by an epiphany: “Gosh, I could do THAT job!”

The realization could be triggered by anything– a clerk’s fumbling efforts at the home-improvement store, a chance encounter with a battle buddy, a news item about an old wingman, or a job posting on a website. The evidence has been there for a while, but now for some reason you’re thinking about a new career.

It may surprise you, even more, to realize that you’re absolutely right— you indeed could do that job, and you could probably find a prospective employer who’d be eager to have you start tomorrow. It seems intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling, it might be fun, and you’d even get paid for it!  Golly, you have to seize this opportunity before it slips away!!

Stop. Take a deep breath and reflect on why you’re suddenly so interested. You’re not just an old warhorse getting excited by the call of the trumpets. Your instincts may be correct but you need to think through the issues.

First, it’s always flattering when your potential is recognized. Is it enough that this intriguing opportunity validates all your years of training and experience?  It’s nice to feel this way, but will paid employment make you happy? Do the salary and benefits outweigh the dissatisfiers? Are you willing to trade your new-found freedom and flexibility for the inevitable disadvantages of returning to the workplace?

Second, do you “need” the job? Even when you’re financially independent there can be a dark suspicion of uncertainty in the back of your mind. Maybe your investments won’t do as well as you expect. Maybe the kid’s college will cost more than you planned or you’ll have to support an aging family member. You and your spouse want to travel someday and the extra money would be nice. Maybe (decades from now) your own long-term care will cost more than you thought. It’s possible that your attraction to the job is a way to resolve lingering financial concerns. However, you don’t want to start working again merely to realize that you don’t really need the money.

Third, is it fair to you and others to take the job? This is a commitment to an employer and co-workers, not just your self-indulgent entertainment. The company had to invest a significant amount of time and effort to attract a candidate who they expect will contribute for years. Consider how you’d feel if you were obligated to the job for at least a year. Would it still be paid entertainment, or would you regret your choice every time the surf came up?

Finally, would you be able to do “just” the job, or would your competitive instincts kick in again? Veterans are motivated achievers who find it difficult to hold back. After a few months on the job, would you start working longer hours and bringing the office home? Would you be pushing for the training and experience to get a promotion, and climbing the career ladder all over again? Is this what you had in mind when you were originally attracted to the job?

If the job still looks like a great opportunity then discuss it with your family and friends and be ready for a long-term commitment.

These last few posts have covered retiree guilt, volunteering, and the inevitable job offers.  They’re all tempting choices that seem to co-exist with retirement. But beware of the conflicts, and don’t create new problems for yourself or your family. When you were working you may have perpetually struggled with work-life balance, and in retirement, you’ll continue to struggle to balance these options. The only new skill you may need to learn is the ability to say “Thank you very much for your generous offer, but I can’t accept.”

Now that you’re aware of the issues, take control of your choices. Avoid drifting from one opportunity to the next. Be alert to how they’ll affect your feelings and give yourself the time to think through the situations. While each opportunity seems as if it may never be repeated, you don’t have to leap on every unsolicited offer. If you feel uncomfortable in your new lifestyle, or if you want to do more volunteering, or if you think you want to work again, then make a plan. Work through your feelings, discuss the situation with your family and friends, and start your own dedicated search. But don’t compromise your work-life balance for the sake of the job experience. You may decide that there are other things you’d rather do with your life, so be ready to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Related articles:
Dealing with “retiree guilt”
Volunteering for charity or neighbors
The transition to a bridge career
Retirement: don’t recreate your old environment

About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
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