Whistling While You Work

As the grocery cashier slid my order across the scanner, bagging items as she went, she also hummed, whistled and sang a few words here and there. When she guided my wine over the scanner, a “check ID” flashed on the screen in front of me. She looked at me as I said, “Yes, I’m old enough, my kids are old enough and one grandchild is old enough.” She chuckled as she responded, “I’ll bet you’re not as old as I am.” So, we traded ages. I don’t know if she had to work as a cashier at age 74 or she wanted to, but she went on to say how she was retired and working!

Lots of people work in retirement for lots of reasons. I know several who retired, but continue working 2 or 3 days a week just for the work, not the money. By working, they stay engaged in the world, both mentally and physically. They feel challenged, maintaining people and technological skills, learning new techniques, sharing ideas and socializing.

While many corporations are still looking for full-time employees, others are beginning to realize older workers come with a depth of experience and wisdom younger workers have yet to accumulate, making their company culture stronger as well as more diverse. Consequently, those companies are more open to the idea of part-time or contract employees. Older workers are valued as much as younger employees.

With Martin and I taking a pen & ink class from my first art teacher, I’m reminded of the retirees who branch out after retirement to try on a new version of an old career or make a hobby into a career. A lifelong artist, Don, took on teaching and then learned a new art form — carving wood spirits. Artists never retire! Don has been teaching for ten years, passing his knowledge along to recent converts to the artist’s way. And, that’s the way it is for those who retire, deliberately deciding to use retirement as a springboard to enter a line of work they always dreamed of doing.

Then, there are those who need the work for the money or even the health insurance. On my last job prior to retirement, a fellow employee worked for the insurance benefit, not the paycheck. Although he was retired and collecting a pension, he wasn’t yet eligible for Medicare. So, he continued working for the insurance, taking his vacation time for trips and cruises.

And, of course, as someone who espouses the need for a sense of purpose in retirement, going to work at a regular job provides just that for some people. Working also provides structure, routine. There are retirees who need exactly that. Years ago I knew a wealthy executive who retired from a manufacturing company. Oh, he had hobbies and golfing, a nice cushy lifestyle. But, it wasn’t enough. He went back to work as a manager of a factory on the nightshift, which made him a much happier guy. That was the work he knew and the work he loved. It gave his life purpose and meaning again as well as structure.

One of the big perks of working in retirement, whether you need the job or not – the pressure is most likely off. What I mean is you don’t have to angst over the performance reviews or the occasional slip-up. Without the pressure, you’re free to enjoy the job making it more likely you’ll end up doing a great job and all will be well.

As I mentioned, I have no idea why the 74-year-old was working. She was a great cashier, whistling as she scanned and bagged items, smiling as she handed customers their receipts along with a “have a nice day”. While working in retirement is not for everyone, for many it’s a necessity, for others it’s the gateway to a sense of purpose, a chance to fulfill a dream or have a connection to community. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, it comes with a paycheck!

Advertisements