Gary Wordlaw failed at retirement. His attempted retirement didn't even last a year.
"It probably lasted about six or seven months," says Wordlaw, 66, whose career as a TV reporter, news director and station manager took him to cities across the country before his short retirement. "It didn't take me that long to realize I'd made a big mistake."
Today, Wordlaw is a news director at WVLA-TV and content editor for Nexstar Media Group in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he has no plans to retire again.
It's not uncommon these days for baby boomers to continue to work well into their 60s, 70s or even 80s. Some decide to continue working because they need the money. Others love what they do and can't imagine not doing it anymore. Or, they just need to stay busy. With continued improvements in health care and life expectancy in the U.S. steadily increasing, people can spend as long in retirement as they spent working.
That's not to say there aren't millions of baby boomers who can't wait to retire, especially those with physically or emotionally stressful professions. But increasingly, older Americans are choosing to stay in their jobs or find new challenges that will keep them engaged.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1977 and 2007, the employment of workers age 65 and older rose by 101 percent. The number of employed men 65 and older increased 75 percent, but employment of women 65 and older climbed by nearly twice as much, increasing to 147 percent. Though the number of employed people age 76 and older is relatively small, this group increased by 172 percent.
Sandra McPeak, managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors, says 50 percent of retirees follow a nontraditional retirement, and 26 percent "un-retire," according to 2010 research from Harvard University. Of her clients, a third are still working and two-thirds are not working, compared to 20 years ago when only 5 to 10 percent were not retired.