Recently I’ve run across a slew of people who are over 70 years old and still work full time. To me that sounds worse than Chinese water torture, but by
being nosy asking questions, I’ve confirmed what I suspected was true. Working because you want to is much more rewarding than working because you have to. I think work satisfaction depends on a number of factors, but from what I’ve found, this is how you can love your job to age 70 and beyond.
Sense of Purpose
When I ask people over 70 why they are still working, one theme rang true for the ones who actually love their jobs. They held positions that gave them a sense of purpose. Some were heads of their division and headed up projects that no one else knew how to do. A couple of others were in health care. If a job provides a valuable service or makes progress for something other than the company bottom line, that’s a huge bonus on the job satisfaction scale.
Flexible Schedule or Lots of Time Off
All the older individuals who loved their jobs had the ability to adjust their schedules or work from home. They all had ample amounts of time off as well. One 75 year old, who works full time as a surgical nurse, told me she likes to take long, expensive trips so working full time allows her to afford that without sacrificing normal retirement savings.
Not Living Paycheck to Paycheck
I’m not sure anyone can love their job while living paycheck to paycheck. All the energy goes into paying bills, and there is really no option other than to continue working. Once people have adequate savings and are out of debt, more choices present themselves.
The couple who live next door to me both work full time, but I know they have no debt and plenty of savings. I tease them all the time about needing to retire, but I know they both secretly enjoy their jobs. Financially speaking, they could certainly quit tomorrow if they wanted.
On the other end of the spectrum, I know a fellow who works for the city as a janitor on a senior job placement program that pays minimum wage. He had to take the job because he can’t get by on social security alone. He hates his job but truly can’t afford to quit. I can’t imagine being that age and still having to hustle for a paycheck. It makes me want to transfer some money into retirement as we speak.
Obviously positive people like things more than negative people, but attitude goes a long way in job satisfaction. Going back to my neighbors, I love to listen to their life stories. They have reinvented themselves probably a half dozen times and have done everything from sales to HR to owning a restaurant. I think they realize that no job is perfect or forever, but they have learned to take the good and move on to other opportunities when one thing ends or becomes stagnant.
Another lady I work with at the government clinic went back to work after her husband passed away. She was sad and bored and decided to put her energy into something positive instead of feeling sorry for herself. She also volunteers for hospice, which would normally seem like a very depressing job, but her attitude and personality are just what you’d hope for if you had a family member in that situation.
I think positive people can look at a job and think about how lucky they are to be able to work and earn money while keeping their mind occupied. Negative people can’t let little things go, and they obsess over that one annoying thing so much that they can’t appreciate what they do have or think of ways to make it better.
I was kind of shocked to read a statistic that senior citizens 65 years or older account for $18 billion of the student loan debt in the U.S. While that’s not a huge percentage of the overall student debt in the country, it is a factor. Student loan debt can never be discharged through bankruptcy, and the government will garner social security wages if you default on federal loans. The article did say that 80% of loans were for personal use, but 20% comes from parents borrowing money to send their kids to college. How sad would I be if my parents could not retire because they were paying off my education costs? They’d probably hate their jobs.
The other very depressing thing I found was that nearly a third of seniors still have a mortgage. With low interest rates, I understand that might be OK if there are passive income streams that cover the payments while allowing savings to grow through other investments, but I suspect lots of seniors have to keep the paychecks coming to make their house payment. Working with the fear of losing a home to foreclosure would not make me feel lots of love for my job.
The people I know who love their jobs into their 70’s have no debt, mortgage or otherwise. Ironically, not having to pay bills makes a paycheck that much sweeter. People in their 30’s, 40’s and beyond really should think long and hard about taking on debt and how they plan on paying it back. Even if the payment seems manageable now, how would it be at age 70?
Thing like using a home equity line of credit to take vacations or refinancing into a longer mortgage term to pay for your daughter’s wedding might mean not being able to retire. We only have ten years left on our mortgage if we pay the minimum payment, and I would never,ever take out a 30 year loan at this stage in my life.
Secrets Of Loving Your Job
It seems that loving a job mostly comes from our own attitudes and personal behaviors. While you can search for a position that give you a sense of purpose and lots of time off, a career alone does not guarantee good financial habits or debt freedom. Spending hard earned money in ways that will be a benefit instead of penalize down the road is the only way you can achieve those goals. It’s really hard to think about retirement when you’re 25 and wanting a new car or an updated spring wardrobe, but every choice made today affects future happiness. If you don’t believe me, ask a 70 year old!
Do you know people who are over 70 and still work full time? Do you know senior citizens who still owe student loans?
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