Reality Check: Making the Transition to Retirement

Many working Americans expect to work, at least to some degree, in retirement. That’s one conclusion from a recent Aegon global survey of working and retired individuals. In that survey, over 70% of current American workers expect to continue working in retirement in some form or fashion. But the survey also found that over 60% of Americans immediately stopped work at retirement. So what gives?

The survey simply points out another harsh truth when it comes to retirement planning: what we say and what we do as Americans are often miles apart. We all acknowledge the need to save for retirement, but surveys show in actual practice saving is not a high priority. So to compensate, we say we’ll simply work longer. But working longer is not entirely in our control, especially if we are employed by somebody else.

The reality is (from survey after survey) that working longer in retirement is not a good plan. Mind you, I agree it’s a great idea. But it’s also a hope. And hope is not a plan.

If there’s any good news in this global survey, it’s that we’re not the only country fooling ourselves about working in retirement. Workers in every country surveyed (in Europe, the United Kingdom and America) had the same expectation: to earn income from work to some degree in retirement. But retirees in every country experienced a different reality; the majority always stopped working right at retirement.

So if you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s now and plan to work in retirement, how does a survey like this impact you? I hope it sparks some planning and action on your part today, especially if you are working now for someone else. While you’re working and earning an income, now is the time to start planning the work you want to do in retirement. And in many cases, that’s going to mean setting up your own shop, so you can control whether you work in retirement or not.

To be really well-prepared to start your own business at retirement, there’s a lot you can do now to help you get ready. Start by committing to lifelong learning. That may mean taking every type of training your employer offers, or it may mean signing up for community college classes. You can figure that technology will be essential to your future business success, so do all you can to stay current on software and techno-gadgets. If you don’t already have one, start building a network of colleagues, contacts, vendors and folks who might be interested in your product or service. If you have the chance, take a class/course from your local Small Business Administration. The SBA’s web site ( is a great place to get started.

Many of us will indeed need to work in retirement, in order to make ends meet. But don’t stop with just hoping you’ll be able to find a job in retirement. Surveys show that’s just a myth. Instead, take control of your retirement and your ability to work in retirement. Plan and take action now so you can enjoy a more secure retirement and thereby maximize your retirement readiness.


About Mike Wilson

Michael L. Wilson, MBA, CFP®, CRC®, is the owner of Integrity Financial Planning. Prior to founding Integrity in 1998, he worked for two years as a faculty member at the College for Financial Planning in Denver, training other financial advisors. Mike has 10 years of experience in the mutual fund industry, having worked with Fidelity Investments and Invesco Mutual Funds. He holds an MBA in Finance from Baylor University. Learn more about his work at
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