Next Avenue Logo

The 5 Types of People Who Never Retire

Does one of them sound like it could be you?

By Marla Walters

(This article previously appeared on
"I actually think the whole concept of retirement is a bit stupid, so yes, I do want to do something else. There is this strange thing that just because chronologically on a Friday night you have reached a certain age… with all that experience, how can it be that on a Monday morning, you are useless?" — Stuart Rose, former executive chairman of the British retailer Marks & Spencer

What springs to mind when you think about retirement? I wistfully think about sleeping in and not using a time clock (which I despise). But for other people, the word "retirement" causes shudders. (See “Will You Ever Be Able to Retire?”)

Consider these five categories of people who will never retire. Are you among them?

1. The Broke Non-Retiree

Personally, I find this the most unsettling scenario. Whether due to poor financial planning or heavier-than-anticipated financial needs, more and more older workers continue to find themselves in the labor pool. According to the Center for Public Affairs Research, a 2013 survey of people 50 and older revealed that a startling 47 percent now plan to retire at a later age they expected when they were 40. The survey also found that 39 percent of workers age 50 and older report having $100,000 or less saved for retirement, not including pensions or homes; 24 percent have less than 10,000.

(MORE: 'Free Time' In Retirement Is a Myth)

Maybe it's time to take stock of your financial future by estimating your retirement expenses.

2. The Workaholic

There is a difference between the person who enjoys work and does so with enthusiasm and the person whose life is out of balance and cannot stop working. Perhaps you have run across some of the latter in your work, too. As The Wall Street Journal explains, workaholics have difficulty transitioning from work to retirement life, because so much of their identity, social network, and purpose is tied to their career. They can feel adrift in retirement without the structure work provides.

(MORE: When Type As Retire, It Isn't Pretty)

When working is almost an addiction, it can be devastating to face retirement. One of my former co-workers springs to mind. Although qualified to retire for years, she fought it tooth and nail, taking work home and working weekends. Even when finally convinced by management that it was time for her to step down, she would find excuses to drop by the office or call people to have lunch.

If you recognize yourself in this description, there is help available. Consider support groups, such as Workaholics Anonymous, which aim to help workaholics develop coping skills and the ability to relax during downtime.

3. The Successful Investor

You may know some people in this category. They bought rental real estate, years ago, and now are landlords. Or perhaps they bought silver or gold, or learned how to effectively invest in the stock market. There is a common thread here: They got moving, educated themselves, and by their 50s, were enjoying a leisurely lifestyle.

But that doesn't mean they want to (or can) stop. Many keep at it, repairing their rentals, or checking their investments every day. They've made being a successful investor their life's work and feel no need to "retire" from it.

4. The Life Re-Inventor


Starting a new career later in life can be an invigorating way to reinvent yourself.

My friend Nancy, a former school art teacher, began working with the mentally ill, eventually started teaching classes, and is now co-authoring a book about art therapy. She finds it tremendously rewarding and has learned a lot of new things. Her husband, an engineer, always wanted to be a teacher, so he started volunteering at a school. He was so successful at tutoring, he was shortly offered a paying position.

(MORE: Secrets of Successful Retirees)

For my friends, the career switch was fairly easy. However, you certainly wouldn't want to quit your present job and jump into something new without doing some research and soul-searching.

Will your new career help fulfill life ambitions? Will it offer a large enough paycheck to make the switch and time investment worthwhile? (See: “6 Ways to Avoid Running Out of Money in Retirement”)

5. The Mega-Successful Lifer

Consider the lives of the truly, astoundingly successful. For mega-successful CEOs or famous actors, the demand for their talents is so high, there's less incentive for them to quit working.

According to a study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, the desire to keep working until the last day is common to over 60 percnt of the wealthy. But you don't have to be filthy rich or famous for this to be true of you, too.

Evidence also suggests that many people who are successful in more realistic endeavors — such as artists, small business owners or physicians — also feel the incentive to continue using their talents until the very last day. Will you?

Marla Walters writes for Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison resource.

Marla Walters Read More
Next Avenue LogoMeeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media
©2023 Next AvenuePrivacy PolicyTerms of Use
A nonprofit journalism website produced by:
TPT Logo