Years ago, it seemed that retirement meant stopping work – employment – and hopefully taking the time to travel or do other things one could not enjoy while working full time. Enjoying retirement meant that one had to have enough income – through Social Security, pensions or 401(k)plans, annuities and other investments – to fund that retirement. With a big government pension, or less likely these days, a private pension, one would presumably have confidence in being able to enjoy retirement and engage in their desired pastimes.
However, changes in our lives have made that form of retirement unreachable for many. Among those changes are longer life spans, increased costs of health care, disappearance of good private sector pensions for most, higher taxes, and a poorer overall economy. Many of us who wanted an early retirement have found it difficult to retire with confidence or perhaps regret we retired when we did. Many will work longer and a surprisingly large number of us plan to do so well into what used to be considered the retirement years after age 65.
Full time jobs are available for some of us in our sixties while others, due to downsizing, buyouts, health issues and more have lost the full time jobs previously worked. In this case, the need for continued income has translated into low-paying full time jobs where possible or part-time work. It seems clear that even a low-paying full-time position means one is not retired, even if that job is nothing like jobs held during the prime working years. However, when does a part-time job mean one is considered to be working or retired despite the job?
The Social Security Administration has one answer. They consider someone working over 45 hours in a month to still be working and not retired. That works out to about 25% of the standard working hours in a month so it is not a high bar to meet. On the other end of the equation, someone working under 15 hours in a month is considered to be retired. It is those who fall between that pose an interesting question as to retired status. SSA states that if the work requires special skills, then the worker likely is not retired. This suggests that the person with a part-time service job is retired when working less than eleven hours a week. What do you think?