Many benefits in working past retirement age

What if you’re nearing retirement age and can’t stand the thought of leaving the work force? What are your choices?

Kerry Hannon, author of “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills,” is on a mission to help people find good and fulfilling retirement employment.

I invited Hannon, who writes the “Great Jobs for Retirees” column for AARP, to join me recently for an online discussion. I wasn’t surprised that the hour-long chat didn’t give her nearly enough time to answer all the questions that poured in. So Hannon offered to answer some offline.

Question: My spouse is 64 and lost his job last year, unemployment benefits ran out, no prospects on the horizon despite a few interviews. He hoped to delay Social Security until 66 for full benefits. He calculated and the difference if he waits is less than $200 a month, so it seems dumb to wait. But can he change his mind if he later finds a job, or will he be locked in to the lower amount? He had hoped to work until 70 as he is very healthy and has excellent male longevity in his family.

Hannon: I always advise people to delay starting benefits for as long as possible. Your Social Security benefits are increased by 8 percent a year (over the amount at full retirement age) for every year you postpone receiving checks between your full retirement age and age 70. For me, the difference between receiving benefits at 62 and 70 could wind up being about $1,000 a month.

Delaying Social Security paychecks can make a huge difference in your husband’s lifetime, given his family’s longevity. But everyone’s personal situation depends on variables such as health, employment history and personal savings. There’s no set age for starting to collect Social Security benefits that’s right for everyone. There’s no denying, however, that the later you decide to claim (up until age 70), the greater the potential benefits may be. A good place to start your research is on Next Avenue (a website for seniors) at www.nextavenue.org. Search for “Figure Out Early and Late Social Security Payment Benefits,” an article by the Social Security Administration.

And yes, you can start and stop payments, but if your husband changes his mind about the decision to take Social Security, there are some things he needs to know about the rules for doing so. Go to Social Security Security’s website to learn more: www.ssa.gov/retire2/withdrawal.htm.

Question: I’m 55 and have been in sales management my entire career at large consumer product companies. I’ve been searching for a new position but feel I’m being discriminated against because of my age. Are there part-time sales positions where I could utilize my skills but not work 40-plus hours? I don’t want to work retail.

Hannon: I know what you mean about that feeling of someone looking at you and seeing your expiration date. Independent contracting is one solution. Just in the past year, the independent work force has grown to 16.9 million from 16 million, according to research by Herndon, Va.-based MBO Partners. Forty percent of those contractors are 50 and older, and 10 percent are older than 65.

According to Reuters, “Employers are getting more interested in contract workers, and only partly because of a reluctance to make full-time commitments. A survey (last year) by the Society for Human Resources and AARP showed more than 7 in 10 U.S. employers were concerned about the loss of talented older workers and that 30 percent were hiring retirees as consultants or for part-time jobs.”

Check out job boards at business associations and small businesses for postings looking for someone on a flexible basis. There are also a growing number of temporary agencies, such as Flexforce Professionals, Momentum Resources or Experis.

Question: I am over 50 and was laid off last year. Are there really good job-hunting websites for people over 50?

Hannon: Try Workforce50.com, which offers employment and career resources. AARP.org/work has a list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50. RetiredBrains.com and Retirementjobs.com are sites also geared toward over-50 job seekers. RetireeWorkforce.com provides job postings and resume services, plus a database with flexible, seasonal, and full-time positions specifically for more experienced candidates.

Question: Do you think people should retire?

Hannon: It’s great to keep working for lots of reasons: the mental engagement and, for many of us, the income boost. Working for income provides a safety net, and in today’s work environment there are plenty of opportunities for flexible hours and schedules, part-time and seasonal jobs. But often health issues get in the way. The will may be there, but the body doesn’t cooperate.

Singletary: I agree with Hannon. As she also writes in her book, if you’re fortunate to be in good health, you should consider working as part of your retirement plan.

Michelle Singletary: singletarym@washpost.com.

Washington Post Writers Group

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