Unretirement: The lure to return to work

Reuters | September 27, 2023

Responsive image

By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK (Reuters) – When Marc Matsil retired to Connecticut’s bucolic northwest hills two years ago, fly fishing and hiking filled his days.

Today, he fills classrooms instead with his knowledge of climate science, chemistry and biology, passing on his love of nature to high school kids.

The change makes sense given his career in environmental protection, including 15 years running the Natural Resources Group of New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

But this is not exactly the “retirement” he envisioned.

Matsil, 66, is far from alone in tiptoeing back into the workforce. “Unretiring” is what money manager T. Rowe Price calls this trend in a new report. Some 20% of those who consider themselves retired are actually working full-time or part-time, and another 7% are actively seeking employment, the report said.

“With COVID, a lot of people were pushed into retirement, even if they still wanted to work,” said the report’s author Judith Ward, a vice president and thought leadership director at T. Rowe Price.

“Things have opened back up – and some people have realized that not only do they like the financial benefits of working, but the mental stimulation and social benefits as well.”

Many more people retired than expected during the pandemic, but by March 2022 1.5 million retirees had re-entered the workforce, Ward said.

The reasons for doing so are evenly split: The T. Rowe Price survey found that 48% of people said it was for financial reasons, while 45% cited social and emotional benefits.

If you are nearing retirement, or retired and thinking about working again, here are some important things to consider.


Some people take Social Security benefits as soon as possible to stay afloat. But if working longer enables you to delay those checks, the financial benefits are significant.

For example, while collecting Social Security at age 62 will result in permanently slimmer benefits, waiting past your full retirement age will mean an 8% boost each year until age 70. That difference will show up in your monthly check for the rest of your life.

“If you can delay as long as possible, that benefit could be twice what it would be if you take it at 62,” Ward said. “It’s a guaranteed income stream, and it increases with inflation for the rest of your retirement. It’s a big deal.”


As we age, our social circles tend to shrink and loneliness can grow, with a long road ahead. Men who turn 65 can expect to live to 84, while women can reach 87, and lifespans of 90 or longer are very possible, a TIAA Institute study showed.

With 20 or even 30 years still left to go, would you still want to step away from the social connections of the workplace? If you enjoy the office, staying engaged can help you maintain a sense of productivity, achievement and self-worth.

“I have a cousin who is 84 and is still a VP at Chase,” Matsil laughed. “It’s way less about money than about keeping your mind active and enjoying being there.”


This debate is not about either fully working or being fully retired. Many in-between options are possible, especially since working from home has become routine. You can create your own schedule with part-time work, project-based gigs, or consulting – remotely or in person.

“There are ways to step into retirement without having to do a full stop,” Ward said. “The employment landscape has changed – and now you can do it on your own terms.”

As for Matsil, he still gets to enjoy fishing in the local trout streams. But by picking up teaching duties whenever he wants, he gets to participate in both worlds.

“It’s really about fulfillment,” said Matsil, who despite his science background also enjoys introducing his high schoolers to poets like Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and Octavio Paz. “But the financial stuff never hurts.”

(Reporting by Chris Taylor; Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang)


Wait! Before you go...

Always be feeding your money brain. Claim one or all of the FREE offers from some of our partners below.