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What you achieve the freedom to retire, but find that you’re allergic to retirement living? What if life in retirement just isn’t for you? In this episode of our podcast about retirement and career switches, Joe talks with Nicole Maestas, Ph.D., an economist at Harvard Medical School, about the interesting trend of unretiring, the notable benefits of working longer and what women need to think about in planning for retirement. Her research is showing that a sizable number of people are retiring – from retirement – and returning to work within the first five years. And in many cases, it’s not financially driven. It’s about the intangible things we get from work beyond a paycheck – and miss when they’re gone. Retirement living isn’t for everyone. There are ways you can reinvent yourself, including unretiring, perhaps even to rejoin your last employer ina new way.
Nicole Maestas, Ph.D., is an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. Her research studies how the health and disability insurance systems affect individual economic behaviors, such as labor supply and the consumption of medical care.
Dr. Maestas’ research in disability economics has shown how the federal disability insurance system discourages employment by people with disabilities. Applying a causal research design to newly developed administrative data, her work showed that the work capacity of disability insurance beneficiaries with less severe disabilities is substantial. Furthermore, individuals lose additional work capacity the longer they stay out of the labor force pursuing a disability determination.
Her work on the economics of aging has demonstrated significant shifts in labor supply patterns at older ages. She showed that one-half of all retirees pursue a retirement transition path that involves partial retirement or labor force re-entry (“unretirement”) and that re-entry was largely predictable ex ante, and not a consequence of economic shocks. She has also argued that labor supply at older ages is likely to increase still further, even absent policy changes to promote employment at older ages, due to increased labor demand for older workers. Indeed, her work shows that the rise in employment at older ages was driven in substantial part by an increase in labor demand by firms in the professional services industries. In current work, she is examining how these labor force trends, and population aging more generally, affect economic growth.
Dr. Maestas has testified before Congress about her research on two occasions, once before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, and once before the Senate Finance Committee. She recently completed service on a national disability policy panel convened by the Social Security Advisory Board.
Dr. Maestas graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College. She received her MPP in public policy UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in economics also from UC Berkeley. Prior to joining Harvard, Dr. Maestas was a senior economist at RAND.
“…This is exactly why I started looking into this question of what is unretirement? Is this a response to bad financial problems? It really just is not that for most people. It is about being able to achieve something they want, maybe they’re not ready to stop working and there’s even a variety of research that suggests there can be health benefits to working longer if you’re in the right kind of position, but things that people talk about here are the benefits of social engagement, even the benefits of physical activity. There have been benefits associated with the mental activity of jobs and some people find that a job, you have a way to exercise the creativity, to express themselves creatively at work by solving problems and helping people. Then I’d say another thing that you really can’t underestimate is that a lot of us derive meaning and sense of purpose from our work and these non-financial aspects really can’t be underestimated.”
“Sometimes, for some people, I think unretirement allows you to find a job that better meets the working conditions you’re looking for at this particular time in your life. Maybe you can achieve the hours you want, or you’re out of a very fast-paced environment, or maybe you actually want that. It gives you a chance to reconfigure your working life and I would say too that for some people, employers won’t allow them to slowly reduce their hours over time, this idea of phased retirement, and in that case, unretirement is … it kind of results from having to stop working for your current employer and either go back to work for them or somebody else in a different capacity. It almost becomes a do-it-yourself phased retirement. Yes, it is actually a way to achieve a phased retirement without doing it through the same employer. I think for a lot of people, that do-it-yourself aspect lets you even kind of reinvent yourself. Some people will say that the thing they do after they retire is the thing they always wanted to do or the thing that really, really drives their interest now. But people work longer in a lot of different ways, it’s not just about having to stop and then restart something else, many people, in fact, will volunteer as a way to get some of the benefits of being in a workplace without actually working.”
Follow Nicole Maestas
You can keep up with Nicole’s work by following her on Twitter @NicoleMaestas2
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