What's Unretirement?
Un-retirement Tips
Here I go, trying to coin a phrase. Hey, I've done it before! I was instrumental in making "prototype" into a verb, as in "we are doing some prototyping first" -- did that back about 1981. Hmmm .. just checked the online Merriam-Webster and they don't consider it a verb. Oh well, it is in the defense industry. .. whatever ...

M-W also doesn't recognize unretirement -- here are the Retirement-Tips Unabridged Dictionary entries:
- unretire (verb) : the act of going back to work after having retired;
- unretirement (noun) : the situation one finds oneself in after unretiring;

2011 UPDATE: M-W now includes the verb "unretire." They claim it was first used in 1966 ... hmmm

M-W defines retire as: "to withdraw from one's position or occupation; conclude one's working or professional career." In this light, I guess unretiring is to return to one's position or occupation; resume one's working or professional career.
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What Makes This Author an Unretirement Expert?
If experience makes one an expert, then I must be one. I first retired (from the U. S. Post Office) when I was 21 -- took my retirement pay (it wasn't as regimented in 1962 as it is now) and travelled around the country. My first unretirement was in 1963, when I joined the Air Force, so was theoretically back to work.

My second "retirement" was in 1984 -- it's in quotes because I really just quit work for awhile to travel across the country, but my intent was to stay "retired" if I could find neat ways to make extra money and if my wife, Joyce, and I could convince ourselves that we had enough money to not work full-time. We found neat ways, but weren't convinced we had enough, so my second unretirement was in 1984 when I returned to work -- in California instead of Alabama, but still with the same company. It was about this time that I wrote "Retire and Travel for $1000 a Month" -- a scenario that I'm still convinced is realistic if everything is paid off, you're enthused enough about travelling to make a few sacrifices, and you have some good, cheap medical insurance.

My third retirement was in May, 1992 -- the same month as Johnny Carson! For those of you who remember Johnny -- I think he must have had a few more dollars, because he's still retired. This time we really sold everything and were planning to be full-time RVers forever -- forever was about a year. Turns out that we weren't both equally comfortable not having a home base. About 1995, we decided we also weren't comfortable with our financial situation, so my third unretirement was in September 1995.

My fourth (and last?) retirement was in August, 1999. This time I really did it more formally, actually going through retirement procedures and becoming an official retiree. Despite the disastrous drop in the market since then (where else do you put your IRA?), I haven't yet weakened and unretired. I do consulting work and build websites for people, but haven't actually gone back into the workplace anywhere near full-time, so still consider myself retired. I can do these types of work and still enjoy my retirement (travel, sleeping late in the morning, etc.), so this situation seems about the best I can hope for at the moment -- except that I'd sure feel better if the market rallied back near where it was a couple of years ago.
Why Do I Care About Unretirement? I'm Not Even Retired Yet!
Well, you need to care because there are some things you can do before you retire to simplify unretiring, if it becomes necessary. And you're probably thinking "Hey, I'm not going to retire until I'm sure I can stay retired!" -- hohoho, there are multitudes out there who thought that same thing. What first got me thinking about doing this page was a news broadcast that talked about the large number of people who are finding it necessary to go back to work, after losing a bunch in the market drop. Although it's my opinion that most people unretire for financial reasons, there are others -- some get bored! (this I can't imagine -- I've found so many entertaining things to do since retirement that I certainly wouldn't unretire unless it was really, really financially necessary) -- and then there's the article "Seniors `unretire' to ease labor shortage", another concept that I have a hard time with -- are retirees concerned because of the shortage of good workers? Why? Anyway, I don't know how long that link will be good, but one neat piece of info that I picked up from the article is the following:

"Prior to 2000, a working Social Security recipient under age 65 would be penalized $1 in benefits for every $2 earned in wages over $9,600 a year. From age 65 to 69, the penalty decreases to $1 for every $3 earned over a $15,500 a year limit. There is no limit for recipients age 70 and older.

The new legislation eliminates the penalty for everyone older than age 65 and increases the earnings limit to $10,800 a year for those under 65. The law means that an additional 6.9 million recipients of Social Security can now work without limitation."

I'll discuss the implications of this info in my later "Suggestions for Potential Retirees/Unretirees" section.

BOTTOM LINE: If you feel entirely comfortable with your retirement plan and see no possibility that you'll ever unretire, don't bother to read further. However, if you're that comfortable, why are you even perusing this website?
So, you ask, what's the big deal? Unretiring simply involves going back to work, so what's to know?

As it turns out, I've learned there's alot more to it. Firstly, going back to work after retiring isn't as easy as you would think -- as evidenced by the 150 resumes I sent out in 1995, with only two responses. Secondly, you'll find that there are company rules that prevent you from returning to your old career, unless you do a few things right. Thirdly, there are financial considerations -- depending on where you "draw" your retirement income, you'll need to consider the implications of returning to work and you may have to approach it in a specific manner to minimize financial problems. Fourthly, there's the question of when you can "re-retire" -- if you're not careful, you'll find yourself right back in the situation that convinced you to unretire in the first place.

As you might guess, I've got some suggestions in each of these areas. Although I don't have all the answers -- I don't think anyone really does -- I can give you the benefit of my experience and then you can decide what's best for you.

On the first point, there are some things that can be done before retiring to make sure you have avenues for re-employment. Primarily, try to keep your "network" of peers handy -- that is, keep a good record of email addresses and phone numbers of people you work with, for, or against. Against means that you should stay in touch with your competitors, as well as your fellow employees. By the time you get around to unretiring, those who were your former competitors may well turn out to be some of your best employment opportunities. Last year's competitor is often this year's ally, so never discount anyone as a potential job contact. Keeping this network alive as you near retirement, then keeping in touch after retirement, is a great idea even if you never unretire. There are always worthwhile tidbits of information passing around the workplace that may be of value to retirees -- like changes in the insurance options, invites to other's retirement parties, etc. If you ever do decide to return to the workforce, you'll be amazed at how much easier that is if you have people to contact who already know your value and don't need to read a resume to know who you are. As I noted above, even though you might find advertisements that precisely fit your qualifications, that's no guarantee that submitting a resume will get any response.

Regarding the second point about company rules, this is something you can carefully check on while still employed. I was surprised to learn after retirement that I was required to sign a statement that I hadn't discussed re-employment prior to retiring. Although this is a common discussion in generalities around the workplace, I hadn't specifically discussed my returning to the job, so was able to sign the statement in good conscience. I can, however, see where discussions of this type could certainly occur, so it's a good idea to thoroughly examine retirement policies well before taking any action. Another aspect to consider is the way you receive your retirement pay. When I retired, I had the option of taking a lump sum or monthly checks. I opted for the lump sum for personal reasons, but later realized that even consulting for a former employer might be rather difficult if you were drawing a monthly check from the company at the same time. Mainly, the tip is to closely check retirement policies to ensure that you do everything in a manner that leaves you as many future options as possible.

The third point on possible financial considerations primarily refers to being careful about losing Social Security income if you go back to work and earn over $10,800 per year (if you're under 65). I was planning to start drawing as soon as I turned 62, but have determined that I need to wait until I'm earning below that amount or until I turn 65.
I'm also not sure what happens if you start drawing, then decide to unretire. I don't think you can stop the payments with the plan to restart at 65 -- I think that once you start, that's it.

2003 Update: I've learned that if you're consulting and you incorporate your business and have earnings paid to the corporation, you can still draw Social Security at age 62 without penalty as long as you're not the President of the Corporation. The Corporation can pay your medical insurance and business-related expenses, then pay you less than the $900/month limit. Sound like a plan?

There's also the situation of one (like myself) who starts drawing from the IRA before age 59 1/2 using the Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP) option. Once you start drawing, you're obligated to continue with the same draw amount for either 5 years or age 59 1/2, whichever is later. Now, if you're like me and many others, your IRA may have dropped in the recent extended Bear market to a point that you'd like to lower or stop the withdrawal. Well, Good News! A law has just (around October 2002) been passed to offer help to people in this situation. I'm not sure what the new rules are, but they're worth checking into. BOTTOM LINE here is to not start a SEPP withdrawal that your account can't handle for 5 years or to age 59 1/2. If you unretire and no longer need the IRA money, you may be forced to continue it anyway.

The fourth concern that I noted above is determining when you can re-retire. I assume that most people retire because they want to get away from the stress and the regimented atmosphere generally associated with full-time employment. They're looking forward to the freedom of retirement, where a person is able to choose what they want to do, where they want to do it, and when they do it. When a person unretires, they hopefully can put themselves into a situation where they have more flexibility on hours and assignments than they did prior to retirement. If they find themselves back in the same stressful situation, with fixed hours and little flexibility on time off, and no plan for returning to the retired world they originally strived for, it can be very frustrating. Although I have unretired three times, I always had a plan on when and how to re-retire. I feel that having this plan is the main method for being able to handle the stresses and challenges of unretirement. In my case, the plan was generally in terms of my age and the amount of money needed -- with the plan being to reach the amount at the same time the age is reached. The plan might be thought of in terms of when specific work goals are achieved (e.g., a particular position), when off-spring are on their own, or other factors that can be planned for a defined period. Whatever the factors, I think it's important to have a re-retirement plan instead of just leaving it to the fates on when the layoffs occur, when the contract is terminated, or some other situation over which you have no control causes employment termination. Of course, if you're financially prepared for re-retirement, it's sometimes advantageous to actually wait for one of these situations to occur, since the financial implications under layoff, early retirement, or other non-voluntary termination can be quite attractive. BOTTOM LINE: Have a plan that keeps you in control of your fate and gets you into the best financial situation possible, rather than just leaving your future to chance.
Unretirement Doesn't Just Mean Going Back to Work
Suggestions for Potential Retirees/Unretirees
My suggestions here are simply going to be a re-iteration of tips I've provided elsewhere.

Retirement tips is, of course, what this website is all about. Jump back to the home page and you'll find tips on travelling while retired, getting online while travelling, how much you need to retire, handling your investments while travelling, retiring early, retiring cheaply, and links to many other sites on the same topics.

Unretirement tips is what this page is all about. If you've completed the surveys above, I'll be in touch to let you know what other site-visitors have said about retiring, unretiring, and re-retiring. In general, suggestions for unretiring are all in the previous section, namely:

·Maintain a network of peers
·Familiarize yourself with company retirement policies
·Keep your future options open
·Consider the possibility of future unretirement
·Consider future implications of financial decisions
·If you unretire, devise a plan for re-retirement
Links to Other Related Websites
In order to get this page published, I'm going to do so with just a minimum of links provided here. As time goes on, I'll add more that I or my site-visitors encounter. Click on any of the graphics below to visit related sites.
That being said, I'd like you to take a survey with some questions about your retirement plans, money, unretirement, and other related topics. While you're there, you can also check out the results to date if you're interested. Please click here to go to the survey, then come back later to read more about unretirement.
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