Throughout their working lives employees often dream of the day they’ll retire. Some wish for that moment to come as soon as possible, but for others, it may be years after the date they once hoped for.

Yet a handful of people don’t subscribe to that objective at all—they enjoy their work so much they’ll work well past retirement age, even if it’s not a financial necessity.

The thinking may be welcome news to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who said Boomers need to fix an impending ‘retirement crisis’ and help younger generations prepare for their own exit from the labor force.

“It’s no wonder younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z, are so economically anxious,” Fink wrote in the letter to BlackRock investors on March 26.

“They believe my generation—the baby boomers—have focused on their own financial well-being to the detriment of who comes next. And in the case of retirement, they’re right.”

He explained: “The federal government has prioritized maintaining entitlement benefits for people my age (I’m 71) even though it might mean that Social Security will struggle to meet its full obligations when younger workers retire.”

Fink also questioned whether 65 is an appropriate age for people to retire, despite data from the US Census Bureau showing that is the average age for men to leave the workforce while women tended to be 63.

Yet Fortune spoke to several individuals aged 65 and older who are part of a minority who have no intention of stopping work just yet. While their reasons varied from financial to enjoyment, one thing was clear: their purpose was keeping them young.

True independence

The vast majority of people approach retirement without enough money in the bank.

According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2024 Planning and Progress study released in April, Americans think they need just shy of $1.5 million in order to retire comfortably.

However, according to the more than 4,500 people surveyed the majority have just under $90,000 in savings. So who makes up for the $1.4 million deficit?

Financial freedom is high on the list of reasons why 74-year-old Joe Sanchez keeps working his 9-to-5 in sales at a pharmaceutical supply company.

While he doesn’t need the money he earns, the New Jersey-based father-of-two values his independence highly.

Whether it’s continuing to work towards his savings goals or being able to comfortably treat himself when he fancies, the grandfather said individuals have a “responsibility” to look after their own financial welfare.

That’s not to say Sanchez disagrees with social security—he believes people who worked hard throughout their lives have earned the support—but said working “gives me a great deal of freedom.”

On the other side of the country, Libby Wood’s three children never have to worry about how their parents will afford retirement.

The 67-year-old from the Bay Area has led a team of 18 in a seniors relocation and downsizing business for the past four years and says she has no intention of handing over the reins any time soon.

The Stanford graduate previously worked as the vice president of IT for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Fransisco and said: “Social security is headed for disaster. There’s a huge problem coming this way, I’m really happy I’m not reliant on it for my own financial wellbeing. The politicians need to get their act together and figure it out.”

Like Sanchez, 67-year-old Wood was quick to highlight her situation isn’t the blueprint for her generation.

She said: “If I had been building cars in a factory I’m not sure I’d still be working, it really depends. It’s good to be able to retire from what I did and then find something completely different—that keeps your brain alive.

It’s not about the money

Despite the financial boons that continuing to work offers, the main benefit cited by the individuals Fortune spoke to was that working gave them a purpose they were terrified to let go of.

Take New York-based media expert John Goodman as an example.

Formerly a producer and promoter at ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s This Morning, he says he “dreads” the day he has to stop working in PR and media placements.

“I wake up in the morning, I read my 12 papers online, and if I was retired I’d say: ‘What am I going to do after 10am?’” the 75-year-old said.

“I like working, I like interacting with my clients. I don’t play golf, I don’t play tennis. I do my three miles a day to get away from the office—for me I enjoy doing it and dread retirement.”

And while lounging in a sunnier clime after years in the Big Apple may be a dream for some, Goodman said it would “kill him” to spend his days in recreation.

“Florida is God’s waiting room, I have no interest in that at all,” he added.

Meanwhile, Wood laughs at her children—aged in their late 20s to late 30s—who think her determination to keep working is the “dumbest thing.”

“They’re like: ‘You retired! Why don’t you go travel and take it easy?’” Wood said.

“They think I’m kind of crazy but they do like the fact I’m busy and respect that I’m running a business.”

Wood adds that while her work is “very satisfying,” it shows her firsthand that her lifestyle wouldn’t work for everyone.

“It depends on how you’ve aged,” she said. “I’m fine, I’m healthy, I’m fit, I don’t really want to sit in a recliner the rest of my life and watch television. I like to be out there doing things and meeting people, but some of my clients are younger than I am and they’re not capable of doing those kinds of things. It just depends on where you are and how you’re feeling.”

Wood says her home in Marin County is packed with people her age still working, perhaps proving a phenomenon observed by experts who have studied blue zones—areas where people are “unusually” healthy.

The story is the same for 69-year-old Ontario father of five, Allen Kanerva.

The specialist trauma coach, who served for almost a decade in the Canadian Air Force, works 50 hours a week and can’t imagine life without his work.

“I want to set an example for my kids. The value of education, of value, of purpose,” he tells Fortune. “I went to Iraq when my kids were young for 105 days—it’s high risk, but I wanted them to see what contribution looks like.”

“People who continue to work late in life, their thinking is different,” he added. “If you’ve got a big brain—why retire it? How would that have served humanity? If we’re not in service to other people, what are we doing? Why did we get sold on: ‘Amass enough money so you can sit on your ass for 30 years?’”

A retirement revolution thanks to WFH

The world’s aging population has got everyone from healthcare experts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) panicking—whether it’s how to care for more older people, or how to keep the economy ticking over with a diminished labor force.

As the IMF puts it: “The most formidable demographic challenge facing the world is no longer rapid population growth, but population aging … Human capital investment initiatives should focus on sustaining per capita economic growth despite declines in the share of the working-age population.”

However, according to Indeed’s research arm Hiring Lab, in March 2022 3.2% of workers who had retired within the previous year—during the pandemic—had returned to work.

“The unretirement rate may have returned to its pre-pandemic level, yet there is the possibility that it could go even higher,” Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America wrote at the time.

“Further increases in the rate would mean the pool of workers who want a job is higher than many have thought since the pandemic hit.”

And according to Goodman, their reasons to rejoin the workforce are only piling up.

The PR specialist has been working in hybrid and remote roles for the past 20 years, explaining: “Signing up with a virtual company back then changed my life.

“If you are 65+ and you feel like you still need to do something and you are looking for that sense of purpose, this is the time. You can work from home. You don’t have to go to an office, there are companies who—sure, there’s age discrimination—but you’ve got a world of experience which can be extremely helpful.

“If you’re 70 and you want to do something and don’t want to play tennis or whatever, it’s a good time for you because there are opportunities out there and companies who need your experience.”


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