Getting older, working on

According to the Census of 2013, we know that 40 per cent of people age 65 to 69 are in paid work.

But the thing we don’t know is how many work because they want to and how many because they have to. Maybe someone has researched this, but if so, I have never seen it.

I know there are a lot of people who work because they want to. It may be paid employment, but it is really a kind of play. In fact, I for one never plan to stop work because I enjoy what I do, cannot imagine life without work and will keep doing it for as long as I am able.

Thinking about working in retirement forces you to consider what is work and what is play. Work can give meaning and structure to your days as well as social interaction and for many, gives enjoyment and satisfaction. If you can choose the right thing and do the right hours, work does become play.

At first glance, working in retirement sounds like an oxymoron. Retirement is supposedly about stopping work and shunning employment completely. However, that is no longer the case for many people. Whether it is real work or play work, 40 per cent of people are in paid employment.

Work in retirement is often not the same work that you have done for most of your life. A change is as good as a holiday and some kind of work that is different may feel like play.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend in his mid-sixties. This friend told me of a question that he had been asked by similarly aged mates: what trades can you do without having a qualification?

The question concerned being able to do some different work in retirement. None of these people wanted to spend years getting an electrician’s ticket or becoming a plumber – instead they were looking for something they could quite quickly get into which would not be too onerous. Easily supplementing NZ Super was the name of this game (as well as company to fill their days).

It turned out there was a fairly long list: locksmith, tiler, painter, gib-stopper – they came up with about a dozen things that did not require too much training.

The discussion then turned to which particular trade each would go into. This turned out to be mostly about what they had done before, especially what DIY they had enjoyed over their lives. An interest and good experiences were big attractions, as there had to be an element of play.

Most people want to retire and the retirement that most have in mind does not involve work. Nevertheless, some paid employment after age 65 should be considered as long as work does not detract from lifestyle. In reality, the social side of work as well as the extra income often enhance lifestyle.

Martin Hawes is the Chair of the Summer KiwiSaver Investment Committee. He is an Authorised Financial Adviser and a disclosure statement is available on request and free of charge, or can be found at

Receive regular financial updates from Martin

Sign Up