Whether you have to keep on working after retirement, or you choose to, there are real payoffs for doing so – and they aren’t all financial.

Working has a positive impact on your life, studies show, from keeping you in shape physically to offering mental stimulation. Being engaged in work also counters the social isolation that can be so detrimental to the good health of older adults.

By all means, stay on the job if you have no idea what you’ll do when you leave it. Take the time to figure out a plan. We all need purpose in life, and that may be hard to find watching television or taking in the occasional golf game. A 2009 study from the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed that folks who work after retirement – full-time or part-time – are generally healthier and happier than those who are fully retired. 

You'll Prolong Your Savings Years

Consider the financial benefits that accrue when we keep on working past retirement. Staying on the job if you don’t have enough savings, or are concerned that you might outlive your money can be a good strategy, experts advise. Working allows your savings to continue growing while you still reap the benefits of a paycheck.

Other reasons to keep working after retirement include extended employer benefits, especially health insurance. Your company might also continue to contribute to your 401(k) and life insurance.

Your Social Security benefit is also a factor. You will be paid nearly 8% more for each year you delay your claim past full retirement age (66, or 67 for those born in 1960 or later) until age 70. If you’re healthy and willing to work, why not claim more later? (For more, see Want to Retire Early? Think Again.) If you have a pension, working a few more years may also be worthwhile, since pensions are calculated based on pay and years of service.

Some couples may want to coordinate their retirements – say, to avoid the scenario of one frustrated spouse sitting home alone surfing travel websites while the other heads to the office each morning. In that case, the older spouse can keep working a few extra years until the other hits retirement age. 

It Doesn't Have to Be the Same Work

So what are the best job ideas for retirees who don’t want to retire?

1. If you simply love your job and your skills are appreciated, then keep on doing it. If you stay in the same field, reducing the number of hours or switching to part-time instead of full-time may be possible.

2. Work as a consultant in your field, especially if your skill set is in demand. You have years of experience, not to mention connections, and a company might pay better wages for a consultant who provides a needed service without the burden of a benefits package. Because this kind of work is sporadic, expand your contacts with an eye to further placements in the future.

3. Take your skills to nonprofits or startups, to mentor others. If you have small business or journalism background, for instance, you might help set up a community newspaper. If you’ve done marketing, a nonprofit could use your expertise to get the word out; someone with an education background could offer services teaching, tutoring or working in daycare centers.

4. Consider a small retail business, especially if you have collections – books, antiques, model airplanes. Advertising can now be done online, at little or no cost and sales made via eBay or Craigslist. You can splurge once or twice a year by renting a booth at a fair or flea market.

5. Working part-time may appeal to you, with a view to less stress and responsibility. You might consider retail, call centers, tutoring, even babysitting. Some part-time jobs will have perks that might make up for the low salary. For instance, working in a theater gives you a chance to be on hand for the show or get free tickets, while many restaurants give their workers free meals before their shifts.

6. Learn new skills that will train you for another career. Through the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), retraining and job opportunities are available for folks who don’t work or can’t find work, providing they’re 55 and older. The program helps subsidize part-time employment and training in community service positions so that older workers can move to unsubsidized, private sector jobs. 

7. Take a page from any artist’s playbook and stay engaged. Artists, writers, singers continue to work well beyond the traditional retirement years, usually because they love the work. And they love the work because they own it, writes Fred Vettese, coauthor of “The Real Retirement: Why You Could Be Better Off Than You Think, and How to Make That Happen.” Being in control, especially if you see your work life as an expression of your creativity, ensures a longer, more productive experience. 

(For more post-retirement job ideas, see 10 Money-Making Jobs for Retirees.)

The Bottom Line

Whether you have to continue working into the traditional retirement years, or you choose to, there are many payoffs – from the social and health benefits of staying actively engaged to the financial rewards from accruing more savings. Finding the right work for those post-retirement years is challenging but rewarding. Consider staying on the job, consulting, mentoring, retraining or opening a small business.