What is it about work that can make living without it such a life change? There are plenty of good things about work. One option, when we retire, is to leave behind the bad aspects; such as not having enough time, and specifically keep the good things. A possibility might be a gig or sharing economy job.

[This is a guest post by Melinda Livingstone from IncomeConnection.  IncomeConnection is a website designed to connect your skills with opportunities to earn an income. If you think that only means Airbnb or Uber, you will be surprised to see how many other types of sharing economy jobs are available in Australia]

What are the benefits of working?

The first benefit of working is the ‘positive stress’ of having our week structured and people depending on us. We have deadlines and are expected somewhere at a certain time; essentially providing the services that we are paid for. We are less likely to suffer from relevance deprivation syndrome.

We also get a buzz from achievement, social connection, collaborating with others, contributing our skills, and working together towards a common purpose.

Even the small things of navigating our journey to and from work engages us in our communities and gives a sense of being part of something bigger.

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Even our journey to work gives us a sense of connection to something bigger

And lastly, there is also identity and status associated with our job. Meeting new people and being asked ‘what do you do?’ can be uncomfortable for some retirees.

For more on this, refer to Barry LaValley’s very helpful resources.

Dr Martin Seligman, author of ‘Authentic Happiness’, identified five things as being important to happiness. These are positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. For many of us, work has either intentionally or unintentionally gone a good way towards meeting these needs for most of our lives.

So how do we bring ‘positive work’ into retirement? Here are three options:

  1. Continue in our career, but on a part-time, casual or consulting basis

If you enjoy your work, this option is a great one because it supports a smooth transition into retirement. Hats off to those who can pull it off. We all know people who do. But, for as many who can, there are more who want to and can’t. It is much easier to negotiate going part-time with your current employer than picking up part-time work on the open market where you are competing against part-time working parents.

For some occupations such as law, nursing and teaching, the choice to keep working  is more likely to be yours . In other occupations, it is rare to see someone aged over 50. Given careers can come to an end due to an employer’s choice, it is good to have other strategies in your back pocket.

  1. Volunteering

Volunteering can tick the ‘positive work’ box and be incredibly satisfying.

One of my friends was a teacher and a high school principal before he retired and each year helps a school in rural Asia with teacher training and governance. He feels that helping this school as a volunteer has been the most rewarding highlight of his entire teaching career.

After a career in a very different industry, another friend fulfils a life-long interest in gems by serving on a not-for-profit board and teaching students.

For me, my volunteering is with refugees and in advocacy for children with disability. Although my corporate career was enjoyable and engaging, volunteering is that too, plus meets purpose goals for me.

Volunteering is a great way meet our achievement, teamwork, purpose and positive stress needs. So many organisations appreciate our skills that we have honed over the years.

If you miss the status and identity that your career provided, many charities, sports and community groups have consultancy, high profile and leadership roles such as boards and advisory councils.

Having said that, I appreciate that volunteering doesn’t suit everyone in retirement. In Australia the highest rate of adult volunteering is actually by people aged between 35 and 44.

  1. Flexible opportunities in the on-demand sharing economy     

Expanding our options is the on-demand sharing economy. The new part is the ‘on-demand’ technology that makes it easier to pick up work, when and where we want to. Also new is that people are willing to pay us for activities and assets that previously did not have a monetary value.

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The sharing economy enables us to turn a hobby into an income stream

Companies in the ‘sharing economy’ space are increasingly targeting older people. Whilst Uber and Airbnb are better known, (with 35% of Airbnb hosts in Sydney aged over 50), there are many more options to consider.

Over 100 platforms are now operating in Australia, across a broad range of markets; including food and hospitality, training, art and design, technology, real estate, transport, entertainment, domestic, health, professional and employment services. Here is a link to our website, IncomeConnection, which lists out the 100 options or platforms to for you to browse through.

Working in this way ticks the ‘positive work’ box; providing structure, achievement and community connection. What is different versus employment is that you generally need to get an Australian Business Number (ABN). You also need to read the fine print, such as who is responsible for insurance.

Some people like the flexibility; you can turn the work off and on. One client is working three days a week in her career occupation of marketing through one of these platforms. As it’s not a permanent job, she can stop it at any time to pursue one of her other interests or change it for something else.

For others it is a segue to starting a small business without the up-front capital. One client used a platform to turn a food passion into an income stream. With many platforms in the creative space, some people sell their product or service on one of these platforms to test the market before establishing a small business.

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Sharing Map event March 2018 in Sydney, one of many community events around the world

Some people set up a side-gig while still working in their career job, in order to experiment with an idea that they want to develop more fully once retired.

Another client used these platforms to set up an income when moving to a regional location, as she had left behind her usual source of work.

Despite work’s negative connotations, we are seemingly hardwired to do some sort of ‘work’. The challenge for us then is to bring the good things about work into our retirement.

For more ideas on working after ‘retirement’ you might enjoy these posts:

New Career in Retirement; the emergence of seniorpreneurs

Step up or step aside; why your skills and attitude might need a refresh

and there are more posts on work here 

What has your experience been? Have you missed your working environment? Is the gig economy something you have investigated or are actively involved in?