Three reasons you shouldn’t retire. Ever.

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The “in thing” now for retirement is to do it early.

There are communities, blogs and early-retirement crusaders whose mission is to sing the praises of a work-free lifestyle.

Actually, to tell the truth, many early-retirement enthusiasts are earning quite a bit of money through blogs and podcasts describing how they quit working in their 30s, 40s and early 50s. So technically they aren’t really retired, but that’s another matter.

Still, hearing their stories might make you feel bad that you can’t join their bandwagon. I'll be honest. I get jealous. I’m still slogging away in a wage job trying to save as much as I can for the day that I can call it quits. My plan in retirement is to spend most of my time either traveling or volunteering.

But what if you want to work until your 70s, 80s or even 90s? What if your health is such that you can continue full employment?

That’s the question put to me by Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on student financial aid. I frequently interview Kantrowitz when writing about families trying to pay for college.

[Should parents pay off $200,000 in law school loans for a son who ended up in rehab?]

“I liked your recent column on retirement savings and paying down student loans, especially the advice to keep an emergency fund, maximize the employer match, then use the rest to pay down debt,” Kantrowitz emailed me. “While reading the column, it struck me that we never see advice for people who intend to work forever, health permitting. I love what I do, and my work helps people, so why would I ever stop?”

[You have $100,000 in student loans. Should you save for retirement or pay off debt?]

Kantrowitz asked: “Are there any other considerations for people who keep working? Are there any strategies they should pursue?”

Actually, there is a lot of research on why continuing to work throughout your senior years can be beneficial. There are at least three good reasons not to retire.

Not retiring can be emotionally, physically and financially good for you.

[Out-of-pocket health-care costs likely to take half of Social Security income by 2030, analysis shows]

Studies show working gives people purpose.

Read more: Working Longer May Benefit Your Health

And by working longer, you can save more.

“Those saving for retirement would be better off working longer than just bumping up their savings rate by one percentage point, according to the authors of the new paper, ‘The Power of Working Longer,’” reported Robert Powell for The Street.

Researchers found “delaying retirement by three to six months has the same impact on the retirement standard of living as saving an additional one percentage point of labor earnings for 30 years.”

Read more: Working Longer Works Better Than Saving More Money for Retirement

Research has also found people who work longer tend to be healthier.

Personal finance expert Jean Chatzky did a series for NBC’s “Today Show” on the benefits of not retiring. She profiles an 81-year-old dentist who was still working.

Read more: Retirement doesn’t have to be the end: How working longer benefits you

“Researchers at Oregon State University analyzed data from a large, ongoing study of people age 50 and up,” Chatzky reported. “What they found was that people who continued to work past 65 had an 11 percent lower chance of death from all causes.”

Read more: Never Retire: Why People Are Still Working in Their 70s and 80s

As for strategies read: Retire early or keep on working? How to prepare for either choice.

Here’s the thing. Don’t feel pressure to retire if you can and want to continue working. The grass over in early retirement might not be as green as you think.

Your thoughts

Are you still working past the so-called retirement age? How’s that working for you? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Not retired” in the subject line.

Retirement rants and raves

I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise?

If you haven’t retired yet, what concerns you financially?

You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

In last week’s newsletter I wrote about a young couple with $100,000 in student loans. The wife wanted to know if she should reduce retirement savings to help pay down the debt.

It was a “WWMD” question, or “What would Michelle do?”

“Should I be putting more toward retirement?” the wife asked. “I always worry we’re not putting enough away for retirement but at the same time, we only have so much money and a lot of things going on that require that money.”

I suggested that they pay off the debt first. They’re still young enough that they can do some retirement catch-up later.

By Michelle Singletary

Washington Post

Has Your Network Aged Out and Abandoned You?

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(This article previously appeared on Careerpivot.com.)

In my work running Career Pivot, a career design firm for people in the second half of life who want a change, I am hearing over and over again about how people’s networks have aged out.

One of the members of the new Career Pivot community told me that new positions always came to her. She never needed to look because her mentors and other leaders were always looking out for her. What has happened to her in her 60s is her network has aged out. The people who had her back for so many years have either retired, are not in a position of power or are in the same boat she is in — underemployed or unemployed.

When she was telling me the story of her career, it was pretty obvious that she did nothing to cultivate or care for the network. Rather it was always there for her and she never paid attention to it. On the other hand, she is mentoring a lot of young professionals and her connection to them is strong; but they are not nearly as influential as the people who had mentored her over the years.

Her network has aged out and left her abandoned.

When Your Network Has Retired

I had a similar discussion with a gentleman who is now in his late 60s. He was forced into retirement and has since formed a consulting group with a few of his former colleagues. Throughout his career, opportunities just came to him through his network. He never really needed to find work and he did little to cultivate, or even grow, his network. He did not see the need to grow his network as it was feeding him and his family just fine.

That was until he hit his 60s and his network either retired, became unemployed, were downsized or just died. His contacts within his industry greatly diminished. It did not help that he was on the manufacturing side of the business, which had been shipped offshore for cost savings.

He now needs to reinvigorate his network, but this is not something he is comfortable doing. At the same time, he is not social media savvy.

His network had aged out and left him abandoned.

Strategically Examine Your Network

For those of us in the second half of life, our next job will come through a relationship. That relationship may be an existing one, a dormant one that you will reinvigorate (weak ties) or a new relationship.

You should carefully examine your existing relationships or network.

How many are of similar age? How many are much older? Will they still be around to assist you in 10 years?

Zero in on those who are connectors — those people who know lots of people and enjoy making connections.

If you were let go from your job today, who could you depend on to help you? Will those same people be in a position to help you in 10 to 15 years? If not, you need to replace them NOW!

You want to examine your network NOW to see how much of it will age out.

Is Your Industry Shifting?

How stable is the industry where you are currently working? If you are in a shrinking or dying industry, now is the time to make the shift.

I want you to look at your industry through two different lenses:

Automation, AI or robots will continue to break down and eliminate jobs. I recently had a client interview with a company that will be using deep learning to replace thousands of service personnel. The chatbot it was developing will be able to answer 95 percent of all customer service questions.

Creative destruction is accelerating. Think of the industries that have been affected by the creation of the iPhone 10 years ago. Just imagine what drones will be able to do in 10 years and the jobs and industries that will be eliminated.

Next Steps for You

Once you have examined your network and industry, you will want to create a plan to replace and/or augment your existing network.

Ask yourself: If you need to shift to a different industry, who do you need to develop relationships with? How are you going to garner street cred within that new industry? If you’re in a stable industry, who are the up and coming individuals you need to develop relationships with NOW – so your network will not age out?

If you are in your 50s and plan to work until 70 or beyond, you need to plan on your network to age out.

I am now into my 60s and many of the people I worked with at IBM in the 1980s and 1990s are no longer in the workforce. Many of the people who I worked with after the dot-com bust are still working, but are no longer in a position of power or influence.

My network has aged out.

Has your network aged out? What are you going to do about it?

By Marc Miller

Dynamo With a Blowtorch

Wearing a welder’s mask, clad in fireproof outerwear and sporting gloves the size of catcher’s mitts, the metal artist was quite a sight. It was only when Rochelle Ford began to peel off her protective gear that I realized this well-padded person is quite a petite woman, just over five feet tall. She’s found that her “work” outfit gets people to take her more seriously. But she shed her disguise to sit down for her interview. You’d never guess that this woman was 80+ years old and didn’t begin her career until the age of retirement for most people.

I first met Ford when I interviewed her for my book, The Vintage Years: Finding Your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After 60. But I wanted to get another peek at her gorgeous artwork, so I took advantage of an annual weekend-long citywide artists’ event to visit her again. It also gave me the chance to enjoy the good weather, get some exercise walking and see several local artists’ works, including hers.

At 83, Ford, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif., is amazingly fit, maybe from lugging junk and other found objects such as car- and sewing machine parts to her studio for their makeover into art objects. Combine that with the steadiness needed to hold and painstakingly manage a blowtorch, and you have a combination that more than exceeds the recommended daily fitness challenge for older adults.

Ford is a metal artist who didn’t embark on her trade until later in life. In fact, she spent her working years in traditional ways — managing a household, raising children, supervising and later owning small businesses. But her creativity found expression when it pushed its way out in a big and dramatic fashion.

Time to Follow Her Passion

When you watch this dynamo wielding an acetylene torch to create art from bed springs repurposed, reshaped and reimagined, you forget her diminutive stature. She’s a self-taught sculptor who’s been at her trade since she was 58, deciding to follow her passion and ditch a more conventional lifestyle.

Ford took a leap by recalling the words of a former boss: “It’s never too soon and it’s never too late.”

Ford said, “Whenever someone decides to do something, it’s the right time, and I tried to remember that. I bought my welding equipment, and taught myself to weld. I remembered thinking, ‘I don’t have time.’”

For almost six decades, she has been married to former NFL football player, Henry Ford. There were years when his career determined moves and career options for Rochelle. But these days, he assists her in the business that burst out of a hobby. I met him at the artists’ event helping out with the money end of art purchases in her studio.

I hadn’t realized that some of Ford’s creations were for sale that day, which explains why parking was scarce. Not surprisingly, the other lookers were a combination of art seekers, artfully dressed browsers and folks from the neighborhood who had parts of objects they wished to contribute to the sculptor’s junk-to-art collection.

For example, she mentioned that the former owner of a local fabric store, closed for at least 20 years, had come by with some sewing machine parts he thought she could use. Ford never turns down a good piece of metal scrap. Can you imagine her picking her way through burned and broken parts in a salvage yard? It’s one of her favorite pastimes.

Re-Creating Herself

For this event, Ford was dressed exotically in a lavender silk ensemble, with sleeves that appeared to be tie-dyed. Consistent with this amazingly colorful woman, the outfit was tinted by her own hands. But what struck me most was the metal necklace, really a crescent-moon of a sculpture intricately welded and matching her clothing almost perfectly. I so admired that body art that I went indoors to her front room where she was exhibiting metal jewelry, also for sale, hoping to find a similar adornment.

I’m not someone who wears much jewelry. In fact, I’m a stripped-down version of a woman most at home in a pair of jeans or sweats. I’ve always preferred the super casual and comfortable, especially since retirement. I don’t require jewelry, but fell in love with the art in Ford’s neckpieces.

Of course, I wanted the one she was wearing, but I never asked and she didn’t offer it for sale. Instead I found another, less colorful (like me) but elegant and a reminder of my delight in Ford’s journey. Only recently did I learn that former President Obama saw a famous woman senator wearing a Rochelle Ford neck creation and was so struck by it that he bought a piece as a birthday present for First Lady Michelle Obama.

I asked Ford how she gets inspired. “Sometimes I can do exactly what I envision and other times the metal just won’t cooperate … it’s too strong,” she said. “Then I say ‘OK, you have to try something different.’”

But let’s not forget the takeaway message in all of this. It’s not about the art, or even the artist. It’s about self-discovery. If ever in life there were rules and roles to live by, it’s not in our post midlife years. This is a time for re-creating ourselves in any image we choose. If not now, then when? What’s in store for your future?

Francine Toder