Retirement? Not for Everyone

What is the purpose of retirement? Some say it is to stop doing what you have to do and then start doing what you want to do.

But what if you are now doing what you want to do? Those lucky people say that retirement has no attraction for them because they are already doing what they want to do. Some say they love their job.

Apparently more and more people are continuing to work rather than retire. The American Association of Retired Persons reports that in the 65 to 69 age group, that 32% were still working in 2013 (compared with 18% in 1985).

One reason some persons elect to continue to work is financial. Financial demands are a relevant consideration especially for single persons who are not covered by a private pension plan.

Some persons without a private pension plan are able to semi-retire, such as lawyers who may limit their work to wills and estates. Small business owners are also able to reduce their workload and work well past any retirement age.

Many pension plans, both private and public, experience funding problems because of the variable return on their investments along with the lengthening of the period of retirement due to an increase in our life expectancy. 

The variable return on investments is caused by the business cycle and its effect on the stock market where substantial pension funds are invested. 

In the year 1900 the average Canadian life expectancy was 50 years compared with today of 79 years for males and 84 years for females.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan reports that “on average, members of the Teachers’ pension plan are working for 26 years and collecting pensions for 31 years, a ratio that has reversed from 1970 when members worked an average of 27 years and retired for 20 years (see Globe and Mail April 2, 2014).

These funding problems have caused many businesses to elect not to provide a private pension plan, but they and their employees continue to contribute to the Canada Pension Plan. Many businesses with private pension plans have elected to change their pension plans from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. This trend has caused many employees to continue to work. Some occupations that are physically demanding by their nature mandate early retirement, such as, miners, fishermen, fire fighters, policemen, etc. But judges and lawyers can apparently work into old age (the Supreme Court of Canada mandates retirement at 75 and the Supreme Court of United States has no mandatory retirement).

These changes have resulted in a repeal or modification of many mandatory retirement rules. 

Also the increase in longevity of employees has resulted in an increase on the retirement age of many pension plans.


  1. Ginger Goodwin

    I hope Mr. Appleby continues to write. He is one of the few commentators who has referred to the latest financial economic crisis / economic recession or depression as a business cycle. Identifying the unbridled animal spirits, or common greed and avarice, and subsequent crash as par for the course has a long history – at least 300 – 400 years. Like he says, it is better to take a long view of things.