Sometimes retirement doesn’t turn out the way we imagined. We may not be ready emotionally or financially, or have enough activities to fill up a once busy calendar. We may miss the day-to-day social interactions of the workplace or find it hard to make new friends and develop new interests.

Welcome to Unretirement

Retirement is not a one-way street. You can “un-retire” at any time. You can go back to work part-time. You can find a new way to work. You can create new ways to earn income – in person or online.

Thanks to modern healthcare, we are living longer – often well into our 90s. Hitting our 60s is no longer a one-way ticket out of the working world. We can move back and forth between retirement and un-retirement as often as we want to. That’s good for us – with health, wealth and social benefits – and that’s good for the economy. Think job creation, consumer spending and innovation.

Older workers have a lot to share with the world in terms of knowledge as well as work and life experience. Technology may have made some of the jobs that our generation held obsolete, but that same evolution is also creating new jobs and new ways to work that are less age relevant, less physically demanding and more experience or expertise-based – two areas where older workers excel.

New Ways to Work

There is a wealth of opportunities to work at home or remotely from just about anywhere in the world, often while living abroad or travelling. As much as 43 percent of today’s workforce works remotely at least part-time. Nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) employed Baby Boomer retirees have arrangements which include part-time (59 percent), freelance (18 percent) and seasonal work (seven percent). Forty-two percent report that they have become self-employed or small business owners.

Like retirement, unretirement should also begin with a plan, and the best place to begin is by redefining what you want work to accomplish or add to your life. This isn’t about returning to your former job or career full-time, but about adding work back into your life in a more balanced way. I discuss how to create a thoughtful plan in my new book, Retiring Solo.

For most retirees, the goal is not to replace their former income entirely, but to supplement or delay Social Security payments, or refrain from digging too deeply into retirement savings. Working part-time can also pay for health insurance or the cost of a supplemental Medicare policy, which then frees up funds for other interests or expenses.

A part-time job also builds your social and support network – a priceless benefit. Many retirees who return to work look for jobs that will put them in touch with interesting people daily.

Creating an Unretirement Plan

Decide how much time, ideally, you would like to devote to work, leisure, travel or learning. Think about how you could restructure work to make it fit with your new goals. This can mean changing your work schedule (when you work), changing the geography (where you go to work or where you work from) or changing how you work. Work has become much more fluid and flexible. I have worked from a home office for more than 28 years now. The scheduling and geographic flexibility that it provides is a huge lifestyle benefit.

This is also a good time to re-imagine what your work life could be. Here’s your chance to do something that you have always loved; to create a career out of a passion; or take the expertise that you have acquired and use it to create a new business or pursuit. Your 60s are an excellent time to start a new business. Keep in mind that you could have as many as 30 life years ahead of you. It is never too late to have the education or the career that you have always wanted, or to follow a road that was left unchosen earlier in life. You are only limited by the limitations that you place on yourself.

A survey by the MetLife Foundation and Encore.org reported that an estimated nine million Americans in the 44 to 70 age range are already engaged in second or “encore” careers and another 31 million are interested in pursuing one. Over the next 10 years, 25 percent of all Baby Boomers hope to start a business or non-profit, and half of those same people want to make a difference in the world while earning money.

Consider the skills that you have developed and the experiences that you have had. Somewhere in that skillset is the foundation for your next step. It just takes some reimagining and repurposing to see it – and some initiative to act on it!

Have you considered unretirement? What benefits do you see in new ways to work? Have you taken advantage of opportunities to telecommute, freelance or develop your own business? Tell us more in the comments below.

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