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Successful, affluent older men don't retire… they just start a new career

High-earning males lead the way in phenomenon of ‘unretirement’, the latest research suggests

Affluent older men are choosing to return to work after quitting their first careers, according to research into the phenomenon of “unretirement”.

More than one in 20 retired men later decide to take up a new role, the study indicates. While some are pushed into for financial reasons, the researchers say that for the majority it’s a lifestyle choice.

Academic Ricky Kanabar will tell the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference in London today that so-called “unretirement” is common among British men who were higher earners in their career occupations.

His research shows that those who return to work in retirement share certain factors. They are likely to have at least an A-level qualification or higher, suggesting that they weren’t low-paid workers in their career. In fact the average pre-retirement salary for those who “unretire” is around £50,000.

Crucially they also plan their finances a year or more ahead and have a partner in paid work – suggesting that many retired men take up a new job so that they can retire again at the same point as their partner.

Mr Kanabar analysed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which followed retired men between 2002 and 2009. His study shows that those retired men who switched back into paid work ended up working on average 20-hours-per-week and earning on average £470-per-month.

Mr Kanabar suggests that unretirement may only be feasible for certain types of retired British men. “That’s significant for the government’s aim to extend people’s working lives in our ageing society,” he said.

“My study shows that unretirement is prevalent among certain retired British men, a group of individuals who have a vast number of years’ experience in the labour market, are likely to be highly qualified and can thus contribute significantly to the economy.

“Moreover, given the country’s ageing population and increasing life expectancy and the fact that until only recently there had been no rise in the age at which individuals were eligible to claim their state pension, future government policy should look to provide incentives for unretirement behaviour.”

Recent research by Aviva shows that since 2010 the number of people working in retirement has actually soared. While less than one in five people aged 65-74 received wages or other earned income in December 2010, by the end of last year the figure had climbed to almost a quarter, 23 per cent.