A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Apr 3, 2022

Tom Brady Is Just One of Many Returning To Work From Post-Pandemic Retirement

Many who retired due to Covid fears now find that flexible work arrangements and high demand for their skills are making the return to work from early retirement more enjoyable and profitable. JL 

Kathryn Dill reports in the Wall Street Journal:

In February, the share of retired workers re-entering the workforce climbed to 3% of total retirees, its highest level since early March 2020. 2.6 million Americans who retired earlier than expected between February 2020 and October 2021(are now returning to work). Some now are returning to work to shore up their finances. Others have been presented with another career challenges. Labor shortages, a recent stock-market rout, plus the widespread availability of remote-work options, could lure more early retirees back to the job market.

Millions of U.S. workers retired during the pandemic. Now many are returning to work at rates not seen since 2020.

Tom Brady, it turns out, has good company in reconsidering hanging up the proverbial cleats: In February, the share of retired workers re-entering the workforce climbed to around 3% of total retirees, its highest level since early March 2020, according to an Indeed analysis of federal labor data. 

Steve Katelman

PHOTO: STEVE KATELMAN

Many are people under the official retirement age who, spurred by rising asset values or Covid-19 worries, left the workforce ahead of schedule, labor economists say.

Some now are returning to work to shore up their finances. Others have been presented with another career challenge—much like former Starbucks Corp. CEO Howard Schultz, who will temporarily take the reins of the coffee chain again next week. Labor shortages, a recent stock-market rout, plus the widespread availability of remote-work options, could lure more early retirees back to the job market in the coming months, too, they predict.

When Steve Katelman retired from Omnicom Media Group in February 2021, many of his colleagues bet it wouldn’t be for long. They were right—his retirement lasted barely a year. 

“I’m the world’s worst retired person,” says the 57-year-old Mr. Katelman, who, after months of feeling bored and isolated, starts a new job in April leading strategic partnerships at a software maker.

 

He is among the roughly 2.6 million Americans who retired earlier than expected between February 2020 and October 2021, according to estimates from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis senior economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro. But Mr. Katelman says he soon realized he wasn’t ready to give up a full-time career. The San Francisco executive had spent much of his career traveling the globe to meet with clients, something he found himself missing after quitting and moving to Omaha, Neb., to care for his aging mother. 

So when a company he had been advising, a compliance-software company, asked whether he would come on board, he agreed—as long as he could keep Omaha as his home base. 

“Wheeling and dealing was in my blood,” he says. “Not working, it felt wrong. I’m not a good golfer.”

Others now quitting early retirement realize they weren’t as financially prepared to live without a steady paycheck as they hoped. 

With elderly parents, a new grandchild on the way and a blossoming woodworking business on the side, Marvin Pace retired in February 2020 at 55 from his job as a customer experience executive. He had hoped his savings would be enough to support him and his family into his later years, and at first, he relished his newfound freedom. But he worried his finances wouldn’t sustain his family’s standard of living over the long-term, and after 18 months, he reluctantly started to hunt for a new job.

 

It took him about six months of networking, applying and interviewing to land his next job—longer, he says, than he had expected to find a job he felt was the right fit.

He returned to work, in a similar role at an IT service management company, in February and says he has been pleasantly surprised: His co-workers value the experience he brings, he says, and he feels a sense of confidence from having left the workforce in his 50s and returning to a job he likes. 

“I’m not looking to advance, but I want to make sure I have an impact in what I do,” says Mr. Pace, who lives in Texas and says he plans to work another five to seven years before retiring for good. 

Others say the plans they made to remain active in retirement have morphed into a second career. John Broschak, 58, retired in February from his job in utility operations after the pandemic grounded him. He had been accustomed to crisscrossing Michigan to visit plants, inspect machinery and check in with staff and found remote work monotonous. 

“All of a sudden, I’m staring at a screen using Zoom,” he says. “Any last joy in the work that I was doing got sucked out in the ensuing 18 months.”

Mr. Broschak says working at his martial-arts school franchise has been so invigorating that he also launched a consulting business.

PHOTO: SYLVIA JARRUS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

To ease the transition to retirement, he opened a martial arts school franchise and began construction on a second home in Arizona. His new work has been so invigorating, he says, that he has also launched a consulting business, providing leadership coaching and technical consulting for the utilities industry. He now works essentially full-time, but with better balance, he says.

 

“I have so much more latitude,” said Mr. Broschak. “There’s a lot of things on the to-do list, but I control it now, rather than someone else controlling me.”

Many older workers who made early exits from the workforce after losing jobs or finding themselves unable to work in the early months of the pandemic have retired mostly because they haven’t been able to find suitable work since. Researchers say that is especially the case among those who did manual work, such as truck driving, hospitality or in cleaning services.

Some early retirees, though, are being courted by companies in need of workers with in-demand skills and experience. Many, like 57-year-old Patti Key of Durham, N.C., say they are finding work with more flexibility than they had before the pandemic. 

Patti Key

PHOTO: BAZEMORE STUDIOS

She had retired in May 2020 from her position as head of global sales at the Ixia Solutions Group at Keysight Technologies, in part to quit a grueling travel schedule. Last spring, though, a former colleague asked if she would be interested in coming out of retirement to become chief revenue officer at a private-equity owned company attempting a turnaround.

The role didn’t require international travel and had a clear three-year timeline. Plus, she would earn what she had been paid previously, with financial incentives for success.

The opportunity seemed too good to pass up, she says.

“It’s just reiterated how important it is to have connectivity to people,” Ms. Key says of her brief retirement. “For me, I like being on a team.”

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