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In the first part of the series
“The unique challenges of Retirement”,
You’ve Earned It looked at the retirement age.

In this article, the second part of this series,
YEI looks at working in retirement.


Challenge #2 –  Working in retirement

Many South Africans have to look at ways in which they can augment their meagre pensions.  It has become dinner-table talk about how one can bring in an income well past retirement age in order to not just to bolster retirement savings but to live.  After all, you could have a third of your life in retirement.    Inadequate financial planning, the recession, coupled with the exorbitant cost of living has meant that many South Africans will be forced to consider working well beyond their official retirement date – in order to maintain their lifestyle into retirement, and some just to exist.

And how do you do that, given the excessive unemployment rate, transformation, retrenchment, downsizing, mergers?

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

Today, 65 is the new-55.  65 is no longer the onset of old age – it is the beginning of middle age.   Today’s 65-year old has a zest for life, plenty of stamina plus, in many cases, the inclination as well as the necessity to work.  So why not consider this the time to embark on your second career?  You can fuel your passion, work on your terms, set your own schedule and use your skills for the greater good. 

If you are one of the majority of South African seniors, who through various circumstances, is unable to say “ciao” to the daily grind, stay with me….

YEI conducted a snap survey of baby boomers in their early sixties.  The topic was “Employment for seniors in South Africa”.  Several respondents agreed that they would love to be put out to pasture and retire comfortably until check-out time.  However, the reality is that they can’t – not yet – for a variety of reasons, mostly financial.  The majority of respondents agreed that post-65, they are fit and healthy and need something constructive to do, preferably in a paid capacity. 

Some of the comments from these baby boomers will sound familiar to you:

  • When the recruitment agent hears my age (a young and active 62), I never hear another word from them.
  • It appears that once one hits the big 6-0, one becomes absolutely invisible and useless.
  • I thought ageism in job applications was seen as unfair discrimination – am I correct?
  • When I went freelance at 55, a creative placement agency told me to just give up any thoughts of working in advertising since I was ‘too old’.
  • I have so much talent and energy going to waste.
  • I have put out hundreds of CVs and never hear a word.



So what’s the answer?

First, ask yourself the following questions when thinking about a mid-life career change?

Can you identify your passion?

What makes you happy? What do you like doing?  What are your talents, your accomplishments?  What are your strengths?  Consider your values.  If money were not an issue, what would you really like to do?  In an ideal world, work is an expression of who we really are. A meaningful and satisfying career meshes with our values, our talents and what is truly important to us.

What is available to me?

Work is not just about a paid job.   Work can be defined in many ways.  Working for gain, working for the benefit of others, working for meaning, working for fun, working for learning.  New ways of working could include becoming an entrepreneur and starting a new business, becoming a franchisee.  How about mentorship, freelancing or becoming a subject-matter expert?

Do I need to learn?

Without a doubt – a resounding YES!  Learning needs to become a lifelong commitment.    You need to add value to the investment that is yourself.   Conduct internal analysis and self-assessment and identify skills that you are lacking, learn them, practice them and hone your competencies.  New skills also improve your confidence and open the doors of opportunity.

Should I consult a Life coach?

Like a financial advisor, consulting with a qualified life coach could be one of your best investments.   A life coach will assist you in identifying your passion while strategically planning your journey to achieve new goals.

Making a career transition is not for the feint-hearted and requires a lot of emotional support.  Identify your fears and find good friends who are prepared to give you honest, non-judgmental feedback.   You will probably find out who your true friends during this time.   Most importantly, commit to your career transition – this is one of the most critical factors in your success, the battle for your economic independence.



Let’s look at possible solutions:


Flexible work opportunities

In this economic downturn, there is a rising trend in flexible working.  Benefits for employers include improved productivity, reduced costs, higher staff retention, and increased skill-sharing.  On your journey towards a mid-life career change, consider speaking to your employer regarding reduced working hours, phased retirement, project assignments, job-sharing, flexitime and working from home.  Labour costs are a huge burden for most employers, who are looking at new ways in which to manage costs in a competitive, technologically-driven economy.    In the long term, a longer working life will impact well on the economy as older people will be less reliant on the State as they will have saved enough for retirement and can support themselves in later life.



The loss of knowledge, talent, experience, energy and skills is huge when a valuable employee retires.  Employers will soon be coming up with innovative ways in which to entice their older workers to stay on.  It is a known fact that the older generation make great mentors, have an outstanding work ethic and have the relevant wisdom, skills and knowledge. 

However, we do need to make room for the next generation.  So you may like to consider volunteering in your organisation as a mentor.  The transfer of knowledge from a senior to a member of the younger generation offers countless benefits to the organisation as well as to the mentee.  Cross-generational mentoring is also valuable – we can all learn so much when it comes to technology from our younger colleagues. 


Consulting boomerangers

Boomerangers are a growing group of retirees who return to their previous employers, on a part-time or contract consultancy basis, where they used to have full-time jobs (not to be confused with boomerang children who return to their parents’ homes as adults!). 

Boomerangers are called back to the organisation for their expertise.  Boomeranging can be a win-win situation for the organisation and the retiree.    The organisation has ready access to talent with unique, hard-to-find skills and flexible schedules.  The retiree has the opportunity to phase in his/her retirement.   We predict that the boomerang arrangement will, in time, become a bigger movement which will assist the retiree in a flexible, part-time work arrangement.   Ensure that you discuss this with your current organisation before you retire. 




Some say that if you are past your sell-by date (really?!!), that you will not succeed as a successful entrepreneur.  Kill that thought – it’s a myth!

With an average life expectancy of between 80 and 90 years, you are far too young to retire at the age of 60 or 65.  You still have a third of your life left!   If you are of retirement age, or pre-retirement age, or have been retrenched, it makes complete sense to consider starting your own business. 

Age has nothing to do with success of a new business.  The equation for success is – great idea + passion + commitment + ultra-hard work + energy + thorough research and planning = success. 

It has been proven that entrepreneurship is a particularly good fit for the older generation.  It is gratifying to see a new trend in South Africa that shows an increase in the number of senior people who are becoming involved in entrepreneurial activities.   The Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the news, saying that the trend shows that South Africans are displaying innovative skills.  Over-50s/60s can push beyond the economic hardship and brand their own ideas.   Let’s face it – this age group has the right work ethic, the staying power, the skills, knowledge and experience to make something work.    This kind of entrepreneurship also leads to creating more employment. 

Let’s look at some truly legendary senior entrepreneurs, and the age they achieved success:

  • The founder of KFC was Colonel Harland Sanders – aged 65!
  • The Coca-Cola inventor – John Pemberton – aged 55!
  • We all know Ray Kroc – the father figure of McDonalds – a young 52!
  • Arianna Huffington started The Huffington Post at the age of 54.
  • Henry Ford created the Model T car at the age of 45.
  • Charles Darwin changed science forever at the tender age of 50.
  • Harry Bernstein achieved fame at the age of 96 with his 2007 memoir.
  • Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at the age of 50.

So what did these people, and people like them, have in common?  They never stopped trying.  With years of experience, they understood what worked, what didn’t work, how to experiment and what was needed in their particular industry.  Look at Colonel Sanders – he was a job-hopper, a farmer, and a steamboat pilot.  He worked in insurance and fire safety.  He tried on two occasions to start a business – one in the restaurant industry and the other was a service station.  Neither business succeeded.  But he tried and tried again, and went on to become the “godfather of franchising”. 

South Africa needs to harness the knowledge, skills and experience of retirees.  Other than being a huge asset to the country, the retiree can supplement his or her own retirement savings which is of enormous benefit to the economy.

In brief, the data in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor special report on Senior Entrepreneurship, released in April 2017, demonstrates that:

  • Older people are a significant entrepreneurial force, but that the segment is largely overlooked and is an undervalued resource.
  • Senior entrepreneurs bring with them a host of benefits – economic, social and environmental. The report labels these as ‘golden dividends’.
  • Every older adult who is self employed is less likely to place a financial burden on society and to contribute to the economy of that country through the payment of taxes and by remaining economically active.
  • Senior entrepreneurs are likely to employ more three or more people, so they are not only creating jobs for themselves but for others as well.
  • Senior entrepreneurs, with their wealth of work and life experience, deep networks, and eagerness to remain productive, are a huge untapped resource.

Becoming an entrepreneur in retirement is not for the feint-hearted.  It’s a long, tough road and needs dedication, time, energy, patience, practice and money to succeed.  Senior entrepreneurs should start small, dream big and be willing to charter unknown territories. 




Franchises can present solid business opportunities, but you need to choose a franchise in an industry that you know.  You need to be very thorough in your research as there is an enormous array of franchises in this country.  We would also recommend getting legal and strategic advice from professionals and those already in the franchise business. 



Recommended reading:

The unique challenges of Retirement:      Retirement Age – click here

The unique challenges of senior entrepreneurship – click here

Sixty-plussers – the new generation of seniorpreneurs – click here

Be inspired by this seniorpreneur! Never too old to start a business!  Click here

Thinking about a mid-life career change?  Click here

Airbnb hosting is a fun and easy way to boost your retirement income – click here


  • Natisha Parsons says:

    I write in my spare time. It’s what I really like to do apart from reading. I read a lot. My problem is getting published. Is it possible to set up a site on YEI to offer my books for a small fee? I write for all ages, depending on reading ability. Grannies may like to read to little ones… I have an eReader and use it in bed mostly. interested readers could download PDFs or print and bind the books. They could specify whether they want large print or ordinary. What do you think of my idea? I’d just love to sweeten my pension.

  • Diane says:

    I am age 65 and have experience in the the world of finance. I have all aspect of finance

    administrative and accounting. I would like to supplement my income. Perhaps
    a mentor I can talk to and to guide me please.

  • Hildegard Zimmermann says:

    I have written many short poems in English and Afrikaans for my grandchild. These are still here but were never published. Who would be interested in publishing these? ( age groups between 4-12 years) it would be great if I could earn a bit of extra income with these rhymes and poems.

    • Marilynh says:

      Hello Hildegard. You would need to contact some publishers with your ideas, failing which consider self-publishing. You would need to google both of these.


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