How to combine retirement, job satisfaction and work/life balance

Two of the main fears faced by employees when they reach their 50s and 60s are those of getting job satisfaction and a work/life balance. Recent studies have offered fresh insight into the reasons behind these issues and the best ways to deal with them.

One study carried out by economists at California State University and the University of Southern California investigated how work/life balance issues affected those aged between 51 and 79. 14% of women in this age bracket who retired earlier than they planned to did so because they had to care for a family member or spouse who suffered a health scare. However, this was far less often the case in men, possibly due to them being more likely to ‘outsource’ the care their spouse required. In contrast, women nearing retirement age make more adjustments than men when it comes to the health of a partner, taking on more of the caregiving role themselves.

The study also established that a poor work/life balance was also more likely to make women retire than men. Men are also more likely than women to continue working part-time beyond retirement age if their spouse is still working. Women stated they were more likely to continue working full-time in this age bracket if their employer offered health insurance, to the point that researchers described it as a ‘critical pull factor’ in women. A second study looked at issues around job satisfaction and its relationship to working conditions. The research, carried out in collaboration between the University of California, Harvard University’s Medical School and the nonpartisan RAND Corporation, found that workers nearing retirement age valued other elements of job satisfaction aside from pay and benefits.

Most prominently, those over 50 look for work flexibility, meaningful work, the chance to develop transferable skills, and a work environment which feels supportive. The researchers found that these intangibles were more important than money in older workers’ decisions on whether to continue working: having a flexible working schedule had the same impact as a 9% pay increase, whilst a switch from a physically demanding job to one which involved only moderate physical work was equivalent to a 20% pay increase.

If you’re still employed and approaching your 50s or 60s, or you’re already there, think about what’s most important to you when making decisions about whether you want to retire or carry on working full-time. It’s likely that money will be further down your priority list at this stage of life, so let job satisfaction, flexibility and the chance to spend time with family and friends take precedence!

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