Our Views

Why some wealthy don’t retire

With Labour Day approaching, we got thinking about the role of work and why we work, prompted by some research that concludes a surprising number of very wealthy people are choosing to work rather than retire.

A Spectrem Group survey of U.S. investors with a net worth of $25 million or more found the majority (58%) were not retired and those who were retired were 66+ years old. So much for the concept of Freedom 55*.

What’s more, the findings of this study showed the wealthier the investor, the less likely they were retired: 67% of investors with a net worth over $125 million were still working, while 14% were semi-retired and only 18% were retired. Of the working wealthy, some 20% said they never plan to retire.

Spectrem Group president George H. Walper Jr. said of the report, “It’s one of the most remarkable research insights we have gathered. The research is dramatic in the story it tells. For those who can easily retire, retirement is not the final goal.”

What the survey didn’t answer was why some wealthy people choose to work when they have the financial freedom to retire. After all, many clients in our network are retired and enjoying life immensely without the hassles of work.

We were curious so we posed the question, ‘Why do you continue to work?’ to a handful of people within our Newport network who are of retirement age, wealthy and still working full-time.  We didn’t know what to expect from their responses – or even if they would respond to this unusual question – so we were pleasantly surprised by their willingness to participate and by the variety of their responses. While not a large enough sample to be representative, their answers, reproduced below with their permission, offer insight, candour and humour as to why at least a few of these people continue to work.

“The kind of work I do is self directed. There is no reason for me to stop doing it until I feel I am no longer doing it well. Also, it would be boring to stop.”

“It is all about challenge and keeping the brain active. The combination of physical activity, reasonable diet and stimulated brain is the formula I am buying to retain my youth and to prevent me from getting old!”

“Work continues to offer rewards and challenges not available to most. We are judged by our standing in the Business world and Community. Most people do not like to lose that status. Retiring reminds us that life does not go on forever and we are closer to the next step.”

“You only reject retirement if you are or feel healthy. 65 is NOT old any more. Successful people like what they are doing…It is not work…It keeps us all relevant. Lastly, given the above my choice is to continue to do something that I enjoy, find rewarding and get challenged or I could retire and hang with my wife and find out daily how stupid I am!!!”

“My work remains exhilarating, complex and fun. For me, there is no more rewarding way to use my problem-solving skills, and to keep mentally sharp and young. I also think I would miss the daily interaction with my colleagues inside and outside of the company, many of whom have become good friends. Besides, making money is fun.”

These people are uniquely fortunate in that work is optional for them. But many others who choose retirement also find fulfilment and reward pursing different interests that keep them engaged. Some even choose early retirement. For others, work is not an option because of health reasons, as the one respondent pointed out. Perhaps the real message here is that whether you are working by choice or by necessity, there is the opportunity to view work, however you define it, as a source of engagement and meaning, reward and interaction that helps us stay relevant and energetic at any age. Maybe the old adage is true, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Happy Labour Day weekend everyone!


*Freedom 55 is an advertising slogan launched in 1984 and is owned by Freedom 55 Financial, a division of London Life.