How to Prepare for Working Past Retirement

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How to Work Past 65

Setting aside enough money for retirement is not easy. If current events are affecting your retirement savings or you were behind to begin with, you may need to work longer, possibly well into retirement years. It's a reality faced by a growing number of Americans. If working past retirement age is in your future, it's important to lay the proper groundwork. Here's how to prepare to keep working if you can't afford to retire.

Related: Here's What's Good About Working Past Retirement Age

Write It Down

Have a Clear Plan of Action

Some of us will need to work during retirement to earn more money, while others will need to maintain benefits. Whatever the main reason, be sure you're clear about what you need to accomplish by continuing to work — and outline a plan to achieve that. 

"The ultimate goal is to work for exactly the benefit needed," says Brian Halbert, financial adviser for WD Pensionmark. "For example, if you need $500 per week, hit just enough hours for $500. Or if, you need to work 20 hours per week to be eligible for benefits, then plan to work 20 hours. For those that have monetary or benefit needs, the key is to understand what it takes first, and then accomplish that."

Related: 15 Smart Tips to Jump-Start Your Retirement Planning  

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Step-Up Networking Efforts

If you're planning to work longer in life, become an expert networker now and raise your professional profile. "Enhance your networking opportunities through professional associations and LinkedIn groups," says career counselor and coach Lynn Berger. "Become active and attend meetings, lectures, and conferences in your targeted field." All of these efforts will help you network in a more relaxed and natural manner, ideally creating career opportunities for as long as you need and want them. 

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Stay Up With Industry Trends

With industries constantly evolving to incorporate new technology into operations, staying abreast of these changes will help you remain employable longer. "If workers are staying up to date on the trends, that's going to make it easier for them to keep pace with the work environment," says Cassie Pipp, creator of the financial website Living Low Key

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Position Yourself As a Consultant

If you've worked until retirement age in a particular field, you likely have more than collected the 10,000 hours that make someone an expert. Julie Titterington, chief culture officer for the small business website MerchantMaverick, suggests setting yourself up to be a consultant as you grow older.

"Why start a new career when you can leverage your previous experience to your advantage?" Titterington says. But do the legwork in advance, including becoming active on LinkedIn. "Most successful independent consultants rely on their existing networks when they're getting started, so the larger your LinkedIn network, the better your chances of landing a few clients right out of the gate." 

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Meet With a Financial Adviser

If the purpose to working beyond retirement is squirreling away more money, be strategic about next steps. "Meet with a financial consultant now. Meet with them yesterday. You may find, after consulting an expert, that you actually have more financial options than you think you do, simply by retrenching on a few expenses now or investing in a higher yield account," Titterington says.

 If you determine that you need a continuing income to make ends meet, a financial adviser can identify the amount you need in specific dollars and cents. "Knowing exactly how much you need to bring in every month will inform your career choices, and may determine whether you decide to apply for another W2 employment situation or can afford to go out on your own as a consultant," she says. 

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Do Some Soul Searching

If working beyond retirement is certain, consider shifting toward a job or line of work that will be more sustainable and manageable over the long term as you age. "I recommend finding a job you'd love to do," says Grant Aldrich, founder and chief executive of OnlineDegree. "Have you always dreamed of working in a national park or teaching English? Do some soul-searching and pinpoint your dream job." 

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Pursue Necessary Certifications

If you intend to switch careers to keep working after retirement, research the qualifications and certifications you need for that dream job or promotion. "Be proactive by taking free online courses or getting a certificate online," Aldrich says.

Related: Job-Hunting Tips for Workers Over 50

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Keep Your Resume Updated

A well-written and professional-looking resume is key at any stage in life. But as you age, you'll need to pay even more attention to how you present your professional history and how your resume looks.

"Try to make your resume look more modern using a free design tool like Canva. And don't use overly long timelines for your experience, such as 40-plus years, when 20-plus years also makes you look like an expert," Aldrich says. 

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Stay Physically and Mentally Active

Working longer is obviously easier said than done — our bodies are not the same as we age. "It's important to stay physically and mentally healthy," says Tom Winter, lead tech recruitment adviser and co-founder of DevSkiller, a developer screening and online interview platform.

"You may not be working on a construction site [but] you'd still need to be in good shape even if it's a work-from-home job. Do daily walks, keep a balanced diet, and visit your doctor for routine checkouts." To maintain mental health, keep in touch with loved ones and try to engage regularly in activities that bring you joy, whether it's a trip to the beach or walking the dog. 

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Talk With Your Current Employer

Don't overlook remaining at your current workplace. Start having conversations with your employer now about long-term possibilities. "The conversation with your employer can be anything from full-steam-ahead to changes in title, step-downs in responsibilities, or changes to schedule and pay," says tech entrepreneur Mark Silverman.

"It costs employers to lose experienced employees and institutional knowledge, and many of them realize the value of experienced employees. Before you assume that you're going to be phased out, proactively consider how to maintain your current situation if it still works for you."

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Be Positive

Working longer than you expected is not all bad. "Consider the reasons why continuing to work might be healthy or beneficial for you," Silverman says. "Maybe your relationships at work are an important part of your life, or perhaps the benefits and perks of your job are too good to give up. Given the times, you might be able to relocate to someplace more affordable and work remotely, keeping your income." 

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Have a Specific Timeline in Mind

No matter how much you love your job, nobody wants to work until they fall over. Give yourself a target or a finish line to set your sights on. "This will be different for everyone. For most people it will be about the money, or a specific money goal," Halbert says. "For others, it will just feel right. I suggest that people need to be comfortable with their finances, and have a clear path and plan for finances throughout their retirement."