AAfter a record number of people aged 50 and over in the UK left the workforce As a result of the pandemic, the trend has begun to reverse as the cost of living crisis has forced some to reconsider taking early retirement.
This week, a report from the Lords economic affairs committee said early retirement among people aged 50-64 was the biggest contributor to the rise in economic inactivity of 565,000 UK citizens since the start of the pandemic. The peers said this trend was putting the economy at risk of weaker growth and persistently higher inflation.
Four people share what led them to start working again, sometimes after a break of several years and in a different role, and how long they hope to remain financially active.
‘I didn’t go back to work because the chancellor wanted me to’
Dave, 63, from Southport, Merseyside, retired at 60 after 33 years at the Royal Mail, just before the pandemic began. “I accepted the voluntary layoff and the plan was to do something else for a few years, have fun,” he says.
“Royal Mail pension is ok but not enough for everyday life and holidays or nights out. Then, about a year and a half ago, I realized I could make it on another £500 a month and went back to work, looking after children in a residential home, just when I was needed.”
Initially only using the extra income as a welcome add-on, Dave realized he could no longer cover living costs like utilities without using his savings when these hours ran out. Last month, he started a part-time job at a call center on the patient complaint line of a medical malpractice law firm.
“I do 17.5 hours a week, they gave me days that I liked, it is very flexible. This gets me another £500 to £600, which at the moment is more than nice to have, it’s a requirement.”
Dave says the chancellor’s concern for the hundreds of thousands of working-age Britons dropping out of the workforce did not influence his decision to become economically active again.
“I went back to work mainly because of the cost of living, it was a personal choice based on personal circumstances. I plan to work at least until age 66, when I will be eligible for my state pension. Then I will make a decision on whether or not I will continue working.”
‘I discovered my niche at 59’
Nicky Dalglish started working again four years ago after her husband was laid off. The 63-year-old, who works in the charity sector in London, had previously worked as an administrative assistant in investment banking and stopped working for 15 years when she had children. “It became clear to me that she had to contribute, even though a charity salary is minimum wage,” she says.
She now works as a project manager for a program that works with asylum seekers and refugees, a role she loves. She stresses that returning to the workforce can be particularly challenging for women. “After 15 years of being a stay-at-home mom, it was challenging to go back to work at 59. Most people have written you off.
“At first, it was really scary and daunting – I was very worried about technological advances in my absence. But it was all good and I’ve been promoted a couple of times since then,” he says. “Going from the challenge of lack of confidence to feeling in control is amazing.”
Dalglish started working again mainly for economic reasons and thought he was out of the working world for good when he left investment banking nearly two decades ago. “I had no plans to return. I had my first child at 41. In no way did I think of going back.”
She now works three days a week and says she “can’t imagine giving up [her job]”. “It’s gone beyond the financial, I’m so into it,” she says, adding that she wishes she had been in the charity sector from the beginning of her working life: “It’s like I discovered my niche at the age of 59.”
‘My self esteem has returned’
David, 62, a data administrator in London, returned to the workforce this year after a three-year career break that began when he was made redundant from his City job in 2019. He now works three days a week for a charity, and volunteer at a food bank once a week.
“[My City role] I had been paid well and I was able to live off the severance money for a while, especially since my wife was working,” he says, adding that he initially enjoyed having more time for long walks, going to the movies and seeing friends. . “But after a few months, the novelty of having time to myself wore off and I began to feel isolated, understimulated, and guilty about not contributing financially. The pandemic obviously made this worse.”
He was also not financially ready to retire for good. “I’m not in a very difficult financial situation, but it makes it easier to have a part-time job. I am not earning a lot, but enough to have enough from day to day and be financially independent, ”he says. He plans to continue working until he is 67 years old.
David says his role in the charity sector has boosted his confidence and he looks forward to continuing to be involved in volunteer work after retirement. “I fully support [the charity’s] goals, enjoy work and love the people here. I feel valued and my self-esteem has returned.”
‘I needed the money’
After a career in welfare, Elizabeth Bradley, from Somerset, left the workforce at 50, discouraged by the impact of cuts on local authorities. “I worked for the county council on adult social care during the height of austerity; it was too onerous to continue in that position,” says Bradley, now 64.
She spent time traveling around New Zealand and Australia, but when Covid hit she began to feel unfulfilled. “At that moment I felt like I didn’t have enough in my life, I was bored. I was missing that workplace camaraderie and social interaction, not just because of Covid, because I wasn’t working. I needed to have a purpose in life and I needed the income factor to motivate me,” she says.
Bradley rejoined the workforce a year ago and became a support worker at a charity, a role she says she really enjoys. Although she made the decision because she wanted to go back to work, she says the cost-of-living crisis has now made it a financial imperative. “Until the cost of living crisis, finances were manageable, but certainly not at all now. It quickly became apparent that she needed the money.”
He works up to 35 hours a week, including overtime, and plans to continue working for many more years. “I’d like to think that she could continue as long as I can offer what I do in the workplace. I can see myself working until I’m 70, if not more.”