By Jennifer Schwegman
Trained in Architectural design, Gabriel Krekk, 66, retired in 2014. His 31-year career at Procter & Gamble included positions in manufacturing, project engineering, human resources, technical packaging and operations, but an artist by calling, Krekk took early retirement to focus on his art and photography. Retirement felt meaningful and whole.
On November 12, 2018, Krekk’s wife, Nancy, lost her battle with breast cancer.
“It was a challenging time for me,” Krekk says. “When you lose your soulmate, it changes you. Nancy was my purpose, and after her death, it took me a lot of time to reevaluate my purpose in life.”
Like so many of us, the pandemic meant Krekk was at home. And although he found his way back to his studio, he did feel the need to get back out in the community. He always enjoyed the camaraderie of the workplace and thought perhaps a part-time job might be worth looking into. He came across a job posting for on-call drivers at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.
“I’m not a gambler, but when I reviewed the Caesars Entertainment value statements, their values were in perfect alignment with mine, so I applied for the position,” Krekk says. “The fun began immediately, and it just hasn’t stopped. It feels good to be out in the community. My part-time work has made me realize that I can live on and do amazing things.”
Retirement means different things to different people. For some, it’s finally having time to travel, volunteer, or hone skills in a favorite hobby. It could mean having time to work on your golf handicap or finish that woodworking project that has been taking up space in the garage for years. But while travel, volunteering and hobbies sound great, many individuals aren’t quite ready to leave the workforce entirely.
Today’s seniors are staying healthy and active and are living longer, so the idea of retirement may look different than retirement in years past.
Krekk was looking for a new sense of purpose. For Paul Bonacci, it was different.
When Bonacci thought about his retirement, he envisioned days at the beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but a visit to Phoenix changed everything.
“My wife has family in Arizona, and we were simply here for a visit,” Bonacci says. “But as I drove through the desert, it was love at first sight. It was clean and new. The Valley offered art, major league sports, and opportunity for his two daughters. He started looking at homes the very next day.”
At age 62, Bonacci retired from his executive team lead position at Target. However, after two weeks, he found he missed work. He started going to the gym four to five days a week and loved to play golf. He completed projects on his to-do list. But then, in 2018, Bonacci was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“It was awful sitting home during my recovery,” Bonacci says. “I was feeling antsy, so I started looking for a part-time job. Something fun that would keep my mind active and give me the ability to be around other people.”
Working part time and on call at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino provides Bonacci with a flexible schedule that enables him to work as much or as little as he wants.
“Working in events and promotions has its perks,” Bonacci says. “I get to see great shows and concerts. I also pass out promotional items to Caesars Rewards members. The response from our casino guests when they get something amazing is priceless. It’s great fun.”
Like Bonacci, Krekk says the interaction with casino guests is the best part of the job. Pickups and drop-offs are more than just to and from the casino. It’s a chance to get to know people and listen to their stories, and he shares a few of his own. He turns all interactions into an adventure.
“My part-time job inspires and renews my heart every day,” Krekk says. “I’m so glad I took a chance and decided to get back out there.”
Part-time or on-call work might be the ticket for seniors who don’t want stress or long hours. Not sure? Here are a few things to consider:
Show me the money
If continuing to receive a paycheck sounds good to you, working part time might be the answer. Many retirees live on a fixed budget, so a little extra walking-around money can come in handy. But do your homework. Additional part-time work income will generally not affect Social Security benefits if you have reached full retirement age. Still, having a financial expert weigh in on the decision is always a good idea.
Passionate workers are happy workers
Climbing the corporate ladder and making more money are often the motivators during your career. But part-time work in retirement is different. Let your passion guide your actions. If you love woodworking, check out a local lumber or woodworking shop. Look into the hospitality industry if you want to be around fun people. If you enjoyed the work you did before retirement, consider consulting. Take this time to have fun and find something that makes you smile. A part-time job in retirement can be a perfect opportunity to mentor and inspire other generations.
Stay active and engaged in your community
According to WebMD, seniors who work part time after retirement have fewer health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s also a great way to stay busy and continue challenging yourself, making you less likely to get dementia.
An important note about full retirement age
According to the Social Security Administration, the age when you can claim your full Social Security benefit varies depending on your birth year. The full retirement age is 65 for those born in 1937 or earlier, 66 for baby boomers born between 1943 and 1954, and 67 for people born in 1960 or later. Those born from 1938 to 1942 and 1955 to 1959 have an even more specific retirement age. For example, the full retirement age is 65 and 10 months for people born in 1942 and 66 and four months for boomers with birth dates in 1956.
Those who sign up for Social Security between age 62 and their full retirement age get smaller monthly payments while delaying claiming can increase your benefit until age 70.