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

Two of the biggest concerns faced by workers when they reach their 50s and 60s are those of achieving job satisfaction and a work/life balance. Recent studies have offered fresh insight into the reasons behind these issues and the best ways to tackle them.

One study conducted by economists at the University of Southern California and California State University explored how work/life balance issues affected those aged between 51 and 79. 14% of women in this age bracket who retired earlier than they intended to did so because they had to care for a spouse or other family member who experienced a health scare. However, this was far less often the case in men, perhaps due to them being more likely to ‘outsource’ the care their spouse needed. 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 report also found 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 Harvard University’s Medical School, the University of California 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 nearing 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 flexibility, job satisfaction and the chance to spend time with your loved ones take precedence.

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