Among the key reasons an increasing number of people are deciding to work beyond retirement age are the ongoing need to make ends meet and a desire to remain as engaged with the world as possible.
Both of these factors are major motivations for Annie Curbelo Lang, who is based in Boyle, Co Roscommon and works part-time, earning roughly enough to cover her rent each month, while living off her pension.
Born in Dublin, Lang has lived in London, Australia, Italy and Spain – a hugely interesting life, but not one that has left her with the security that comes with home ownership or a well-stocked pension pot.
“Yes, I’d say that both are reasons as to why I’m still working,” she says cheerily. “One is economic, because I have a non-contributory pension, because I didn’t quite get enough stamps to get a contributory one.
“Not that there’s a big difference between the two but I don’t own my own house. I’m renting. And you can’t pay rent out of a non-contributory pension, so working is a necessity for me now.
“But then I love my job, my boss is more like a son to me, and I work with a great group of people… we [the National Business Training Institute] work with Spanish interns who come over to do work experience here, and my job is to find the companies.
“A lot of the time I get to pick my own hours and the work is great, but then March to June last year was very stressful after Covid and twice I almost handed in my notice – the first time I’d thought of it in 13 years. That moment, though, where I’m thinking, ‘okay, I’m giving this up,’ is quickly followed by the thought: ‘Shit, how am I going to pay the rent?’”
If I got a social house in the future and I was able to pay the rent then just out of my pension, that would leave me with a better choice— Annie Curbelo Lang
She has, she says, no complaints. “Ireland, God bless her, does her best. I get free transport and because I live on my own I get help with the heating, help with electricity. I would not get all that if I was retired in Spain, and apart from the coffee and wine it’s almost as expensive there now.
“As long as I can physically and mentally do it I will, although I put my name down for social housing – and if I got a social house in the future and I was able to pay the rent then just out of my pension, that would leave me with a better choice. But I do like the job: It gives me something to do, it keeps my mind active, I meet lots of young people… I just don’t like the stress.”
For John MacKenna, formerly a producer in RTÉ and now a writer and teacher of creative writing, based in Co Carlow, working is primarily about feeling part of something and the interaction involved.
“I retired from RTÉ at 50 and the notion was that I would write full-time, but financially that didn’t prove to be a runner – so I went back lecturing part-time and have been doing that for 20 years now,” he says.
I love the interaction, I love the notion of contributing to somebody’s education, and it keeps me sharp…— John MacKenna, teacher of creative writing
“The word retirement bugs me to be honest, it sounds like stepping away from life – and I’ve never felt like doing that.
“I suppose my impression of retirement came from a different time, but it wasn’t what I wanted,” says MacKenna, who says additional money isn’t a key motivation even if “it helps”.
“It’s really for the enjoyment of it,” he says. “I love the interaction, I love the notion of contributing to somebody’s education, and it keeps me sharp… if you are teaching a class of 15, 20, 30 people, you have to be on your toes; it’s a huge part for me of staying fit. Just stepping away from it… I would find really depressing.
“Two years ago I had a triple bypass and it did two things: it knocked a bit of energy out of me which, thankfully, is coming back bit by bit, and it brought me face-to-face with mortality which, in a strange way, kind of redoubled my commitment to being alive as long as I can. So, it’s not financial reasons, it’s for fun. I get a great kick out of it.”