-- And now, I interrupt this financial meltdown for some good news: While we all may have to work until we drop (or until our 401(k) accounts recover from their own recent near-death experiences), we're going to feel great doing it.
At least that's the word from workers over 65 who responded to my column about whether working past traditional retirement age is good for body and mind. Though the experts I spoke with predicted that some folks will suffer physically and mentally as they work extra years, I didn't hear from those people.
Instead, I heard from people such as Ruth Kittell of East Greenbush, N.Y. Kittell, who turns 80 this week, officially retired from her job as an elementary school teacher nearly a quarter-century ago. Since then, she says, "I have retired several times."
But retirement doesn't stick, Kittell says, because she has too much fun working.
"I think it's very important," she says. "It keeps you on a schedule, into things and meeting people."
She has done stints at Sears and a china store. But about eight years ago, she returned to her first love: teaching. She now works with disabled adults and adults who are completing their high school studies. "I use my cane to get to school in the morning," she says, because of some arthritis pain. "But by afternoon, I don't need it." Four years ago, she says, she kept working right through treatment for breast cancer.
Finally, this fall, she did decide that her job had become too much. She's resigning Dec. 1, she says — but she already has applied for another part-time teaching job.
Unlike Kittell, Wayne Rogers of Temecula, Calif., is not a late-life worker entirely by choice. He was laid off by a longtime employer when he was 54. At the time, he had a 10-year-old daughter and a wife disabled by post-polio syndrome. So he started a consulting business and is still at it, full time, at 67.
So far, he says, "I've had excellent health, knock on wood." He was spooked by one decades-old study he recently read about: It found that working older men in the aerospace industry died sooner than their retired peers. But Rogers says: "I'm going to try to keep going until I'm 80, unless some disease comes along. And nobody can say when that will happen."
Carl Welshman, 70, of Danielson, Conn., actually retired early, at 60, from his longtime job as a purchasing manager for a large manufacturer. He was "burned out" back then, he says.
But retirement eventually got old, Welshman found: "Playing golf and working around the yard was not enough. My health was OK, but my mind was not challenged enough. I actually felt as if things were going downhill. I seemed to find more aches and pains to grouse about."
Then, a few years ago, Welshman, a longtime sailor who had given up his boat in the name of retirement frugality, did some tinkering and came up with a product: a customized lighted nautical chart. He now makes about one of the decorative charts each week and sells them with the help of his wife, Lynn, 68. The two thoroughly enjoy themselves, he says, traveling to customers' homes and boat shows, meeting new people and making enough money to cover their costs and a small profit.
Feeling great, mentally and physically, is a major bonus, he says: "My health is the best it has been in years. I look forward to running this little lifesaver operation for the next couple decades, at least."