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The Globe and Mail

Many boomers opting to work past ‘retirement age’

Gary Crawford, outside his home in Saskatoon, believes his 40 years of industry experience can be put to good use.

DAVID STOBBE/The Globe and Mail

This is part of The Globe and Mail's week-long series on baby boomers and how their spending, investing, health and lifestyle decisions could affect Canada's economy in the next fifteen years. Is Canada ready for the boom?

For more, visit tgam.ca/boomershift and on Twitter at #GlobeBoomers.

When Gary Crawford retires at the end of the year, he plans to do what many people his age are doing – keep working.

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The 60-year-old Saskatoon resident is leaving his full-time labour relations job at Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centres and starting a consulting business in the same profession.

While he's aware that staying in the work force might mean taking hours away from younger workers, Mr. Crawford believes his 40 years of industry experience can be put to good use. He also likes what he does for a living.

"I still enjoy the work. What I don't enjoy is the drag of eight-to-five," says Mr. Crawford. "Plus, I need some extra money for retirement."

Mr. Crawford has mortgages on a couple of income properties, as well as his own home following a divorce in his mid-40s.

"The only thing I own right now is a funeral plot and my truck," he says.

Mr. Crawford plans to pick and choose which contracts he wants to work on, mostly during the colder months, and spend summers outdoors doing small construction projects, such as building decks.

He's among a growing number of baby boomers who are "retiring" from full-time work, then returning to the work force as consultants or on contracts where they choose their own projects and hours.

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Statistics Canada data show the number of people aged 55 and older who are working or looking for work (known as the labour force participation rate), has increased to 38 per cent from 25 per cent in 2000.

"That's partly because life expectancy continues to go up and people feel they can work longer," says Nick Exarhos, economist at CIBC World Markets.

Statscan numbers also show the number of people who chose to work part time, across all age categories, has increased to nearly one million, up from about 650,000 over the past 15 years. Mr. Exarhos says much of that increase is likely due in part to older workers wanting to keep at it, but not interested in full-time hours.

Some people have to work longer if their finances have been hit by personal circumstances, such as divorce, or if their investment portfolios have underperformed. Others simply want to keep working for the personal fulfilment.

Day Merrill started her career coaching business, 2BDetermined, seven years ago at age 60, with her husband Michael Locey.

The couple, now 67 and 64, respectively, keep working in part to pay off a mortgage they took on after up-sizing to a house in Collingwood, Ont., from a condo in Richmond Hill, Ont., but also because they enjoy their careers.

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"We could scale back, but why? We have a lot of energy," says Ms. Merrill. She says contract and consulting work is becoming more the norm among clients, too. Many are also discovering full-time employment may be no more secure than a contract.

"More people are going to have to figure out how to live by their wits, including people who are employed," says Ms. Merrill. "Even if you have a full-time job, it's no longer a guarantee."

While there has been grousing that baby boomers who stay on the job longer are hogging work that could go to millennials, experts say job descriptions for each generation are usually different.

"Boomers and millennials are not direct competitors in the work force," says Vicky Oliver, a New York-based career development expert and author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.

They are usually at different salary levels and offer varied skills sets, Ms. Oliver says. For example, millennials are more technology savvy, while boomers have more institutional knowledge in their chosen field.

"There's a market for experienced workers," says Eileen Dooley, vice-president of Calgary-based career transition agency Gilker McRae. While more millennials may be finding only contract work, Ms. Dooley believes it's also a way to get a foot in the door and gain experience.

After graduating from a master's in applied mechanical engineering at Queen's University last year, Dan Nicksy took a six-month contract at Toronto-based solar company Endura Energy.

"I saw it as a trial, where I had to prove myself," says Mr. Nicksy, 25, who was hired full-time at the end of the contract. It led him to move out of his parents' home in Mississauga and into an apartment with a friend in Toronto.

"I think I avoided the limbo that a lot of people my age are in," Mr. Nicksy says.

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