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A Familiar Dilemma: To Work or Retire

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A Familiar Dilemma: To Work or Retire

This profile is the first in an occasional series about individual baby boomers who either have retired or are facing the retirement decision.  

Jane Kisielius is at that age – 63 – when she is being pushed and pulled between the work world and the retirement lifestyle that her husband already inhabits.

She retired once – temporarily – in August 2014 from a stressful job as head of the nursing team for the public schools in Quincy, a suburb southeast of Boston. But with her administrative and nursing skills in such demand, she was quickly sucked back into the labor market, this time as a part-time coordinator of a wellness program for Quincy residents. She was asked to help run the new, grant-funded education program after bumping into the commissioner of the Quincy Health Department.

“The job fell in my lap,” she said. “It was kind of hard to pass it up.”

So here Jane sits, wrestling with when she’ll really retire, as she drinks her morning coffee at the kitchen table in her orderly home, a stone’s throw from the historic home of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Her experience is very common. Thousands of baby boomers are retiring every day, and millions more, like Jane, are thinking hard about when they will do so.

As she ages, she increasingly finds herself weighing the inevitable frustrations of administration against the immense satisfaction she gets from working with people – her duties include teaching a class where residents learn to manage diseases like diabetes and advocate for themselves when seeking medical care. But a more leisurely life beckons.

As a working mother, she was constantly pushed and pulled between three growing children and part-time work, which would inevitably fall back into full-time employment. Now her husband is doing the tugging. John Kisielius, who retired in 2012, has what she calls a “wicked” travel bug – his latest travel idea revolved around a new direct flight from Boston to Portugal.

Since his retirement, she’s often felt “we were going in two different directions.”

One thing is not a major factor in her decision: money. Although she was raised in a working-class Boston neighborhood, and her husband grew up poor, the couple is better off financially than most U.S. retirees. John was a lieutenant in the Boston Fire Department and has a full pension; Jane has a partial pension from the city of Quincy. They have paid off the house, own a summer house on Plum Island, and have dabbled in renovating and selling residential properties in a hot neighborhood near downtown Boston.

“We’re not millionaires, but we’re so blessed,” she said.

Many older workers today are putting off retirement either by choice or due to financial necessity. Unlike Jane, however, those who remain employed are more likely to work full-time than part-time.

So, why hasn’t Jane retired? She loves nursing and working. Her retirement in 2014 from the Quincy schools was triggered by a combination of things: age, long work days, and her husband’s retirement.

Now back at work after that brief retirement, the push and pull resumes. So, Jane asks herself, will she retire for good in 2017 when the city’s grant-funded program comes up for a review?

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