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The great unretirement: Why at 68, John has taken a job at Coles

John Scott retired from a long career in the insurance industry. Now, he’s decided to head back to work at his local Coles.

More older Australians are coming out of retirement and re-entering the workforce in what has been dubbed ‘the great unretirement’.

John Scott retired at the end of 2021 after 50 years working in the insurance industry. He loved his clients but, following the education changes brought in by the banking royal commission, he decided he was “happy to walk away” from work and sell his business.

“For six to 12 months I thought ‘This is great. I can fiddle at home and don’t have to go check emails or listen to the phones’,” John, who is now 68 years old, told Yahoo Finance.

Retiree John Scott working at Coles
John Scott decided retirement wasn't for him and returned to work at Coles. (Source: Supplied)

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But, as more time passed, John said he began to feel stagnant and started thinking to himself: “Is this it?”

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“Being 66, I just felt I wasn’t old enough to wear whites to play bowls,” he said. “That’s when it hit me, if you’re not going to do that [or join a club], what else are you going to do?”

John’s wife had also picked up that he wasn't his normal “carefree, happy-go-lucky” self and suggested he think about returning to work.

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John ended up applying for a job at his local Coles in Mooloolaba, where he’d been a customer for nearly 25 years. A couple of months later he got the call for a job interview.

“I had never applied for a job in my life or had a job interview in my life. I went from being an employee, bought the boss out and then became self-employed,” he said.

But it turned out John had nothing to worry about and he secured the job the next day. He’s now been working at Coles for the past four months in the services team, which involves overseeing cleaning and trolleys, and is loving it.

“The benefits I am getting now far outweigh sitting at home,” John said.

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John Scott at work
John said the best thing about the job are his team members and the customers. (Source: Supplied)

Unretirement trend

The great unretirement trend was initially triggered by the pandemic, with more than 179,000 Australians over the age of 55 rejoining the workforce between 2019 and 2022.

Like John, some retirees are choosing to return to work to keep active and social but, for others, it’s been a financial necessity.

A survey by National Seniors Australia found money was the top reason 60 per cent of pensioners and 46 per cent of non-pensioners decided to return to work.

“Many are going back to work because of those positive experiences but there are a number of them [who are] struggling and, in particular, those that are renting,” National Seniors CEO Chris Grice told Yahoo Finance.

“They are going back to work for a couple of days in order to try and supplement their income to help them meet the rising costs.”

Work ‘a blessing’ for John

For John, the best part of his new job is the people he works with - who span a variety of ages - as well as the customers.

According to Coles, of the 121,000 team members it has across Australia, about 6.4 per cent - or more than 7,700 - are over 60 years old.

Unlike his previous work in the insurance industry, John said he was able to switch off from work at the end of the day and could enjoy spending time with his wife, kids and grandkids.

John Scott at Coles
John has encouraged other Aussies to not be afraid of change and to put themselves out there. (Source: Supplied)

“I don’t feel guilty about sitting down and relaxing. It takes away all that worry and strife,” John said.

“Getting paid to do what I’m doing is a bit of a blessing. I didn’t do it for financial reasons, I just did it for my own mental health.”

The extra cash he is earning also means John and his wife can go out for a meal or take their kids out and they don’t have to worry about money.

Older workers know the ‘lumps and bumps’

Grice said older workers like John had a lot to offer the workplace and stressed that “experience does matter”.

“They’ve walked a path before and they know what the lumps and bumps are, what happened and what went wrong,” Grice said.

John said he gravitated towards the younger workers at Coles and was able to pass along his experience to them.

“We’ve all been there, us oldies. We started work when we were clumsy and making mistakes and doing things wrong and we survived it,” he said.

With Australia currently facing skills shortages in areas like aged care, disability care and child care, Grice noted older Aussies who were keen to work could help fill this gap.

He encouraged pensioners to get online and to make sure they were aware of any impact work would have on their age pension payments.

“Make sure you understand those aspects as well and get information and advice from Services Australia or organisations like National Seniors Australia around the work bonus and what you can do,” Grice said.

John encouraged older Aussies to not be afraid to head back to work or try a completely different career path.

“Don’t be afraid of change and don’t be afraid to take the plunge,” he said. “You'll probably be pleasantly surprised.”