A Familiar Dilemma: to Work or Retire

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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

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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Mark Zoril

Good story. There are so many people that I work with that feel the same way. And, believe it or not, some of them are in relatively “unskilled” jobs. They take satisfaction from the work and enjoy their colleagues and/or the people they serve. Also, it is what they are used to and the idea of actually retiring is scary to them.

Leonard Sipes

It’s interesting that many federal workers who have suburb evaluations and national awards for their work are being pushed to retire. They no longer feel welcomed. Age discrimination should be part of the discussion.


Good post and certainly something many can relate to. If Jane and her husband both have pensions they may not be millionaires but they are better off than a millionaire with $2-$3M in the bank and no pension.


    Let’s hope their pensions don’t go bankrupt like so many others have.


    Public and private Pensions are underfunded, will be eliminated or cut.

    USA is $20 trillion in debt and still counting. That threat targets Social Security, as well Medicare.

    Having your own cash (not in the bank due to bail-outs) means you can diversify your assets.

Kim Blanton

Leonard- thank you for the comment. We’ve written about age discrimination among women: http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/age-discrimination-affects-women-more/

But I’ll look for more information about this!
Kim (blog writer)


Gosh, I’m in the same boat! Nice to know I’m not alone! I love the people I work with, and love being useful, but some days I just want to do something else. I wish my position would allow me to work half time. I’ve read 6 or 7 books on the topic but I’m not comfortable yet with the concept of having 100% freedom with my time. It’s like I’m getting out of prison after 30 years and have not been trained to do anything else. Maybe I need to leap and trust that a net will appear.


Very interesting. I have a pension (hope it continues) and retired 2 years ago. Became bored and took a job 2 days a week that keeps my interest and just about pays my Roth. Deciding whether to work is a tough decision. At this time it feels worthwhile to me, but the good thing is that it is an alternative I can take or leave. This is something I could not do without the pension. As Jane says “we are so blessed.”


Thank you for launching this boomer series! At least this discussion makes me feel that my ambivalence is the norm.

Kim Blanton

Thank you all for pitching in! I am looking for others to share their stories – if you or others you know have an interest. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss the possibility. Email address is at the end of this link:

Thank you- Kim (blog writer)

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