Behavior

An Anti-Retirement Advocate

At 89 years old, retirement is one of the few things that has not made it onto Robert E. Levinson’s vita.

Cover of "The Anti-Retirement Book"Levinson almost single-handedly seems to be trying to start an anti-retirement movement. He feels so strongly that he once wrote a book titled, “The Anti-Retirement Book.”

“I just feel very strongly that one should never retire, or if they’re forced to retire they should try to find something productive to do,” he said.

Though not wealthy, Levinson is one of the lucky Americans. The long-time businessman and fund-raiser for a Florida college is college educated and said he is comfortable financially. But when he looks around his luxury senior community in Delray Beach, he sees pain and regret.  Many residents seem idle.  For example, a retired physician sits in the lobby waiting for people to drop by and consult him on their ailments.

“If you made a survey of all these guys who are retired, you would find that probably 75 percent would say to you , ‘I retired too soon,’ ” Levinson says.

On Tuesday, Squared Away profiled two older Americans who, after retiring, were pulled back into the work world by their desire to re-engage. But Levinson has simply blown past the traditional retirement age range chosen by most Americans – the 60s – and just keeps working.

He doesn’t really need the money he earns in a late-life career built on his varied interests.  He’s just always been driven to work hard, and that did not change simply because he got older.

Robert E. Levinson

After college and a stint in the U.S. Navy in the mid-1940s, he and his brother ran an Ohio manufacturing company they eventually sold to American Standard. While continuing to work as a group vice president for the corporation, he bought one hotel in Pompano Beach – later, he built two more in southern Florida.  He lost the hotels due to financing difficulties, he said. For the past 25 years, he’s been working as a development officer at Lynn University in Boca Raton.  He’ll leave that job next spring.

That won’t slow him down.  He plans to work more with his son at a consulting company he founded back in 1969, in addition to writing books, which have included “Full Circle, A Love Story,” about his relationship with Zelda Luxenberg, and the forthcoming “Management Savvy.”

Words of wisdom from a man who will turn 90 in March: Retirement “ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

8 Responses to An Anti-Retirement Advocate

  1. Roger Potter says:

    Bob – I totally agree with you, I couldn’t wait to ‘retire’ so that I could go into a field that really matter to me and am taking the final test to be certified for a whole new career.

  2. Martin fano says:

    I agree with him…retirement has changed..gone are the days of company pensions…gold watch at 65..and dead at 70! If ou are healthy why not keep working?..ths is my greatest fear..being bored…these days you can work as long as you wish too..I do not believe a person gets thrown on the trash dump just because they reached 65!

  3. John Himmelein says:

    I’m an emergency nurse working three, 12-hour shifts a week. I recently celebrated my 68th birthday and some friends don’t understand why I don’t retire. I don’t understand why anyone in my situation would. I love my job. Love the interaction with patients and peers. I have lots of time off to pursue my other interest– \homesteading.\ Lots of time for family and friends, including many friends I work with. I live in central New York state in the country surrounded by farms and and seemingly endless natural beauty. Doesn’t get any better than this. Thanks Mr. Levinson. I can recommend your book to those who ask why I keep working.

  4. Jeff Perlman says:

    I have had the privilege to share an office and a friendship with Bob. He’s a daily inspiration whose energy, intellect and curiosity about the world amazes all those who know him.

  5. Colm Barry says:

    Reminds me of a paper I wrote decades ago titled, “The Seniority Principle in Retirement.” At the time, (as in the U.S.) pensioners often died soon after retirement. Retirement advocates read this to mean: retirement should be brought forward even more.

    I had a suspicion that, actually, these early deaths (which are one reason pension plans were not so under-financed back then) might have to do with a person feeling like they’re going from 100% to zero and not feeling useful anymore.

    However, what people like Levinson (and I) overlook is that 90% of people do not seem to know, when asked in randomized studies, why they actually get up each morning and go to work. So they don’t have a purpose in life other than being active in the workforce. Thus Levinson can argue all he wants that those “retired too early” guys are not going to change their situation. I heard of a guy who after retirement immediately got himself a low-paying job as greeter at Wal-Mart because he said he wanted to keep working. You can see his beaming face on YouTube somewhere.

  6. Ken Pidcock says:

    There is another perspective, which is that innovation is served by having a younger workforce. By all means, people should stay engaged with their communities and, if so fortunate, their professions. But they should also consider that handing responsibility to the next generation could be an act of real service.

  7. Joaquin Solana says:

    I just bought the book in Kindle version. It looks great, with ideas and driving forces to create a change in social trends.
    Joaquin Solana,
    From Barcelona, Spain.

  8. Mark Zoril says:

    Nice story. As a financial advisor for the middle class, I find that my clients who stay more professionally engaged are happier than the ones that do not. I think what people want more than retirement, as we think of it, is financial flexibility. That is the ability to leave a crummy professional situation on your own terms.