What’s your ideal retirement age: 65? 62? 60? 55? Or even younger? The age when people are choosing to retire seems to have been dropping in recent years. Rather than 65, which used to be the norm, data from a 2017 Federal Reserve Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking says the average retirement age in the United States among retirees was 59.9. The most common age to retire was 62, while more than 63 percent of the population retired between the ages of 57 and 66.
But not everyone is looking for an early out from the workforce. Some people who could have retired years ago are working long past what could be considered to be a “normal” retirement age, simply because they are passionate about their work.
Iraj Chiani is one such person. Owner of Persian & Oriental Rug Gallery, he opened his store in Mt. Lebanon in 1976, selling carpets from Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan and China. After more than 20 years here, Chiani and his wife moved to Florida to escape the cold weather, but later found themselves back in Mt. Lebanon. “I opened a shop in Boca Raton but it didn’t work, and we moved back to Pittsburgh,” says the Peters resident. “I shouldn’t have gone there, it was a mistake. I’m happy here. I love it, and I’m going to keep working.”
And it’s no wonder. Chiani considers his carpets to be works of art. “They are pure silk, with close to 900 knots per square inch. They are masterpieces, some taking almost two years to make. I have rugs from 1910, 1930—you can pass them down to your grandchildren.”
At age 75, Chiani has no immediate plans to retire. “What would I do?” he asks. “If I closed the shop, I would have to watch soap operas all day. I don’t want to do that.”
Jon Delano, 70, echoes Chiani’s sentiments. “I’d be totally bored,” he says. “I don’t want to sit in front of a TV watching Netflix all day.”
Delano, Longuevue Drive, works full time as money and politics editor for KDKA-TV, but also teaches graduate courses on media and public policy-making at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, and is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Business Times. “I have a very full schedule,” he says, “but I work because I enjoy it. Why else does anybody work after they could retire? I could retire any time I want, but I love reporting, particularly on business and governmental stories, and I like the challenge of taking issues and making them understandable to any audience.”
Delano spends considerable time moderating programs for organizations, panels of legislators and lawmakers. “That keeps me up on the news and on particular topics, so I can go from discussing municipal trash issues one day to steel trade policy with China the next.”
Delano has no immediate plans to retire, but he admits he is starting to scale back by teaching fewer courses at CMU and writing fewer Business Times columns. “You do find that you may need to slow down a little bit, but you don’t have to go cold turkey.”
Chuck Satterfield, owner of Rollier’s Hardware along with brothers Kirk and Doug, continues to work at 72, and although he also believes it is time for him to start winding down and pass the establishment on to the next generation, he admits, “This business is so involved with details that it’s hard to step away.”
Satterfield has been involved in the business since the age of 12. “My Dad started the store on McFarland Road in 1953,” says Satterfield, Martha Avenue, “and from then on we were involved, whether with helping to sweep or clean up or do different things. But it’s been a good family business and I’ve always enjoyed it. The idea of being up to date on things and keeping things running smoothly is interesting to me, but there comes a time when you eventually have to step aside.”
When that does happen, the plan is for his nephews to step in, and he will be quite proud. “That would be the third generation, and most businesses don’t have that many generations involved.”
A professor of advertising and public relations for 25 years at Point Park University, Robert O’Gara finds it hard to retire because he believes he still has something to offer. “The field of journalism, where it’s headed is very exciting, and I have an interest in making PR all it can be.”
But at 76, O’Gara is planning to cut back on his schedule. “When you reach the milestone of 75, you start to think of what you want to do next,” he acknowledges.
O’Gara, McCann Place, finds it difficult to walk away completely. “It keeps me energized,” he says. “If you’re over 60 and still working, you better be passionate about your work.”
Lynn Banbury agrees she is passionate about her work as a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, but, at age 80, she says she can’t work as hard or as fast as she used to. Yet, she has no plans to retire any time soon. “I’ve never stopped working because I enjoy working, and I feel that I have a lot to offer in my 35-plus years of experience,” she says. “And I like having a reason to get up and get dressed every morning, and not just sit around and do nothing.”
Banbury, Thornberry Circle, particularly relied on her job when she was going through some health issues. “I couldn’t do a lot of the things I liked to do—I couldn’t play tennis, I couldn’t swim, I couldn’t play golf. The only thing I could do was work, and that got me through a bad situation.”
She adds, “I love the interaction with people, helping them with making an important decision whether it be buying or selling. And I love learning. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, something happens in a transaction that I never saw before. I feel bad for people who don’t like to work. I never had a job I didn’t like. You’re not working if you love what you do.”