2/1/2023 | By Yvette C. Hammett

Jennifer Morley worked as a high school teacher in Hillsborough County, Florida, teaching economics, psychology, American government, and other classes. She also worked in administration before retiring. But now the 63-year-old could not be happier with her decision to become a mortgage broker. As a semi-retired independent contractor, she is setting her own schedule and calling the shot.

“Now I am self-paced. It is not like going to the office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or grading papers and working 12 hours a day,” she says. “And the pay is pretty good if you are smart with your time.”

Morley is not alone in her newfound independent bliss. Older workers who have left their employer-based jobs to become independent contractors tend to experience less stress and fewer health issues, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan. And these freelancers and contractors are happy with their choice.

That surprised the study’s author, economist Joelle Abramowitz. “It makes sense when we think about it, but I wasn’t sure it would actually show up in the data,” she says.

Semi-retired independent contractor and calling the shots. Woman working from home.

The data she used came from the university’s long-running Health and Retirement Study, an annual survey taken over more than two decades examining the attitudes of about 20,000 older workers transitioning toward retirement. Those surveyed report that their work is not particularly stressful, which could mean their jobs are less challenging than past work. Or it could mean that because they are working only to generate extra income, they do not feel the stress of making ends meet.

Another recent survey of older workers by global consulting firm Mercer showed that 18% of U.S. respondents said they plan to join the gig economy, many just part-time.

Jay Nolan spent his career as a photojournalist in Tampa but was laid off in 2011. At 67, he is a semi-retired independent contractor, continuing to work as a freelance photographer for businesses, individuals, and the Tampa Bay Times. He says he doesn’t yet need to collect Social Security. “I keep working because I want to. The money does help for those surprises that jump out at you, like when I found out my dog needed surgery.”

He is also able to turn down work if he wants a day off. “Compared to working for an employer, the big difference is obviously benefits,” Nolan says. He is on Medicare now and has secondary health insurance and life insurance through his wife’s job. “I now have to buy my own [photo] equipment, so I need to have $10,000 in the bank. That is the downside.”

Self-employed older workers of all stripes do seem to have one thing in common, Abramowitz says. “They are more satisfied with their lives than their counterparts who are still regular employees.”

Yvette C. Hammett is a contributing writer at Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. For more on this and similar money topics, visit

© 2023 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Yvette C. Hammett