A major theme within social gerontology is how retirement ‘is being re-organised, if not undone’. Institutional supports for retirement are weakening, with pension ages rising in many countries. Increasing numbers of older workers are working past traditional retirement age on a part-time or self-employed basis, and a growing minority are joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Drawing upon narrative interviews with older Australians who are involuntarily non-employed or underemployed, this article explores how the ‘unravelling’ of retirement is experienced by a group of older workers on the periphery of the labour market. While policy makers hope that higher pension ages will lead to a longer period of working life, the risk is that older workers, especially those experiencing chronic insecurity in the labour market, will be caught in a netherworld between work and retirement.