More Americans Postponing Retirement to Work Longer

Financial security continues to be an utmost concern for many Americans shifting their perceptions of work and retirement, with many saying they plan to work longer, according to a study from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

While adults age 65 and older represented 13% of the U.S. population in 2010, by 2030 this group will comprise 19%, or an estimated 72 million older adults, according to 2011 data from the Administration on Aging cited in the study. 

But even as the age 65 and older population ages at a rapid pace, many are living longer, healthier lives than they did in the past. With longevity of life playing a role, more Americans are blurring the lines when it comes to work and retirement.

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Among those who are working now and not yet retired, 47% say it is “very likely” that they will do some work for pay during their retirement, while another 35% say they are “somewhat likely” to do the same.

The likelihood of working during retirement was also related to financial factors, as those who feel insecure about their retirement savings say they are more likely than others to work longer.

Individuals who reported that financial needs are not an important factor in their decision on when to retire accounted for 58% of the 1,024 adults ages 50 and over surveyed in the NORC study. Conversely, those who cited concerns about financial need as their motivation to work longer and postpone retirement represented 28% of respondents.

Non-financial factors, such as health or job capability, were also factors that contributed to older adults’ motivations for working longer. 

More individuals who cite health as an important factor in their decision about when to retire expect to work during retirement, compared to those who do not consider health as an important factor (38% vs. 15%). 

Older adults felt similarly when weighing the ability to do their jobs as an important factor on when to retire, 38% compared to 19% who did not. 

Although personal factors for determining when to retire vary among individuals, recent history shows that retirement ages have been increasing, especially when considering the Great Recession.

Before the Great Recession in December 2007, the average retirement age was 57 years old, while the average age for retirees after was 62. Additionally, in the five year period leading up to the Great Recession, the average retirement age was 59. 

This trend of later retirement ages also means that increasing numbers of Americans have been working later in life than they expected to, said the study’s researchers. 

“The duration of healthy old age is increasing, due in part to increases in life span and to short and later periods of illness,” wrote the study’s researchers. “Faced with the expectation of living healthier for longer, older adults may opt to remain in the workforce for longer and defer savings, pensions and Social security for a later age.” 

Written by Jason Oliva

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