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Why Working Past Retirement Age May Make Sense

Why Working Past Retirement Age May Make Sense


I know what you're thinking: Why work any more than you need to? Isn't it time to kick back and relax after a certain age?

A few years ago, I would've agreed with that statement. I was ready for sun and fun. Now I'm not so sure.

Working into your seventh decade is a bit counter-intuitive. Your body doesn't spring up the way it used to every morning and you have no patience for surly bosses and long hours. You want to do other things and be with people you care about.

Yet there's something about work that can be fulfilling: If you're helping others or find it deeply satisfying, then that makes a difference. There's also the redeeming quality of having put in a decent day of labor or the social connections.

If you've been working hard all of your life and your body is telling you to quit, read no further. But for those who want something more, keep reading.

 Many of us are working longer because we can -- or want to -- according to new research from United Income. The number of retirement-age Americans still in the labor force has doubled since 1985. Some 20% of Americans 65 or older are either working or looking for work.

While it can't be denied that millions of Americans need the money -- they just can't afford to retire or pay their bills -- many choose to stay in the labor force.  Much of the increased older-age labor participation is due to healthy lifestyles and longevity, but there's more to the story.


What do you need to know about the "un-retirement" trend? Here are some questions based on the study:

-- Are you healthy? While chronic disease and acute illness are devastating to some, millions are maintaining their health through exercise, healthy eating and staying active. This may be one of the most telling factors of why people still want to work. They feel good physically and mentally. They want to stay engaged.

"Of Americans aged 65 or older and working or looking for work," the study reports, "78 percent report being in good health or better, up from 73 percent in 1997 and 69 percent in 1985. As a result, more retirement-age people can work: 77 percent feel no limitations in the kind of work they can do, compared with 71 percent in 1997."

-- Are you educating yourself? While a college degree certainly doesn't guarantee a long life, there is a link between those who are educated and longer lifespans. The key is whether you're engaging in lifelong learning. You don't necessarily need to go out and earn a PhD or professional degree. Just keep learning new things.

"College-educated adults are the fastest growing workforce segment among retirement-age adults, pushing up incomes for older workers," the study notes.

"The share of adults that are 65 years or older and working that have at least a college degree increased from 25 percent in 1985 to 53 percent in 2019. This pushed up the average real income of retirement-age workers by 63 percent during this time period, from $48,000 to $78,000."

Oh, by the way, the more education you have, the more you can earn. Again, this isn't universally true, although the highest wage earners tend to have extensive education.

-- Are You Flexible? Maybe older workers aren't really interested in a career, per se. They just want to keep working at something, so they'll accept jobs that aren't necessarily fast-track positions.

"Researchers have documented arrangements such as part-time work, bridge jobs, and phased retirement that make the path to full retirement less abrupt."

"In addition, the jobs in which Americans are concentrated change: Older Americans are more likely to work in white-collar professions and retail, whereas younger Americans are more likely to work in physically demanding fields like manufacturing."

What does this mean for workers of any age? You can view work differently and adapt to changing circumstances through lifelong learning and staying healthy. The possibilities are endless.


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John Wasik
John Wasik