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Work ‘til you drop? Maybe not

You’ve heard it before: Americans will be retiring later and working longer. At least that’s what people expect to do. But what are they actually doing?

You’ve heard it before: Americans will be retiring later and working longer. At least that’s what people expect to do. But what are they actually doing?

It could be that a lot of that talk about how Americans will work well past their normal retirement age may be just that—talk—at least if findings from one study published earlier this year are any indication.

According to the results of a study from MetLife Mature Market Institute, many of the oldest Baby Boomers—those who turned 65 in 2011—rather than continuing their working careers, were “already well into retirement.”

Among the 65-year-olds surveyed in 2011 for the study, 45 percent said they were fully retired, and 24 percent said they were working full-time. Fourteen percent said they were retired, but still working seasonally or part-time.

Moreover, the average age at retirement for these oldest boomers was 59.7 for men and 57.2 for women—numbers that would sound pretty good to most people.

About two-thirds of the survey group already were receiving Social Security benefits. Among those in the group who were still working, more than a third expected to retire when they turned 66 and became eligible for full Social Security benefits.

Of those who hadn’t retired, the average age at which they planned to do so was 68.5, which from the vantage point of a group that already has hit the age of 65, is not exactly the “far past retirement age” that a lot of forecasts have predicted.

Bottom line: It could be that the WTYD (work ‘til you drop) forecast that’s been circulating for the last few years is somewhat off the mark, at least for most Boomers who are now at or approaching the traditional retirement age of 65.

Of course, some of these folks do plan to work past retirement. Even so, as a group, members of this oldest Boomer contingent don’t think of themselves as rocking-chair candidates at this point in their lives.

Eighty-five percent of these oldest Boomers ranked their general health as good, very good or excellent. Which may be part of the reason they generally don’t see themselves in the “old” category just yet.

In fact, from their perspective, the idea of what constitutes “old” is getting older. According to the report, those in this leading edge of the Boomer generation—the same folks who in the 1960s often repeated the maxim “Don’t trust anyone over 30”—now on average don’t label themselves as “old” until age 79.

Postponing retirement? Perhaps not as much as advertised. Postponing old age?

Absolutely.

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