If you're thinking of retiring at age 65, think again. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released on Monday, a large percentage of older Americans are opting for holding off on retiring until they're older.
While some authorities say this is an illuminating sign of changing times, it is probably more a sign of older folks facing a sad reality. It is a reality that has been coming on for years, the realization the Social Security of our grandparents era was not going to be the same for this generation.
The poll bears this sentiment out, with 82 percent of respondents saying they will probably work after they are retired. Another 47 percent say they will put off retirement until they are older by at least three years or more. This group includes men, those earning less than $50,000 a year, parents of minor children, minorities and those lacking health insurance.
Three-quarters of respondents cited employee health benefits, personal health and financial need as extremely important in holding off on retirement. The recession also played an important part in their decision, too. Many people cited a loss in 401K plans.
Changes in the definition of retirement
Retirement is not what it used to be. After the advent of Social Security, people working past retirement age were few and far between. When you retired, you were supposed to move to Florida and spend your days in relaxation, the reward of working all your life. And for many years, older workers were a minority in the workforce.
That is changing, and since the 1990's, older workers are the fastest growing segment of the workforce today. It is estimated that by the year 2020, one-fourth of the American workforce will be made up of older workers, 55 and over.
Interestingly, it is not just financial need that keeps many retirees working. It is love of the job. Fully 9 out of 10 retirees still working say they love their job or are satisfied with it. Couple this with increased life spans and advances in health care, and we have people far more able to get along and do well for themselves, far more than it was years ago.
Being realistic, holding off on retiring can end up being a necessity, and not a choice. It has to do with demographics. Those in minority groups, those with less formal education or a low income often have no choice but to continue to work past retirement age, even if they would like to retire, they can't. This group made up almost a third of those responding to the poll.
To retire, or not retire, this being the question many folks 55 and over are asking themselves today, only leads to more questions. Not just financial need or health care insurance are included, but what about savings? Only 6 percent of those polled had $1,000 or more in a retirement account, where as only 1 in 4 were depending on Social Security alone for their retirement. Scary as that sounds, with the cost of living being so high, there is not much else many can do about it. So, they continue to work.