Can you just work longer?


Surveys show the majority of Americans are short of what they will need for retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey found that almost 75% of workers have $100,000 or less in savings. Many financial advisors propose the solution is to just keep working. Suze Orman recently suggested that those who have a job should keep working until 68.

Since Americans are living and staying active longer than in previous generations, this seems like sound advice. Working longer keeps paychecks coming in, reduces the time that our savings have to last, and helps us maintain vital social interactions and keeps us physically and mentally active. It potentially enables us to delay taking Social Security benefits, which allows our benefits to grow.

Increasing numbers of workers are opting for that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the percentage of workers age 55 or over increased from 12% in 1992 to 21% in 2012, and is projected to rise to 26% by 2022. Staying on the job is not an option for many of us, though. Most workers leave the workforce earlier than they expected, because of corporate downsizing, or for health reasons or to care for a family member.

Another option is to start a second career. You can take a part-time position in your community. Some retirees also use the experience and contacts built up during their careers to start a small business or consulting. Others retrain and embark on entirely new careers. Almost 75% of current workers age 50 or over say they plan to continue working in some form in retirement, according to a 2014 Merrill Lynch study. Nearly 60% of retirees start entirely new careers, including entrepreneurship.

Many retirees are looking for new challenges, and a way to stay engaged and productive. But financial considerations are the main reason why many retirees choose to work. A Harris Poll found that 78% of retirees chose to work primarily for financial reasons. Sixty percent took a job for health benefits.

Caring for a spouse, elderly parents, or other family members is a common reason that many workers retire. But this can put a dent in your retirement plans from a financial standpoint. A study by MetLife found that workers can lose over $140,000 in salary and $140,000 in Social Security benefits in the process of caring for elderly parents.

Another problem is that second jobs tend to pay much less than your first job. When older workers leave the workforce, the new jobs they get usually have lower pay and benefits, and are often part-time or offer fewer working hours, according to a 2015 study by the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Finding a job in the first place can be difficult for older workers. Another AARP report indicated that half of people age 45 to 70 who were unemployed didn’t find work for at least five years.

With these facts in mind, it’s important to plan ahead. Make sure you have a budget and financial plan for transitioning to retirement, with the understanding that, like the majority of workers, you might retire years earlier than you expect.

 It’s also important to keep your skills current. Lack of up-to-date skills are a common reason that older workers are forced to retire or cannot find employment. Also keep contact with business contacts and stay current on trends in your business or industry in case you have to find a new position.

This video offers some suggestions for finding a job as an older worker.


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