NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 25, 2008

About 2.7 million Americans are skipping retirement and working into their 70s, 80s and even 90s.  Most remain on the job, retirement experts say, not for the money but for the personal satisfaction.

Why do they do it?

  • The lifelong workers still account for only 10 percent of their generation, but the proportion of over-70 Americans who have "retired retirement" has edged up since the 1990s as people live longer, enjoy better health and hold less physically demanding jobs.
  • And the number will only increase with the baby boomers; 17 percent say they expect to work indefinitely, though financial necessity will be a bigger, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Policy analysts who fear an "entitlement crisis" with the retirement of 78 million boomers welcome the trend toward longer working lives, saying it offers financial benefits for older individuals and the economy as a whole:

  • Postponing retirement by just five years would boost the average worker's annual retirement income by 56 percent.
  • It can also add $1 trillion a year to tax coffers by 2045, enough to erase Social Security's deficit, says the Urban Institute's Retirement Policy Center.

Many employers view older workers as particularly expensive, either because they demand higher salaries or incur more health care costs than younger workers, said Gordon Mermin, a policy analyst with the Urban Institute.

But by the time workers reach their 70s, many aren't looking for traditional health benefits, because they're covered by Medicare.

Only 15 percent have employer-provided health insurance, and 14 percent have pension coverage, the institute says.  Only 27 percent work full-time, while 38 percent put in fewer than 20 hours a week.

Source: Bob Moos, "Longer life spans, less-taxing jobs lead more older workers to shun retirement; Millions spend golden years making green," Dallas Morning News, February 25, 2008.


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