CHICAGO (AP) — Nearly one-quarter of Americans said they never plan to retire, according to a poll that suggests a disconnection between individuals’ retirement plans and the realities of ageing in the workforce.
Experts said illness, injury, layoffs and caregiving responsibilities often force older workers to leave their jobs sooner than they’d like.
According to the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 23 per cent of workers, including nearly two in 10 of those over 50, don’t expect to stop working. Roughly another quarter of Americans say they will continue working beyond their 65th birthday.
According to government data, about one in five people 65 and older was working or actively looking for a job in June.
For many, money has a lot to do with the decision to keep working.
“The average retirement age that we see in the data has gone up a little bit, but it hasn’t gone up that much,” said Assistant Director of Savings Research at the Centre for Retirement Research at Boston College Anqi Chen. “So people have to live in retirement much longer, and they may not have enough assets to support themselves in retirement.”
When asked how financially comfortable they feel about retirement, 14 per cent of Americans under the age of 50 and 29 per cent over 50 say they feel extremely or very prepared, according to the poll. About another four in 10 older adults say they do feel somewhat prepared, while just about one-third feel unprepared. By comparison, 56 per cent of younger adults said they don’t feel prepared for retirement.
Among those who are fully retired, 38 per cent said they felt very or extremely prepared when they retired, while 25 per cent said they felt not very or not at all prepared.
“One of the things about thinking about never retiring is that you didn’t save a whole lot of money,” said Ronni Bennett, 78, who was pushed out of her job as a New York City-based website editor at 63.
She searched for work in the immediate aftermath of her layoff, a process she describes as akin to “banging my head against a wall.” Finding Manhattan too expensive without a steady stream of income, she eventually moved to Portland, Maine. A few years later, she moved again, to Lake Oswego, Oregon.
“Sometimes I fantasise that if I win the lottery, I’d go back to New York,” said Bennett, who has a blog called Time Goes By that chronicles her experiences ageing, relocating and, during the past two years, living with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Americans have mixed assessments of how the ageing workforce affects workers: 39 per cent think people staying in the workforce longer is mostly a good thing for American workers, while 29 per cent think it’s more a bad thing and 30 per cent said it makes no difference.
A somewhat higher share, 45 per cent, thinks it has a positive effect on the US economy.
Working Americans who are 50 and older think the trend is more positive than negative for their own careers — 42 per cent to 15 per cent. Those younger than 50 are about as likely to say it’s good for their careers as to say it’s bad.
Just six per cent of fully retired AP-NORC poll respondents said they left the labour market before turning 50.
But remaining in the workforce may be unrealistic for people dealing with unexpected illness or injuries. For them, high medical bills and a lack of savings loom large over day-to-day expenditures.
“People like me, who are average, everyday working people, can have something catastrophic happen, and we lose everything because of medical bills,” said Larry Zarzecki, a former Maryland police officer who stopped working in his 40s after developing a resting tremor in his right hand and a series of cognitive and physical symptoms he at times found difficult to articulate.
At 47, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now 57 and living in Baltimore, Zarzecki said he has learned “to take from Peter and give to Paul, per se, to help make ends meet”.