CHICAGO – There was a time when Tom Sadowski thought he’d stop working after turning 65 earlier this year. But he’s put off retirement for at least five years – and now anticipates continuing to work afterward.
In an illuminating sign of changing times and revised visions of retirement, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Monday finds that older Americans such as Sadowski not only are delaying their retirement plans, they’re also embracing that retirement won’t necessarily mark an exit from the workforce.
About 82 percent of workers 50 and older say it is at least somewhat likely that they will work for pay in retirement. And 47 percent of them expect to retire later than they previously thought – on average, nearly three years beyond their estimate when they were 40.
Men, racial minorities, parents of minor children, those earning less than $50,000 a year and those without health insurance were more likely to put off retirement plans.
The recession claimed Sadowski’s business and a chunk of his savings, and with four teenage daughters, the graphic designer from Sterling, Va., accepts the fact he won’t retire for another five years or longer.
At this age, my dad had already been retired 10 years and moved to Florida, he said. Times are different now for most people.
About three-quarters of respondents said they have given their retirement years some or a great deal of thought. When considering factors that are very or extremely important in their retirement decisions, 78 percent of workers cited financial needs, 75 percent said health, 68 percent cited their ability to do their job, and 67 percent said their need for employer benefits such as health insurance.
Many people had experienced a big downward movement in their 401(k) plans, so they’re trying to make up for that period of time when they lost money, said Olivia Mitchell, a retirement expert who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
The shift in retirement expectations coincides with a growing trend of later-life work. Labor force participation of seniors fell for a half-century after the advent of Social Security, but it began picking up in the late 1990s.
Older adults are now the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce; people 55 and older are forecast to make up one-fourth of the civilian labor force in 2020.
That growth has paralleled a rising interest in retirements that are far more active than the old stereotype of moving to Florida, never to work again. Among those who retired, 4 percent are looking for a job, and 11 percent are already working again.
Those still on the job showed far greater interest in continuing to work: 47 percent of employed survey respondents said they are very or extremely likely to do some work for pay in retirement, and 35 percent said they are somewhat likely.
The definition of retirement has changed, said Brad Glickman, a certified financial planner with many baby boomer clients in Chevy Chase, Md. Now the question we ask our clients is, What’s your job after retirement?’