Older Americans are working past retirement age, and some are enjoying it.

Credit: MarketWatch

Working Past Retirement Age: Benefits, Drawbacks And Outcomes

June 20, 2017

Financial pressures on our aging society mean many Americans are working past retirement age. It's a trend that's been growing since the 1990s, thanks in part to broad structural shifts in the economy. 

According to the National Institute on Retirement, the median amount of savings among households near retirement age is $14,500. At the same time, the age at which you become eligible for Social Security is creeping up from 65 to 67, which is changing the retirement plans of many Americans.

About two-thirds of men age 60-64 are still in the labor force and about 50 percent of women, says Courtney Coile, a professor of Economics at Wellesley. For men, that is a dramatic turn-around since the end of World War II.

One of the main drivers keeping people in the workforce is the rising cost of healthcare, though that isn't the only thing that costs more these days. Housing, education and other expenses are rising faster than people can handle financially.

But people working longer isn't necessarily a bad thing, says Jackie James, co-director for the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College and research professor at the Lynch School of Education. Research has shown that there is a positive relationship between working and health.

(Click on the player above to hear Jackie James' interview.)

Because the workforce is comprised of jobs that aren't as physically demanding, people can stay employed longer despite health issues. And, working provides a set structure for the day as well as a sense of purpose. 

“Attitudes about age and aging are still stuck in an earlier time,” said James. 

Employers still worry about their efficiency, adaptability, flexibility and the cost of maintaining older employees. As millennials continue to make up majority of the workforce, James says organizations need to be aware of their multi-generational workforce and shape policies to fit the needs of each demographic. 


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