Sorry, you're never going to retire

The Census Bureau finds more people over age 65 in the workforce than ever as benefits shrink.

By Jason Notte Jan 28, 2013 10:25AM
Image: Mature couple calculating expenses - Abel Mitja Varela, the Agency Collection, Getty ImagesUnless you've already made a substantial pile of money to rest upon well into your dotage, the Census Bureau has some bad news for you: You're never retiring.

It's not that it's going to take a long time. No, the numbers state, flat out, that retirement is never going to happen for a growing number of Americans. No boat, no Jimmy Buffett albums, no poolside pina coladas, no morning golf and evening buffets, and certainly no socks and sandals unless Home Depot (HD) or Lowe's (LOW) changes the dress code for receipt checkers.

Back in 1990, only 12.1% of Americans 65 and older were still working. By 2010, that percentage jumped to 16.1%. That's a whole lot of folks getting teased by AARP catalogs and an especially large number of disappointed 65- to 69-year-olds. Back in 1990, only 21.8% of that group was still employed, compared with 30.8% in 2010.

It's not as if you'll be retiring in your 70s, either, as the number of 70- to 74-year-olds in the workforce increased by 5% during that span, while those 75 and older took up 1% more jobs than they did 23 years ago.

Oh, and don't expect your kids or grandkids to bail you out. In their eyes, you're just stealing their jobs. Employment among 16- to 64-year-olds dropped from 75.6% in 1990 to 74% two decades later as retirement-age workers either clung to their old jobs or took new entry-level gigs.

As the Washington Post illustrated in November, those dreaming of the retirement their parents and grandparents had may never see those Arizona golf carts or Florida jitney buses in their lifetimes. The Center For Retirement Research says that fewer than a third of U.S. workers have a pension, down from 44% in 1995 and 88% in Reagan-era 1983. As the recent economic downturn showed, even the most thought-out 401k-based retirement plan can get slapped unconscious by the invisible hand of the market. Social Security, you say? Yeah, that's not repeatedly on the government chopping block or anything.

The only hope most retirees have, according to the Census Bureau, is to move to a place where the problem isn't nearly so acute. If you're in the Northeast, plains states or even normally flush spots like Texas and Alaska, you and your peers should be prepared to work as long as you live. If you like the South, the Pacific Northwest or even Midwest and Great Lakes states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, there's a chance you may get to relax a bit in your later years. In just about every state, though, retirement's going to be a pleasant daydream for at least 15% of those over 65.

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Jan 28, 2013 12:50PM
It's not rocket science.  SS was meant to keep you from starving, not live the life of luxury.  If you didn't save for retirement, then it's your fault.  Not corporate America, and not the government.

And don't even think about retirement unless you are debt free.

Jan 28, 2013 12:30PM

It takes foresight, time and DISCIPLINE to save for retirement.  I wonder how many of the "grumps" had the discipline to save 10 or even 5% of their income for the last 20 or 25 years.  There are a lot of "grumps"  (I know some) blaming everyone else for the situation that they are in, but these same people spent every nickle they made as soon as they made it.



Jan 28, 2013 11:33AM
Hi, I was taught to save for my old age, how do we do that, we live in and old  house, drive old cars and buy clothes at the Salvation Army, over the last 21 years we have saved $17,000 every year, nothing out performs stock in a 20 year period !
Jan 28, 2013 11:35AM

When I was in high school the Dow was about 1000.Of course, they didn`t teach us about the stock market.If they didn`t I`d have more money than God.College didn`t teach that either.

It`s all about planing ahead and learning the market.

Jan 28, 2013 12:37PM

Longevity has a price. excessive medically induced longevity is at the heart of the problem. I know some in 90's and around 100 are in hospital half of the year putting tremendous burden. Lots of single older people virtually pass their time incommunicado in their home or apartment, To live and live as Dostoevsky talks in his novels has become a norm.


So upper exist point is stuck, there is other problem at the entry point. Our moral dictates that those who cannot afford, cannot raise producing babies at alarming rate. While those who can afford and have capacity pass up the area in their personal quest for pleasure. Ultimately unwitting not as talented and not as dumb middleclass try to raise next generation who are partly as wise and disciplined as case used to be before cybertech took over.


Unless we train society it is ok to die and for poor it is OK not to produce babies if they cannot afford, we are in terrible future that has no economically viable solution.


You may not like what I say but you cannot refuge to accept arithmetic that can create a happy. society.  Further I dare say that as you feel disgusted for my putting this as starkly as I have, you have no viable solution.


We have been fooled by Greenspan into runaway surplus that can hurt the fabric of our economic structure. Now we are fooled by Bernanke that capital that has a no value. Osama's passion for equality and fairness may be noble but he wants to accomplish that on fools Gold.


This morning I got up to find my foreign shipping will cost 30 % more at Post Office. Where there is no inflation where these 30 %  came from? Is it inflationary?

Jan 28, 2013 11:30AM
One wonders if most of us that lost big monies in this recession via 401K's, IRA's, State, and local pensions, have been able to recover 100% at this point. Many state pension plans are still struggling and a few cities are still in bankruptcy. If all you have is SS, you'll probably never retire. It takes more, much more than that to get it done. I have meds that the cash price for 90 days is over $1,000. No insurance and I'd be broke. I'm opposed to any increase in the retirement age and I wouldn't want to see anybody's first check go to the funeral home. I doubt people want to work until the day they die. More have to than want to.
Jan 28, 2013 2:16PM

Sorry, you are wrong - I am going to retire - as early as 55.

I've been planning this for years. After so many of those years, I can also see the magic of compounding instead of imagining it.

I like my job, but I love the idea of retirement.

With the job market the way it is these days, it makes sense to free up a job for the next generation willingly rather than be forced out. I don't need to overstay my welcome.

With 49% of soon-to-be-seniors ill prepared for retirement - working longer may be a viable option. I opted to put it away while I was able to work long crazy hours and avoided revolving debt (I carry absolutely no debt - got rid of the mortgage a little while ago). Yeah, there's some luck that accompanies the planning, but without a plan, luck doesn't factor in as nicely.

Jan 28, 2013 12:17PM
It is necessary, for financial reasons, for some people to work past 65; however, not all people who are working past 65 are not doing so for financial reasons. I know several financially secure people over 65 who are still working. I am a retired military officer, retired from a private corporation and still working. And for the records I will hit the double 7 mark in May. 
Jan 28, 2013 1:52PM

Choices have consequences! 


I was lucky enough to have a father who not only had his own business for 35 years but who grew up the youngest of 10 children in the depression years.  There are four of us kids and we all learned from him to use credit wisely and only when needed, live below our means and the first thing you do when you get paid is put money in savings.


I had a period when I got out of college that I strayed away buying cars, but I have not purchased a new car since 1988 and I just purchased a NEW CAR in December 2012 - the first car purchased since 1998, 14 years ago.  It was a 1992 Honda Accord with 52K miles.  When I let it go it had 288K miles. OH -and my new car - 2008 Toyota Avalon with 33K miles and half the price of a new one.  I cashed in an investment I made in 1992 with $2,000 and I got $25,542.  I still have part of this money left and someone else paid for the depreciation on this like new car.


Our educational system has done and is still doing a crappy job preparing our youth with the financial tools to navigate and be smart about making good smart choices.


ADVISE: check out DAVE RAMSEY.COM - where the paid off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as a sign of financial success.  If you are in your 50's and have not been putting money back to fund retirement, you will not be retiring! - Choices have consequences!

Jan 28, 2013 11:41AM
I'm planning that cat food spread on week-old bread will become a staple in my retirement.  Also, raiding the community koi pond for fish will be quite tasty, a veritable seafood buffet.

Meds?  I don't need no stinking medication.  My cave man ancestors didn't need 'em.  I don't need 'em.  Started work at 15.  Never had debt beyond the house.  Last one in the US to get a flats creen and this retirement will be a great time.

Jan 28, 2013 2:40PM

sad trend.....


yet it compounds from stupid people who breed stupid kids and so on. 

Jan 28, 2013 1:27PM
It is easy for someone under 50 to commit elders to a working retirement, but when your birthday cake looks like a 4th of July display, reality does change. Beyond the very real job discrimination that both forces seniors out and keeps seniors out of the work force, there are an amazing number of direct causes that limit capacity.

The obvious are physical. Eyesight fails, hearing fails, cognitive abilities as well as coordination, reaction time and manual dexterity deteriorate. Arthritis, osteoporosis, urinary and digestive disease, and hundreds or other issues turn productive workers into employer liabilities and accidents waiting to happen. Would any of us want our elderly parents or grandparents to suffer in pain trying to stock shelves, flip burgers or most any of the jobs that will be available to them?

There are a lucky few that have the mobility and faculties to perform acceptably at certain jobs into their 70's or 80's, but that number is dwarfed by the ones who physically and/or mentally can not. You think traffic is bad now? Imagine rush hour filled with blue-haired, dead tired, shouldn't even be driving seniors that have no choice but commute to jobs they can barely do. Definitely not the future I envision. To many seniors, suicide may not be such a terrible option...        
Jan 28, 2013 1:20PM
See that's the problem today. Younger people cannot find jobs because the government keeps making it harder for people to retire at the age of 65. It used to be that companies would offer full retirement after 30 years of service. But of course they had pension plans. Today we have 401K's and most people don't have to participate. It's a vicious 2 way street. There is no easy solution to this issue!!!!!!!!!!
Jan 28, 2013 1:44PM

My nephew is in law enforcement and he has already seen an increase in those who have adopted The Smith and Wesson Retirement plan. 


Course, we couldn't run a story on that now could we?  Too negative?

Jan 28, 2013 1:40PM

Don't worry, the issue of living longer will be solved by implementing Obamacare. Everyone won't need as much money since they won't be living longer. Then we won't have to work past seventy. See our politicians ARE looking out for us. Of course, they won't have to worry as they will have their pensions and don't have to worry about working longer. Don't worry--be happy!!

Jan 28, 2013 3:38PM
Some of us lived below our means and saved money. When I turned 65 it was time to retire I did and am enjoying every minuet of it. We  planned and saved started with nothing are still living below our means.
Jan 28, 2013 1:38PM

they half to work they're only getting .5 % on any money they saved . They used to get 6-8%


Jan 28, 2013 1:48PM

Instead of reading the classified ads, young people need to start reading the obituary column.


Unless someone dies, you will be living at home a lot longer than you thought.  There are already a few 30 year old toddlers living on my block now. The parents don't look too happy either.

Jan 28, 2013 4:15PM
YEAH, YEAH,  I'm reading all the comments from you folks that lived below your means, saved till you were blue in the face are retired and on HAPPY STREET.   I did the same thing and I have a few million in the bank already and I'm 20 yrs from age 65.   But....this story isn't about you or me.  Its about the unfortunate ones who in many cases for reasons beyond their control continue to work----maybe a costly illness(that's actually the largest reason for most of them) and not laziness.    So, they don't need your lesson on saving money or your life's story on being frugal and they certainly didn't ask for your advice.  They aren't even home.  They're working.
Jan 28, 2013 3:58PM
16% can't ever retire????   Author makes it sound like its 96%.  Fricking moron.
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