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Will you ever get to retire?

Participation in the labor force by older workers has been increasing steadily since the 1990s, partly because of financial necessity.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 31, 2011 12:25PM

This post comes from Anne Tergesen at partner site SmartMoney.


Pinched by falling asset values, older Americans are returning to the labor force -- or clinging to the jobs they already have.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.5% of Americans 65 and older were employed in July, up from 15.5% in 2007. More specifically:

  • Among those ages 65 to 69, 29% are employed now, vs. 28.7% in 2007.
  • Among those ages 70 to 74, 17.5% are employed now, versus 16.6% in 2007.
  • Among those ages 75-plus, 7.2% are currently employed, compared with 6.6% in 2007.

Moreover, the percentage of unemployed people age 65 and older has jumped sharply --from 3.3% in 2007 to 6.7% in July, according to BLS data.


Older workers last month had an average duration of unemployment of 52.7 weeks, compared with 20.2 weeks in December 2007, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, which looked at job seekers 55 and over.


"There is no question but that the impact of this recession on the unemployment rate of older workers has been far more dramatic than in previous recessions," says Sara Rix, a policy analyst at AARP. "We have sustained rates of unemployment for the older workforce that are far higher than at any time in the past 60 years."


Rix adds, "In contrast to previous recessions, more older workers are staying in the labor force longer as unemployed because they really do want and need a job." (Are you saving enough for retirement? Try MSN Money's calculator.)


What people may not realize is that participation in the labor force by older workers has been increasing steadily since the 1990s. Among the causes of the long-term trend are:

  • A shift toward less physically demanding jobs.
  • Steady gains in life expectancy.
  • Reductions in defined benefit pension plans.
  • Cuts in Social Security, including the increase in the full retirement age that's being phased in through 2022.

Yet another factor is the rising skill level of those at retirement age. In contrast with past retirees, economists say, today's have the same level of education as entry-level workers -- with lots more experience. As a result, in comparison with previous generations, they are more attractive to employers.


With Congress contemplating further reductions in Social Security, as well as cuts to Medicare benefits, the trend toward working later in life is here to stay.


As a recent Wall Street Journal article reported:

More than three in five U.S. workers in their 50s and 60s plan on working past 65 -- and 47% of that group say they'll do so because they'll need the money or health benefits, according to a 2011 study from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

More on SmartMoney and MSN Money:

Sep 1, 2011 1:12PM

Maybe we should retire Congress .. they aren't doing anything but squabbling, anyway.

Oct 1, 2011 11:22AM
If I don't get SS after having paid in for over 40 years I will be finding some new and old politicians to beat the hell out of with my cane. If they think they can collect their retirements while cutting mine, they are sadly mistaken. I will fly to wherever they are hiding to beat the s--t out of them.
Oct 1, 2011 1:10PM
With Congress contemplating further reductions in Social Security, as well as cuts to Medicare benefits, the trend toward working later in life is here to stay

When... I ask when... NO, I DEMAND TO KNOW WHEN... will Congress start looking at their own "sacrifices" before they start looking to cut more from their consituencies???  When will Congress eliminate the "gauranteed for life retirement and health plans" that so do not deserve because THEY are elected officials... public servents of the general population... that they continue to screw by favoring to serve their corporate and special interest masters over taking care of the American Common Good!


Politicians are not a SPECIAL CLASS of people!  They should be subject to the same economical, socialogical, and psychological stresses they contunue to exert on the rest of us!

Sep 1, 2011 12:29PM

How many times do we read that the Baby Boomers are going to retire and SS monies will shrink?  Will we ever read an article that Baby Boomers are working longer thus adding more money into the SS piggybank?


Just tired of hearing how the Baby Boomers are going to bankrupt the SS piggybank... now what does the government have to say that we are all working a lot longer contributing a lot more $$, some dying before they collect their big SS check... and we keep going like the every ready battery.


Working 35 years, and I am 52 years old... when all is said and done, I will put close to 50 years in!!  Hey, what year did they up the SS age change and go up... early 80s?  I would like my 100% SS grandfathered!

Sep 1, 2011 3:38PM
i think it is disgusting that older people who have spent a lifetime at work. will  have to continue to work 'til the grave.
Nov 16, 2011 7:14AM
Politicians and a corrupt financial system have sent the middle class to the poor house. How about our money back from a poorly regulated wall street when Slick Willy was in charge? Just the rich & powerful get their money back for their bad decisions in business. The US Government stimulus money is for their buddies. The retirement offered to the majority of Americans is work until you drop. The USA is giving money to all other countries in the world to impress how great we are - don't look at that bag lady or shopping cart person in the USA that are abused by the system and treated far worst than illegal immigrants.
Sep 3, 2011 3:09PM
Cheer up, at this rate they will solve the old folks problem in about 2 generations, work longer & longer or forever, decrease your health benefits when you need them most & you least have stamina to fight the system, so we'll have an earlier demise. Good thing the Salvation Army still sells longjohns at $2 so we can put the heat at 60 this year instead of 65. We both worked 50+ years., how much did they take from us in taxes and SS etc??? The DC folks get HOW many vacations per year traveling with entourage of hundreds at our expense..... and the nursing homes with frail elderly & disabled have one aide per 9 long as you have your health, it'll be OK, after that please take me to the vet with my old dog......
Sep 2, 2011 3:11AM
Granted this is no country to grow old in, they do squat for you. But this retirement fear is all hype, media scare tactics. Of course the people to are their own worst enemy to. Always spend, spend, SPEND! New houses. Every new gadget that comes along. "The neighbors got a new car, we HAVE to have a new car and a better car." New shoes, new clothes. Got to keep up with the Jones'. Well wake up!  Stop all this spend, spend, spend. And SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!

I don't need all these new gadgets. I don't need fancy new clothes. I've got two decent vehicles (long paid for) that I'm going to make last as long as possible. Most if not all the groceries I buy are on sale. I don't even go out and eat. I don't have cable TV or a dish, what a rip off that is. I don't even watch TV. Maybe that's the problem, you see all these advertizements and you spend, spend, SPEND!

Everything I have is paid for, I owe nobody NOTHING! The only bills I have are the monthly utilities, light bill and phone bill. And you know what? I've got a pretty good chunk of money in the bank because I've saved, saved, SAVED.

In five years I'm retiring come Hell or high water, I've had enough of this so called great American work force. I  might work part time, just to give me something to do. But I'm getting out. I haven't dug a financial hole for myself I can't get out of.

Sep 29, 2011 5:27PM
Could it be the governments plan to keep us old folks working and not drawing social security?  Keep us adding money to the pot and not taking it out? The government is broke and can not pay its bills without borrowing the money. Maybe they find this trend of older people working till they drop "ok".  The stalwart honest hard working person gets the shaft even in old age in this country.
Sep 1, 2011 12:36PM
As a result, in comparison with previous generations, they are more attractive to employers.

Wondering why I am still unemployed if I am supposed to be more attractive to employers?

Oct 5, 2011 3:44PM
This is exactly what I was talking to someone about yesterday. We'd both like to retire but are putting it off because we have kids with college degrees living at home we have to support who can't find jobs because people like us aren't leaving to open the market to new job applicants. 
It's a real bind. We can't retire until the kids find jobs with a livable wage, but us staying in the workforce is preventing job openings in our fields. Our retiring may help someone else get a job, but then we still have to somehow support our kids at a much reduced income. 

The biggest looming problem from my perspective is student loan debt. Even when they do find jobs, the wages have dropped and new college hires can't make enough money to pay off their loans and still afford to have a place to live and meet their basic needs, not even considering any luxuries. The middle and working class desperately needs some kind of student loan bailouts or forgiveness in exchange for community service or whatever or grown children will be living at home forever and older people will never be able to leave the work force.
A new hire unburdened with student loan payments is someone who will buy a house and other goods which would do a lot to boost the economy and housing market and sales of goods in general. 

Sep 1, 2011 4:54PM
The short answer - No, I don't expect to ever be able to retire.
Sep 5, 2011 1:45PM
Why don't we look at public worker retirement. The last time I contacted my congressman and started to explain older workers are discrimined against, he couldn't get it through his head that someone 60 yrs old was looking for a job. He assumed I was complaining about some benifit problem after I had retired. I still don't think Senator Harkin understood I NEEDED a job, and not retiring. I understand why he would assume I was retiring, as most public sector workers retire at 55 with a livable income. I know they complain that the  French Riviera isn't affordable, but some of us private market stiffs are lucky to afford cat food. In Iowa when the public sector retirement fund gets into trouble (IPERS), we the tax payers have to make up the differance and fund our own retirement fund at the same time. I understand smaller city level workers don't have it as well,so don't unload on me if you are a local government worker and have a minimal retirement benefit. I'm addressing more of the state and federal level workers, they don't have a clue what it's like to not have a good benefit program and we the tax payer pays for their good times.

Sep 1, 2011 7:25PM

I've always maintained that retirement is for the wealthy. 

Somewhere in the mid 80s retirement was sold to the public-yet, reality is another thing altogether.  Pensions for one are being cut/frozen;  Some eliminated.  401ks and stock option accounts are taking a major hit again. 

Social Security and Medicare are in the gun sights of loony tune Tea Baggers.

Retirement does not look promising in  the near future.


Nov 16, 2011 9:45AM

My 401Ks have been rendered worthless. I am 61 years old and I can not wait for the market to "correct itself. " I will have to work until I can not or I am run off. I will not go gently into that night.


Sep 2, 2011 11:44AM
I planed my retirement. Where I would live, no debt, and a very low key life style. I was lucky so far and it has worked. Not every one may be able to do this or be lucky enough to make it work. This leaves the government with a big problem. Do they just do away with old people if they can't work or find a job. Do they move them to some supposedly retirement community where they will never be heard from or seen again. It will be interesting to see sorry I won't be around. 

I do agree with you on this, there are some people who can't make it work due to no fault of their own. And I feel for them deeply. But you also have to agree that a lot of people today who have created their own financial problems, then they whine and cry about it. I have no feelings for them what-so-ever.
Oct 5, 2011 9:47AM

They have to in order to pay for the now MANDATORY insurance, that cost's well more than half of our retirement, it's a racket! Of course this is NOT going to open up job's for younger incoming worker's, but hey NO worry's, here in the U.S. the power's be will CREATE plenty of job's for everybody, so we can all work all of our live's,chasing the ever moving carrot,that is the great American dream! Right, you betcha, and there will alway's be clean air, and clean water, and plenty of gasoline to drive back and forth to work till you drop dead or Jesus come's back to save us from ourselve's....Hey don't worry bout it, just get to work, and don' t ask where your tax dollar's are being spent!

Sep 1, 2011 12:58PM

Retire what is that? Last time I looked at my SS money I would get from the government, its a joke. I could not live on that. And employers these days want part time people that they do not have to give, medical benefits to,

and contractual people they do not have to give anything to. And the people I know who have retired have returned to work, They could not live on SS nor there pentions.

Me figure being unemployed, and with NO jobs NO industry in my town, I will be on welfare,

and old enough to collect SS. By the time I find a job.

Employers these days do not want to give anything to an employee, So senior citizens they LOVE

Will we ever get to retire?


........Not if Oduffus gets a 2nd term......................oh, but the good news would be that many illegal aliens innocent children will get a free college education off the sweat of American taxpayers, yippe!

Nov 16, 2011 6:36PM
Yes I retired from a well known east coast public utility CO @ age 59, First I did not buy into all of the hoopla out there about retirement, I follow good solid information and set up investment accounts that would support my life style. Yes I started 401K,IRA, and other investments, and I drove Pinto SW thru out my working years, rain, sleet, snow, cold, heat, day-nite, while my fellow CO-Workers sported SUV, CONVT, Pickup trucks to show their status of a good paying job, their still working to pay for their mistakes. My plan is to continue with just the CO pension I`ll start collecting SS, 401k, IRA at a later date.
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