Experts Weigh in on Older Americans and Work
The nation is getting older and more people are working past what was previously considered typical retirement age, according to a new government report, A Profile of Older Americans: 2009.
As findings go, these are hardly surprising. But what do they mean for workers over 40 who are weighing their options for employment and financial security?
To find out, I asked a handful of top professionals in the finance, human resources and nonprofit worlds to translate the report, which is a compilation of statistics on U.S. citizens 65 and older published annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging.
The experts offer some terrific insights. But first, a few more tidbits from the report:
The nation is aging: The country's over-65 population is expected to grow 36 percent during the next decade, from 40 million in 2010 to 55 million in 2020. By 2030, the number of older Americans is expected to reach 72.1 million--twice the number in 2008. By 2030, people 65 and older are expected to comprise 19.3 percent of the population, up from 12.8 percent in 2008.
People are continuing to work: In 2008, 16.8 percent of Americans 65 and older (6.2 million) worked or were seeking work. By gender, that breaks down to 21.5 percent of men and 13.3 percent of women. In 2008, workers over 65 made up 4 percent of the U.S. labor force. The number of people over 65 working or seeking work has been climbing steadily in the past decade.
Here's what the experts had to say:
"The shift toward much longer working lives constitutes one of the most significant transformations in work this country has witnessed since millions of women broke through to new roles in the labor market." --Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit think tank on boomers and work
"The day is coming, sooner than later, when retired managers, engineers and other retired workers from many different industries will be recruited out of retirement to fill the void that will be left vacant due to the shortage of younger replacements." --Pat Meehan, The Meehan Group, executive recruiting and outplacement consulting firm
"A fascinating study from the Society of Actuaries shows that older people who work have significantly lower death rates than people who are fully retired. What's going on-- wasn't retirement supposed to be good for you? The key is engagement with life--people who work in their later years continue to have powerful reasons for getting up in the morning." --Steve Vernon, Society of Actuaries fellow, author and actuary consultant for Mercer, HR and finance advisor
"One of the important employment statistics is the length of time people remain unemployed. It's setting an all-time record. People are out of work longer now than at any time since the Depression. But it's concentrated. Younger people are more likely to lose their jobs, but older people who lose their jobs are less likely to find new ones. That's something I'd highlight to anyone planning for the long term. Be flexible. Having a knowledge base that you can bring to your next job is more important than ever." --P. Brett Hammond, managing director, TIAA-CREF, retirement plan manager for 3.6 million active and retired employees in academics, research and culture fields
"Retirement age will be regularly pushed backward as more older Americans work longer. Social Security eligibility, which has already been pushed from 65 to 66 and 67, will eventually be pushed to 68, 69 and even 70. More and more of us will work well after we become eligible for Social Security. 75 is the new 65. I am 75 and continue to work 50-hour weeks." --Art Koff, owner, RetiredBrains.com, online job board and retirement resource center for people over 50
"It has become commonplace to hear that boomers are reinventing retirement. But the unfolding transformation goes well beyond reinventing, revolutionizing or redefining retirement. It goes beyond retirement itself. The important story is that something new is being invented. We are in the midst of fashioning a new stage of life between the traditional midlife years and careers, and true retirement and old age." --Marc Freedman, Civic Ventures
On Funding Retirement
"The fact that people are working longer is a direct result of the fact that they are living longer. Older Americans face a very real risk that many of them will deplete their retirement savings before they die. Working longer is the most obvious way for the average person to combat this risk." --Mike Alfred, co-founder and CEO, Brightscope, a 401(k) rating service
"Pensions must be changed, both with respect to private industry and government, as neither corporate America nor city, county and state governments can afford to pay for the kinds of benefits that were promised years ago. No longer will a government employee be able to retire after 20 or 25 years and receive full benefits other than perhaps the armed forces. Americans will have to contribute a much larger share to their own retirement than in the past." --Art Koff, RetiredBrains.com
"If you're not covered by the defined benefit plan and trying to save in a 401(k) on your own, you need to save in the 12 to 15 percent range of your income over a long period of time. Saving is first and foremost the most important thing to think about. The signals we get from media, from advertising, is that the focus should be on picking the right funds. That's important, but it pales in comparison to the importance of saving." --P. Brett Hammond, TIAA-CREF
"Many people say they plan to keep working in their retirement years. That may be possible in your 'go-go' retirement years - say throughout your 60s and maybe your 70s. But eventually most people reach a 'no-go' age where working is no longer an option, so they still need to plan and save for their eventual retirement. Action steps they take today will significantly impact how well they do in their no-go years." --Steve Vernon, Mercer
The complete report is available on the AOA's website: A Profile of Older Americans: 2009.
What's your take on the effects the aging population will have on your own career aspirations, retirement or retirement savings? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below.
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