7 Jobs With Mandatory Retirement
You might think that mandatory retirement long has been relegated to the dustbin of employment history, along with the 12-hour day and barring pregnant women from the office. After all, it's been nearly three decades since the late U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Florida) led the passage of a 1986 amendment to federal age discrimination law, which generally made it illegal for employers to force a worker to retire because he or she had reached a certain age.
But the law has some loopholes. Many government agencies are exempt, and private employers also can impose mandatory retirement on some highly compensated employees with extensive responsibilities, such as chief executives or board members. Employers also set age limits for certain types of jobs, such as flying a jetliner.
Here's a sampling of workers who still face mandatory retirement ages.
1. Air traffic controllers: Mandatory retirement age of 56, with exceptions up to age 61 for certain workers who have "exceptional skills and experience."
2. FBI agents and other federal law enforcement officers: All federal agents have a mandatory retirement age of 57, which means that in real life, NCIS main character Leroy Gibbs (shown, top) probably would be spending his days sailing that boat he's forever building in his basement. (Mark Harmon, who portrays Gibbs, turns 61 this year.) According to the FBI website, "in rare circumstances," the FBI director may grant one-year extensions up to age 60.
[Related: What Boomers Can Learn From Agent Gibbs]
3. National park rangers: The mandatory retirement age is 57 at Yellowstone in Wyoming and at other national parks.
4. U.S. Lighthouse Service workers: If you keep watch to prevent maritime accidents, either in a federal lighthouse or on a ship, you're required to retire at age 55, provided that you've amassed 30 years of service. If you started later and haven't yet reached that point, the government will let you stay until age 62.
5. Airline pilots: Federal rules dictate a mandatory retirement age of 65. The Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act raised the retirement age from 60 (set in 1959) to 65 in 2007.
6. Local firefighters: Some communities set age limits. In New Jersey, for example, the mandatory retirement age for volunteer firefighters is 70. Even so, as this article from The Record reports, a lot older firefighters say they can keep answering the bell.
7. Florida Supreme Court justices: The Florida Constitution establishes mandatory retirement at age 70.
Studies show that Americans increasingly are postponing retirement, often because of economic necessity or because they want to continue to be productive.
Paradoxically, while some parts of the federal government still have mandatory retirement provisions, the Obama administration is hoping to persuade many older federal workers to stay on in a part-time capacity. The president's 2013 budget proposal calls on Congress to allow federal employees who've qualified for retirement to continue working part time while still receiving a portion of their pensions and retirement benefits. Here's a Federal Times article that explains the details.
Mandatory retirement ages aren't just about doubting that an older person can still do the job. It also can enable an organization to replace experienced employees with younger workers who don't cost as much.
Aside from the frustration of being forced out of a job, mandatory retirement can take an economic toll on older workers. That's especially true as traditional defined benefits pension plans steadily disappear (only 20 percent of workers still have them, according to this U.S. Social Security Administration study).
The financial stress can be exacerbated as life expectancy increases. Some financial planners now suggest that people over 50 should plan to make their retirement savings last until age 90, while those under 50 should aim for age 95, as this SecondAct article explains.
[Related: Ageism: How to Spot It and How to Fight It]
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