This Percentage of Americans Say They Can Never Retire


Retirement? What retirement? According to a recent survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, that is the likely reaction of one-quarter of Americans aged fifty or greater as they reach full retirement age — they expect never to retire at all.

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The survey dug into the working habits and expectations of America's seniors and discovered an increased blurring of the lines between work and a traditional retirement path.

Money is a primary driver for retirement decisions. Approximately 69% of those who decide to work beyond age 65 chose to do so because of financial reasons. Only 20% of those making over $100,000 say that they will never retire, as compared to 33% of those making below $50,000.

For respondents who had not already retired, financial needs were most often cited as an important factor in deciding when to retire (87%). Health reasons were close behind at 81%, implying that even more workers would delay or forgo retirement if their health would allow them to do so.

Certainly some workers simply enjoy their jobs (or working in general) so much that they never choose to fully retire, but the survey suggests that the majority of people do not feel this way. Two-thirds of survey respondents who are currently working expect to work longer than they originally anticipated, and only 25% of that group considers that decision as mostly positive. 52% have neutral feelings while 23% considers that decision as a negative experience.

Older workers are more likely to have spent a long tenure with one employer, and this experience often has an impact on their retirement circumstances. Along their career path, approximately 33% of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64 worked for the same employer for at least a twenty-year span. More than half of those aged 65 or older logged a twenty-year or greater stint. Given a twenty-year or greater tenure with one company, an employee was more likely to either be offered early retirement or persuaded to stay employed beyond retirement age.

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Why would that be the case? If you have been with one employer for twenty years or more, you probably have a specialized skill set that makes you difficult to replace and therefore your employer would like to keep you. If not, you probably have accumulated enough pay raises over time that your job could be done by someone younger and cheaper, and thus, you are offered early retirement as a cost-cutting move.

Changing jobs is not uncommon late in a career, and changing careers altogether late in life is becoming more acceptable. Of the respondents who are in the workforce or attempting to return to it, a surprising 41% intend to switch career fields and a 58% majority plan to switch either a career field or an employer.

Unfortunately, such changes can be difficult for older workers. 60% of those who looked for employment over the last five years considered their job search to be either moderately or very difficult. One-third became so discouraged that they gave up at some time during the search. A lack of confidence in job skills compounds the problem, with only 31% claiming to be extremely confident or very confident in their skills.

Given the financial concerns of today's seniors and the challenges of competing in today's market, it is no surprise that an increasing number of workers are delaying retirement or skipping it entirely while finding an extended career less than enjoyable. How can you avoid this fate? Plan early and save often for your retirement, and you will be more likely to retire on your terms — or continue working, but only if you enjoy doing so.

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