America’s new workforce trend: Refusing to retire

The White House is focusing on tapping the senior labor force, through an initiative called National Employ Older Workers Week, at a time when elderly workers are increasingly reluctant to retire.

The number of Americans above traditional retirement age (65) remaining in the labor force, either part-time or full-time, climbed to nearly 19 percent in 2016, up from 12.8 percent in 2000, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Less than half of those employees reported that they were working part-time, as the percentage working full-time rises.

By 2020, the Labor Department forecasts that 25 percent of the labor force will consist of workers ages 55 and older, which is up from about 13 percent in 2000.

Some older Americans are reluctant to retire as saving becomes more of a challenge. A recent study from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that the median savings among all American workers, not just those with a retirement account, was $0. Nearly 60 percent of working-age individuals don’t own a retirement account.

The number of employer-sponsored plans has also declined, which the study cited as “the most important vehicle for providing retirement income to older individuals after Social Security.”

Working longer can also lead to higher Social Security benefits. Waiting until “full retirement age” (70) to claim Social Security will result in larger checks.

People are also living longer, which means they need to save more for their retirement years. Not to mention the financial crash depleted many individuals’ savings accounts.

Waiting to retire could be worth it: As the number of older workers in the labor force increases, so do their wages. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that between 1994 and 2005, average monthly wages for those over 65 increased by 80 percent, to $4,092. That far outpaced any other age demographic.

Those working past 65 were more likely to work in positions in sales, legal, education, business and financial operations than food services, construction or computer and math jobs, Pew found.

The White House initiative endorses skills training, which can help retrain older Americans for the specific needs of the modern labor market.