For growing numbers of Americans, the new retirement may really mean no retirement. That's the conclusion of an article in the current issue of the ISR Sampler, the annual magazine of the
"For most of the 20th century we saw retirement ages fall while life expectancy rose," said
People are retiring later for a lot of reasons, but a key one is economic. Employer health insurance benefits for retirees are eroding, spurring many employees to hold out until they qualify for
Some 40 percent of older Americans delayed retirement in the years after the Great Recession, according to an analysis of data from
"The typical household lost about 5 percent of its total wealth between the summers of 2008 and 2009," said ISR economist
People don't intend to work long enough to recoup all the money they lost, but on average, those who postponed retirement expect to work about 1.6 years longer than planned, she said. And even as the economy has begun to turn around, many households still find themselves facing a more precarious future.
"While the stock market has recovered most of its pre-recession value, housing prices have not, and for most people their house is their biggest asset," Weir said.
Economics are just part of the reason why many Americans are working longer, he said. Many married men are likely to stay on the job longer now because their wives are working. Couples typically want to coordinate their retirements, and if a wife is working until age 62 or 65, that's an incentive for her often slightly older husband to keep working, too.
And some people aren't retiring for a simpler reason: they love their jobs. Not surprisingly, working beyond normal retirement age by choice is particularly common among the wealthier and more highly educated, those who are likely to have better health and jobs they can still do effectively at an advanced age, Weir said.
Overall, many more jobs than before rely on cognitive skills, rather than physical abilities, studies show, and the number of retirement-age employees who are physically able to do work into later years has increased, as well.
Although people are working longer, most still decide to retire at some point. But even that process has changed. According to an analysis of Health and Retirement Study participants born between 1942 and 1947, nearly two-thirds of those who retired from full-time work passed through some sort of bridge job–either part time or of short duration–before leaving the work force entirely.
Going part time may seem an obvious bridge step. More surprising is the move to different full-time work after retirement, according to
She said the number of people who retire, take a break for a couple of years and then return to work has been increasing since the early 1990s. Some 40 percent of workers between the ages of 51 and 61 who stop work will return in some full-time capacity, according to her analysis of data from the Health and Retirement Study. Maestas coined the term "unretirement" for this phenomenon.
"The New Retirement: No Retirement?" by
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