Seniors Twice As Likely To Work Now vs. 1985

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Rising health care costs combined with a lack of sufficient retirement savings and benefit payments has caused a higher rate of seniors to forego their retirements and continue working, making the idea of leaving work behind more stressful than sought after. This is according to a study conducted and released by money management firm United Income, and reported on by Bloomberg.

The participation rate of retirement-age laborers in the workforce has reached 20 percent, according to the study. The same figure recorded in 1985 sat at 10 percent, and the study specifies that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that number to continue on an upward trend, estimated to reach 13 million seniors aged 65 and older participating in the workforce by 2024.

The biggest increase in employment has been observed in college-educated older workers. The segment of employees age 65 or older with at least an undergraduate degree has also risen to 53 percent, an increase from the recorded figure of 25 percent observed in 1985. “Crucially, this increase in retirement-age Americans who are working has been driven by an increase in paid work, not unpaid volunteer work,” the study reads.

Making use of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the researchers found that, “whereas the portion of retirement-age Americans working for pay has climbed steadily, the portion doing unpaid work has hovered around 1 percent since 2001, the first year the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began distinguishing between paid and unpaid work,” the researchers write.

Though the senior demographic is increasingly remaining in the workforce, the kind of work they undertake can vary significantly. Among the kinds of work researchers have identified seniors entering as they transition between their careers and retirement, identified trends can include “part-time work, bridge jobs, and phased retirement that make the path to full retirement less abrupt,” the report says.

One of the factors affecting this is the so-called “gig economy,” which is seeing greater participation by seniors as previously reported by RMD and other outlets earlier this year.

Also apparent in the data is a discrepancy between the segment of older workers who return to work out of financial necessity and those who are able to work and are working.

“These are the more educated, wealthier individuals in better health who are continuing to work, but it’s probably their less-educated, working-class counterparts who need to work the most,” said Elizabeth Kelly, senior vice president of operations for United Income to Bloomberg.

On a more positive side, one of the reasons that a greater share of seniors are either staying in or returning to the workforce is because they are feeling healthier, according to the researchers’ findings.

“Retirement-age Americans are feeling healthier than ever. More than three out of four Americans aged 65 or older report being in good, very good, or excellent health, and this proportion has grown steadily over the past 35 years,” the report reads. “This improved health means that retirement-age Americans experience fewer limitations in what they can do: 67 percent experience no limitations in any sort of activity—up from 60 percent in 1997.”

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