More Than a Third of Seniors Work Out of Desire, not Necessity

Reasons for working range from liking their job to warding off boredom
Happy, mature colleagues

While some of us might dream of the day we can stop working to live a life of leisure, more than a third of seniors are working past retirement age, not for financial reasons, but because they want to, a new survey suggests.

Provision Living, an operator of senior citizen communities, set out to learn more about when people plan to retire and why many continue to work past retirement age. To do so, it surveyed 1,032 seniors between the ages of 65 and 85 who were currently employed.

Among the respondents, 55% worked part-time, with the remaining 45% employed full-time. The average age that working seniors cut down their hours to work part-time was 61.

According to the Social Security Administration, the earliest age a person can retire and receive at least some benefits is 62. The age to receive full retirement benefits, meanwhile, varies based on the year you were born. For example, the full retirement age for those born between 1943 and 1954 is 66, but for those born after 1960, the age for full benefits is 67.

Defying the idea that seniors can’t wait to retire, one-third of respondents said they enjoyed working and currently didn’t wish they were retired. Another 20% said they would like to keep working, though they admitted they’d prefer to work fewer hours. However, nearly half of respondents — 47% — said they wished they were already retired.

Similarly, the majority of the survey respondents said — by a 62%-to-38% margin — that they continued to work for financial reasons rather than personal reasons. Of those who choose to work for personal reasons, 45% said they enjoyed their job, 18% said they worked to avoid boredom, 12% said they worked to fill time, and 6% said they wanted to ward off loneliness.

Meanwhile, those who keep working for financial reasons reported a variety of money challenges. More than one-third (37%) said they simply couldn’t afford to retire, while 23% said they were supporting family, and 19% said they were paying down debt. Additionally, 13% said they were paying off their mortgage, and 4% said they were saving for a big expense.

The average amount saved for retirement among respondents was $133,108. However, 70% said they expect Social Security to be their main source of income once they retire, followed by 37% who cited 401(k) savings, 27% who said personal savings, and 20% who planned to rely largely on stocks. Another 11% said they expect their children or other family members to financially support them when they retire.

The average age working seniors expected to stop working and finally retire was 72, the survey found.

The sooner you start planning and saving for life after retirement, the better off you will be. As a starting point, it’s a good idea to come up with an estimate of how much money you will need. From that point, you can work backwards to figure out what steps you should take to accumulate that sum through savings and investments over time. And if your company offers a 401(k) plan, that might be an ideal way to start saving.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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