Working in Retirement: Motivating Boomers to Stay on the Job

Companies are trying to entice boomers to stay on the job longer.

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Working past the traditional retirement age can give you essential extra income, provide something productive to do, and offer opportunities to interact with peers. Unsurprisingly, 85 percent of baby boomers plan to work in retirement, primarily for financial reasons, according to a McKinsey & Co. survey.

Work at older ages has some pretty good perks for society, too. If early boomers between the ages of 54 and 63 delayed retirement from age 65 to age 70, the McKinsey analysis found, the share of households prepared for retirement (and not draining public resources) would nearly double from 31 to 60 percent. Plus, working longer would boost economic growth, enabling the economy to generate an extra $12.9 trillion in GDP between now and 2025, McKinsey calculated.

Most workers retire for one of four reasons: retirement becomes affordable, lack of job satisfaction, desire for more personal family time, or due to health problems, according to a new Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates online survey released today.

But some companies are stepping up to the plate to try to entice older workers to stay longer. The EBRI survey tested incentives that might have encouraged recent retirees to postpone retirement and found the following likely to be especially persuasive:

Receiving a full pension while working part time 50 percent
Feeling truly needed for an assignment 48 percent
Health benefits 46 percent
Receiving a partial pension while working part time 44 percent
Guaranteeing pension income already earned 42 percent
Contract or seasonal work 38 percent
Meaningful work 36 percent
Part-time work 36 percent
A pay raise 33 percent
Working from home 28 percent
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2008

Note: This survey of 4,981 aerospace and defense industry workers who retired in 2003 or later and are currently between the ages of 55 and 65 was made up primarily of male, married engineers, most of whom had benefits that are increasingly becoming rare in the private sector like a traditional pension and retiree medical insurance as well as a 401(k).

Offering educational opportunities to older workers might be another way to make them stay. A recent AARP and Towers Perrin survey found that 77 percent of workers over age 50 are interested in work-related education whether to update current skills and knowledge (90 percent), build new skills to advance their careers (83 percent), or train for an entirely different type of job (57 percent).

Readers, what would motivate you to stay on the job longer?