Delayed Retirement May Mean Fewer Job Openings

Seniors who leave the workforce voluntarily are more satisfied in retirement than those forced out

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The recession appears to be having a different impact on young and older Americans—mainly keeping older adults in the workforce and younger ones out of it. Nearly four in 10 employed adults age 62 and older say the economy has forced them to delay their retirement plans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today. Most adults between the ages of 50 and 61 are considering working during the traditional retirement years as well. At the same time, younger workers are struggling to find a place in the workforce. More than four in 10 nonworking people between the ages of 16 and 24 say they have tried without success to find a job, the Pew Research Center found. Many young people also say they plan to stay in school longer.

For most older workers the decision to stay on the job is discretionary. A slight majority (54 percent) of workers age 65 and older say the main reason they work is because they want to, according to the telephone survey of 1,815 people age 16 and over. Just 17 percent of older workers say their top reason for employment is that they need the paycheck. And an additional 27 percent say they’re motivated to work by a mix of desire and need. Many seniors are attracted to remain in the workforce by psychological and social factors, such as to feel useful and productive (68 percent), for something to do (57 percent), and to be with other people (56 percent)

[See why Baby Boomers Are Taking a Step Back Down the Career Ladder.]

Younger and middle-aged workers are more likely to work out of necessity. Among employees ages 16 to 64, 49 percent work because they need the money and 31 percent both need and want to work. Common reasons for employment include to support yourself and a family (88 percent), to live independently (78 percent), to qualify for a pensions and Social Security (65 percent), and to receive health benefits (57 percent). Only 20 percent of Americans under age 65 work simply because they want to.

[Check out these 10 Tips for Evaluating an Early Retirement Offer.]

Perhaps because they have largely made a choice to work, older employees are considerably happier on the job than their younger counterparts. Some 54 percent of workers ages 65 and older say they are completely satisfied with their job, compared with 29 percent of employees ages 16 to 64. Yet, the decision to retire or continue working is not always voluntary. Seniors forced or coerced out of the workforce are considerably less happy in retirement. Only about half (51 percent) of current retirees say they left the workforce because they wanted to. About a third (32 percent) of retirees abandoned their job for health or other reasons and 9 percent claim their employer forced them to retire. Those who retired voluntarily are twice as likely as reluctant retirees to be very satisfied with their retirement experience. Some 30 percent of those who retired earlier than planned remain unsatisfied with their retirement, compared to just 4 percent of seniors who retired on a date of their own choosing.

[Try these 5 Ways to Prepare for an Unplanned Retirement.]