According to a new report released by The Conference Board, older workers intend to postpone their retirement now more than ever, despite a recovering U.S. economy. Using data from the August 2012 Consumer Confidence Survey, Trapped on the Worker Treadmill? documented a sharp increase in plans to delay retirement among workers between the ages of 45 and 60, from 42% in 2010 to 62% in 2012.
Part of the explanation for the increase is that the groups that were more likely to delay retirement rose in size between 2010 and 2012. The percent experiencing a large decline in home value increased by 15 percentage points, while those experiencing job losses increased three percentage points and those experiencing salary reductions increased five percentage points.
As can be seen in chart 1, those who experienced a labor loss (either lost a job or experienced a pay cut) were much more likely to plan on delaying retirement.
In addition, between 2010 and 2012, financial assets continued to decline as households drew earnings from their financial accounts as a means of covering expenses during difficult times. They will need to continue working past retirement age to rebuild those savings. According to the survey, in 2012, 62% of the 45-60 population experienced at least a 20% decline in the value of their financial assets since the beginning of the crisis, compared with only 41% in 2010. This occurred despite strong increases in stock prices between 2010 and 2012. Both in 2010 and 2012, households that experienced a major decline in their financial assets were much more likely to plan on delaying retirement.
Regression analysis reveals that recessionary impacts only partially explain the change in attitudes toward delaying retirement. Other factors, such as historically low interest rates, changes in social security benefits, and longer life expectancies, are long-term contributors to this persisting trend, and are likely to continue to be so – at least in the near future.
The results of the study suggest that the trend of delaying retirement has accelerated more significantly than originally expected, fueling the rapid increase in the share of older workers in the workforce (Chart 2). This trend is likely to continue in the coming years as more of the Baby Boomers reach their 60s and continue working. On the other hand, the beginning of the recovery in home prices may improve the financial conditions of many older Americans and may partially offset the upward trend of delaying retirement.
As delayed retirement continues to increase in the United States, the business implications will become even more palpable. On one hand, the availability of older workers can mitigate “brain drain” and skill shortages. On the other hand, the reluctance of older workers to retire may pose challenges for employers who want to reduce headcount or hire and promote new staff. Costs are also a concern, as older workers are more likely to earn higher salaries and face higher health expenses.
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