PBS NewsHour Presents

New Adventures for Older Workers

92% of Americans think
there’s a retirement crisis.

And they’re right.

More than half of today’s households
won’t have enough money for retirement.

Chapter One

Rethinking Retirement

The percentage of workers
who expect to work past 65
has more than tripled in 30 years.

from 11% in 1991
to 17% in 1997
to 18% in 2002
to 24% in 2007
and now 36% in 2013

The increase of workers 65+ is due to a variety of factors—the implications of living longer chief among them.

Nearly 4 in 10 adults working past the median retirement age of 62 say it is because of the Great Recession.

Everyone now knows that the workplace is graying. For a variety of reasons, many of us plan to work longer and retire later than we would have just 10 years ago. But for how much longer? The answer has been changing rapidly.

We’re asking you to weigh in.

Note that we are collecting data anonymously via our survey questions so we can provide you with a more personalized experience. Your answers also help us visualize in real time the trends appearing within the so-called “death of retirement.”

Are you a current retiree?

See how others responded

You’re under 65. How long do you WANT to work?

See how others responded

You’re 65 or older. Are you working, and are you satisfied?

Let’s see if your expectations are realistic.

Age-of-retirement expectations for workers of all ages aged 25–34 aged 35–44 aged 45–54 aged 55 and older have changed over the years. When asked “When do you expect to retire?” here’s how that age group answered—10 years ago and today. Notice how few answered “before age 65” in 2013 versus ten years earlier.

2013

your answer: before age 65
your answer: after age 65
your answer: never
your answer: don’t know

2003

your answer: before age 65
your answer: after age 65
your answer: never
your answer: don’t know

Nearly one in four workers will be over
the age of 55 by 2016.

Why? Mainly because older Americans are
working longer, and there are more of them.
(The Baby Boom, remember.)

I am working about the right amount. I want to contribute and keep alert. Note however, though I may wake up every morning sharp as a tack, some days I’m not sure which end it is. ;-)

— Robert A. Martin, J.D. 76 and working part-time as a consultant.

Half of American households have less than $10,000 in savings.

An Aging Workforce

Total Percentage of Laborers Working Per Age Group Since 1993

Percentage Change Per Age Group Since 1993

58%

Hello, I’m Paul Solman of the PBS NewsHour. At age 68, I’m on the third green line right above my head in the chart on the left, in the dot at the far right. Note that I’m hardly alone.

I never imagined I would work in journalism, as I now have, for half a century, never thought I would work that long at all. And yet, though I have plenty to otherwise keep me thoroughly engaged—including five grandchildren within 20 minutes of the house and two more on the way—I work two jobs, teaching my brand of real-world economics to the NewsHour audience as the show’s economics correspondent and to college students at Yale and elsewhere. Moreover, I intend to keep working until I’m shown the door.

The gratification I get from work may be somewhat atypical but, as this older worker project of ours and the charts above confirm, more Americans than ever, including more and more of my junior colleagues in the baby boom, are staying on the job past "retirement age."

In my current 65-69 age range, fully 50% more workers are still active than was the case just 20 years ago. What’s more, as you can see in the chart above me on the right, the portion of people working past 75 has more than doubled since 1993.

So here’s the question we set out to answer: Is retirement as we know it becoming a thing of the past? How long are we likely to work and why? Will we be happy on the job, or grimly counting the dollars and days until retirement?

The older worker team has spent much of the past year looking at the factors—demography, economics, and just plain personal preference—that help explain what’s happening to the American workforce as it ages.

— Paul Solman Business and Economics Correspondent, The PBS NewsHour, 68

So what’s going on? And what do statistics say about where you fit into the picture?

×

You’re under 65.
How long do you want to work?

  • I want to retire before I’m 65
  • I want to work until I’m 65–69
  • I want to work until I’m 70–74
  • I want to work until I’m 75–79
  • I want to work past 80
  • Forever
×

You’re 65 or older.
Are you working, and are you satisfied?

  • I’m working and am happy
  • I’m working and am unhappy
  • I’m NOT working and happy
  • I’m NOT working and unhappy
×

Credits

The Sloan Center is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,
which is an underwriter of this project and the PBS NewsHour.

PBS NewsHour: Content and Editorial

Design and Development: Ocupop

Header Photo

Chapter Title Photos from Flickr users

×

Sources

AARP

AARP/USA Today

Census

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

CNN

The Economist

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

MSN Money

National Bureau of Economic Research

The New York Times

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends

Retirement Security Project; Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

The Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis

Social Security Administration

Vanguard

The Washington Post