Many Workers Find Career Happiness Post Retirement

May 11, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new study from the AARP Public Policy Institute finds a number of older employees trade income and status for happiness in a late-life career change.

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the AARP study tracks a sample of workers age 51 to 55 and employed full time in 1992 and computes the percentage who changed employers, occupations, or industries by 2006, when they were ages 65 to 69. Forty-three percent changed employers, and 63% of those switched careers, according to the report.

Older workers who have completed college and those who did not complete high school are significantly less likely to change careers than high school graduates who did not attend college. In addition, defined benefit pension coverage significantly reduces the likelihood that older workers change jobs, the report said.

AARP found those who retire and take new jobs are nearly twice as likely to move to a new career as laid-off workers who become re-employed. Older workers who move into new careers, especially those who retire from their former jobs, tend to move into jobs that are less demanding and pay less than their former occupations.

According to the study report, median wages fell by 57% for retirees, 22% for those who were laid off, and 5% for those who quit their former jobs. Nearly a quarter of job changers lose health insurance with their career change, and only about 10% gain insurance.

Almost half say their old job was stressful and their new job is not. Approximately 91% of older career changers say they enjoy going to work, compared to 79% who said so about their old job.

In addition, career changers, especially retirees, are more likely to have flexible schedules in their new positions. About 45% have flexible work arrangements on their new jobs, compared with 27% who did in their old jobs. About one-half moved from full-time work to part-time work.

The study report is here .

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