Poll: Americans Pushing Back Retirement

September 2, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Buffeted by a slumping economy, diminished retirement investments, and stuck-in-place salary increases, many Americans are resigned to postponing retirement.

According to the third annual Allstate Retirement Reality Check survey, 29% of those surveyed said they would need to postpone retirement because of the economic downturn – an expectation that crossed generational, gender and ethnic lines, according to the survey’s authors. The silver lining in that cloud was that more than half – some 61% of Baby Boomers and Caucasians, 55% of Gen-Xers, 56% of Hispanics and 53% of African-Americans – said the wanted to work in retirement.

Respondents as a group estimated they would have to delay retirement by an average 5.7 years. Breaking that down by age, Baby Boomers estimated they would work an extra 5.5 years on average, but only slightly more than a quarter of the Bomers – those age 38 to 57 – predicted a retirement delay. Gen-Xer respondents – those 24 to 37 – expect to work an additional 6.2 years, while nearly four in ten (38%) of Gen-Xers said their retirement transition would be pushed off.

Examining the data by race, African-Americans feel hardest hit by the economy, the Allstate survey suggests. Among African-Americans contacted, 35% said they might have to postpone retirement, compared with 27% of Caucasians and 29% of Hispanics who responded.

Women are slightly more likely than men to respond that they might have to delay retirement, 31% versus 27%. Overall, men are more inclined than women to continue working in some form – 63% of men surveyed said that, compared with 56% of women.

However while many were being forced into a delayed retirement, Americans still plan to retire at relatively young ages. Baby Boomers surveyed, for example, said they expect to retire at age 61.9 on average; for Gen-Xers the average age cited was 58.8. Among African-Americans surveyed, the expected retirement age is 58.6, compared with 60.1 for Hispanics and 61.9 for Caucasians.

Post Retirement Career Advantages

Not only that, but many of the respondents said they looked forward to the positive benefits of continuing to work including (responses from Baby Boomers, G-Xers, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Caucasians):

  • To stay mentally active – 59%, 63%, 55%, 55%, 61%
  • I enjoy social interaction – 54%, 55%, 59%, 44%, 54%
  • Chance to do something I’m passionate about – 53%, 57%, 59%, 44%, 54%
  • To feel useful and to contribute – 50%, 52%, 54%, 49%, 49%.

At least part of the equation for many in their retirement delay decision is a concern about keeping health coverage. According to the survey, Hispanics particularly are concerned about medical insurance, with 41% responding that they will continue working because they need health benefits.

Concern about health benefits was the issue most cited by 29% of Baby Boomers, 28% of Generation X, 27% of Caucasians, and 25% of African-Americans. Women were slightly more likely than men to cite health coverage as a reason to continue working, 31% versus 28% of men.

Allstate created the survey in conjunction with Harris Interactive. Harris Interactive polled 1,474 people born between 1946 and 1979, with household incomes of $35,000 and more.