Retirement No Longer An Exit from Work Force

October 16, 2013 ( – Older Americans’ views on retirement are changing, with fewer people seeing it as a complete exit from the world of work, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the Chicago-based Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found the line between working and retirement is shifting. Eighty-two percent of people aged 50 or older, who are currently working and not yet retired, said it is likely or very likely that they will do some work for pay during their retirement. One-third of retired Americans said they did not have a choice in the matter. That figure increased to 54% for retirees younger than 65.

The recession has affected retirement planning. Before the recession, most people planned to retire at age 57, while the average age now is 62. Forty-seven percent of current workers now plan to retire at a later age than they expected to when they were 40. Financial need, health and the need for benefits were cited as the most important factors in their retirement decisions.

Thirty-nine percent of workers aged 50 or older said they had $100,000 or less saved for retirement, not including pensions or homes. Twenty-four percent said they have less than $10,000 saved.

“The survey illuminates an important shift in Americans’ attitudes toward work, aging and retirement,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the center. “Retirement is not only coming later in life, it no longer represents a complete exit from the work force. The data in this survey reveal strikingly different views of retirement among older workers today than those held by the prior generation.”


According to research by the center, the portion of the U.S. population aged 50 or older is not only growing, but becoming healthier. Projections show those ages 65 and older will increase to 19% of the population by 2030, up from 13% in 2010. At the same, those ages 55 and older make up the quickest growing segment of the work force; by 2020, about one-fourth of American workers will be aged 55 or older.

The survey also found:

  • With older workers, 61% favor raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes, and 41% favor reducing Social Security benefits for those with higher incomes. In contrast, 29% favor gradually raising the minimum Social Security age, and 21% favor changing the way benefits are calculated so cost-of-living increases are smaller;
  • Twenty percent of working Americans aged 50 or older said they have experienced age discrimination in the job market or at work since turning 50. Forty-four percent of those who experienced such discrimination have looked for a job in the past five years, compared with 16% who did not experience such discrimination;
  • The nature of a person’s work shapes his view of whether age is an asset or liability. Twenty-eight percent who work in professional services see age as an asset, while only 3% of those in manufacturing agree; and
  • About half of workers aged 50 or older said their boss is younger than they. Those with bosses older than they are less likely to cut back on hours than those with younger bosses (9% vs. 23%). Those with older bosses are more likely to consider age an asset to their career (39% vs. 20%).

Research for the survey was conducted nationally by phone with 1,024 adults aged 50 or older. The phone interviews were conducted between August 8 and September 10.

More information, including the survey results, can be found here.