Savings Losses a Key Factor in Delaying Retirement

May 28, 2009 ( - As the recession has taken a heavy toll on many retirement nest eggs, just over half of working adults ages 50 to 64 say they may delay their retirement, and another 16% say they never expect to stop working, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project.

The survey report says that overall, 37% of full-time employed adults of all ages say they have thought in the past year about postponing their eventual retirement. This proportion swells to 52% among full-time workers ages 50 to 64 – members of what Pew calls the “Threshold Generation.” They are also twice as likely as younger workers to say they never plan to retire (16% vs. 8%).

The Thresholders who do plan to retire someday say they plan to keep working, on average, until they are age 66 – four years older than the age at which current retirees age 65 or older report that they stopped working, the report says.

The Pew Research survey also found that it may not be how much one earns but how much one lost in the investment market meltdown that determines whether he or she is re-thinking retirement plans. Among all adults employed full time, those who lost 40% or more of their savings are twice as likely as those who lost nothing to say they have thought about delaying their retirement (59% vs. 29%).

While Pew says the sample size is too small to draw firm conclusions, the pattern is roughly the same for employed members of the Threshold Generation. Working members of the Threshold Generation who lost money on investments are more likely than those who didn’t suffer losses to say they’ve considered delaying retirement (54% vs. 45%), and they’re more likely to have considered taking this step than are adults below the age of 50 who lost money in the market (54% vs. 34%).

Among all age groups in the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, nearly half of all full-time employed women (46%) say they have thought about delaying retirement in the past year, compared with less than a third of all working men (31%). Also, 40% of whites have thought about extending their working lives, compared with 32% of blacks and 34% of Hispanics.

Among those with family incomes of less than $30,000, more than four-in-ten (44%) have thought about postponing their retirement, compared with 37% of those earning $100,000 or more, according to the report. More than a third of those making $30,000 to $50,000 (36%) and $50,000 to $100,000 (38%) have considered working longer as the recession settled in during the past year.

The "Threshold Generation"

Among adults ages 50 to 64 who are employed fulltime, slightly more than half (52%) say they have thought about delaying retirement, with women once again the most likely to say so.

Six-in-ten women working full-time in this age group say they have reconsidered when they will retire, compared with slightly less than half of all men (61% vs. 45%).

However, among this generation there is little difference by income: those with family incomes of $75,000 or more are as likely as those earning less to say they have considered delaying retirement.

Working adults who are closer to the traditional retirement age of 65 are even more likely than younger members of the Threshold Generation to have considered delaying their retirement. Some 68% of those ages 57 to 64 say they have thought about delaying retirement, compared with 44% of those ages 50 to 56, according to the report.

The Pew Report is here .