Work in Retirement Could Be an Elusive Goal for Many

Data shows that only 20% of people 65 and older were in the workforce in 2016, yet 56% of workers plan to continue to work, at least part-time, in retirement due to inadequate savings, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found.

Workers in a new survey expect to live to a median of age 90, which could be why 53% expect to retire after age 65 or not at all, and 56% plan to continue working at least part-time in retirement, according to “Wishful Thinking or Within Reach: Three Generations Prepare for Retirement,” issued by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

Among those who say they expect to “work in retirement,” 83% say it is because of financial need, and another 75% say it is to remain active. Whether they will be able to continue to work is in question, the Center notes, citing 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicated only 20% of Americans age 65 or older were employed.

“Today’s workers are expecting to live long lives and, in doing so, they are disrupting retirement as we once knew it,” says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “Many are envisioning retirement as a new chapter in life that involves continued work but with more free time to pursue personal interests. The big question is whether their vision is wishful thinking or within their reach.”

As to what their greatest retirement fears are, 57% of Generation X and 55% of Baby Boomers say it is outliving their savings. Among Millennials, their greatest fear, cited by 47%, is not being able to meet their family’s basic financial needs.

Seventy-six percent of workers of all ages are concerned that Social Security may not exist by the time they retire, and 79% believe they will have a harder time achieving financial security in retirement than their parents. While the latter is somewhat less true for Boomers (75%), it is more so for Millennials (83%) and Gen X (80%).

Challenges keeping people from saving

The survey explored various factors keeping people from saving for retirement and found that 66% have made paying off debt a financial priority. While this is less true of Boomers (59%), it is more often the case for Gen X (72%) and Millennials (67%). Paying off debt is more important to workers than is saving for retirement, with 57% saying this is a financial priority. This is even more prevalent among Baby Boomers (72%) as opposed to Gen X (61%) and Millennials (45%).

The Center also learned that 29% of workers have taken a loan, early withdrawal or hardship withdrawal from their workplace retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA). While this is slightly less often the case for Boomers (26%) and Millennials (28%), it is more likely among Gen X (34%). Furthermore, workers have a median of $5,000 in emergency savings.

Taking into consideration all household retirement accounts, Boomers have a median savings of $164,000, Gen X has $72,000 and Millennials, $37,000.

The Center outlines four ways workers can improve their retirement outlook. First, they should resist procrastination; 40% of workers say they do not want to concern themselves with retirement investing until they approach their retirement date. Second, they should calculate their retirement needs; 47% of workers who provided an estimate for their retirement needs guessed at the number.

Third, they would have a formal, written retirement strategy, as only 16% of workers have one. Lastly, they should take steps to continue working past 65; only 46% of workers say they are keeping their skills up to date.

Harris Poll conducted the online survey for the Center among 6,372 workers in August and October.