But Part-Time Might Be Nice

As Americans’ 401(k) accounts have shrunk this year, much has been made of the likelihood that some older workers will need to postpone retirement. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that many of these people are in no rush to quit working, even when they’ve passed the traditional retirement age. An AARP survey of workers age 45-74 finds 69 percent of them plan to work (or already are doing so) “into their so-called retirement years.” That’s not to say they see themselves working the same way they now do. While workers in this age bracket toil an average of 41.9 hours per week, 34 percent plan to work past retirement age on a part-time basis “for interest and enjoyment.” Nineteen percent expect to work part-time “for needed income,” while 6 percent intend to work full-time “in a new career altogether” and 10 percent plan to go into business for themselves. Respondents’ lack of eagerness to leave the world of work reflects general satisfaction with the jobs they’ve got at present. Seventy-six percent said they enjoy working; 65 percent said it “gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning.” Similarly, 87 percent said work is “important for their self-esteem.” For workers in this age group, jobs can also provide continuity at a time when much else in their lives is in flux. Asked whether they’ve experienced various “major life changes” during the past five years, 31 percent said they’d become responsible for the care of a parent, 26 percent had seen their last child move out of the house, 23 percent had “experienced a mid-life crisis,” 21 percent had survived a major illness and 19 percent had divorced or remarried. For all the talk about rapid job change in the new economy, the average 45-plus worker has been with the same employer for 15.5 years. And 78 percent of 45-plusers said they expect to remain with the same company until they retire. Although some respondents voiced concern about age discrimination in the workplace, 79 percent said it’s not at all likely or not very likely their own jobs would be eliminated in the next year.