Future "Retirees" Planning to Keep Busy on the Job

by Lydia Saad

Most think they would still enjoy working

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, a majority of Americans are looking forward to working beyond retirement age, potentially blurring the significance of "retirement" in years to come. Overall, 63% of non-retired U.S. adults say they plan to work when they reach retirement age. This includes 51% who say they will work part time and 12% who say they will work full time.

Most current workers plan to continue working after retirement age (68% say they will). But nearly half (49%) of currently unemployed pre-retirees -- a group that includes homemakers, students, and unemployed adults -- also say they plan to work in their retirement years.

Not Purely a Financial Decision

The most striking finding in the data is that, despite the financial benefits of staying in the workforce, non-retired Americans' intent to work in their retirement years does not differ according to household income. Sixty-one percent of those in the upper-income group say they will work after they retire -- essentially no different from the 59% in the lower-income group. At the same time, there are big differences in perceived financial status across the three income groups. Only 29% of non-retired Americans in households earning $75,000 or more a year are very concerned about meeting their financial needs in retirement, compared with 57% making less than $30,000.

The conclusion that working later in life is not driven primarily by financial considerations is underscored by the results of a question that asked non-retirees whether they plan to keep working because they would still enjoy it, or because they would still need the income. Most (67%) say the enjoyment they would get would be the primary motivation to work after they reach retirement age; only 30% cite financial need.

Retirement Fears

This is not to say that non-retired Americans have significant fears about what retirement will do to their wellbeing. According to the June 9-11 survey, just one in five (20%) say they are very concerned about "losing a sense of purpose" in their lives after they stop working, and only 33% in total say they are either very or somewhat concerned about this. The majority (64%) are not especially concerned. In other words, Americans seem to appreciate the gratification they get from work for its own sake, rather than view work as a tool for maintaining mental health.

Non-retired Americans are much more concerned about the status of their finances in retirement than they are about retaining their identity. More than 4 in 10 non-retired Americans (42%) say they are very concerned about not having enough money to live comfortably in retirement; another 32% are somewhat concerned about this. Gallup finds a similar degree of apprehension about the even more extreme prospect of "running out of money before you die."

But even a majority of those who express little or no concern about their retirement finances (60%) say they will likely work in their retirement.

Retirement Employment Plans According to Level of Concern About Retirement Finances

Very
concerned

Somewhat
concerned

Not too/
Not at all concerned

%

%

%

Will work full time

16

7

13

Will work part time

48

58

47

Total plan to work

64

65

60

Don't plan to work

35

34

36

It is even possible that working in retirement could be a status symbol for professionals: 71% of non-retired adults with a postgraduate education say they will likely work in retirement, compared with smaller percentages of those with less advanced education.

"Retirement" Becoming a Misnomer?

The basic finding that 6 in 10 non-retired adults plan to work in their twilight years conforms with an April 2006 Gallup Poll that found 68% of non-retired Americans saying they expect to rely on part-time work as either a major or minor source of income in their retirement. The same poll found only 23% of current retirees saying they rely on part-time work as a source of income today -- suggesting a major cultural realignment is underway concerning the way Americans view retirement.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,002 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 9-11, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 709 non-retired adults, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 462 non-retired adults who plan to work when they reach retirement age, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

8. Thinking now about retirement, please tell me how concerned you are about each of the following -- very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not concerned at all? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 709 NON-RETIRED ADULTS

A. Not having enough money to live comfortably in retirement


Very concerned


Somewhat concerned


Not too concerned

Not concerned
at all


No
opinion

2006 Jun 9-11

42%

32

16

10

*

B. Losing a sense of purpose in your life after you stop working


Very concerned


Somewhat concerned


Not too concerned

Not concerned
at all


No
opinion

2006 Jun 9-11

20%

13

29

35

1

C. Running out of money before you die


Very concerned


Somewhat concerned


Not too concerned

Not concerned
at all


No
opinion

2006 Jun 9-11

40%

26

20

14

1

9. When you reach retirement age, do you plan to work full-time, work part-time or not work at all?

BASED ON 709 NON-RETIRED ADULTS

Work full-
time

Work part-
time

Not work at
all

No opinion

2006 Jun 9-11

12%

51

35

2

10. Is that mainly because -- [ROTATED: you will need the money, (or mainly because) you would still enjoy working]?

BASED ON 462 NON-RETIRED ADULTS WHO PLAN TO WORK WHEN THEY REACH RETIREMENT AGE

Need the money

Enjoy working

No opinion

2006 Jun 9-11

30%

67

2

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.9-10): BASED ON 709 NON-RETIRED ADULTS

2006 Jun 9-11

Plan to work after reaching retirement age

63%

(Need the money)

(19)

(Would still enjoy working)

(43)

(Unsure)

(1)

Do not plan to work after reaching retirement age

35

No opinion

2

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