Significant Increase in Number of Americans Working Past Retirement

August 1, 2011


Betty Gilley is part of a growing population of senior citizens working past retirement age.

Four days a week, Betty Gilley is at work early, 6:30 a.m. to be exact. The old­est in her office, the petite, golden haired woman is known as a fast walker and a dili­gent worker. With close to 44 years of ser­vice, Gilley retired in 2010 with plans to work in her flower gar­dens and keep up her house. But retire­ment didn’t go as planned.

Less than a year later, Gilley was offered a part time job with her employer.

“I think I could work another three or four years,” said Gilley about her plans for the future.

Gilley is part of the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of senior cit­i­zens work­ing past retire­ment age. Accord­ing to an analy­sis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics, the num­ber of work­ers 65 and older has grown dra­mat­i­cally. The num­ber of work­ers 65 and older has increased by nearly 60 per­cent over the past decade. Over the same period, the nation’s over­all work­force remained flat.

Dr. Phillip Gra­ham, pro­fes­sor of adult devel­op­ment at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Uni­ver­sity, said peo­ple are liv­ing longer, health­ier lives.

“Adult devel­op­ment research shows that the age ranges of adults past 60 has gone up about 10 years, so what used to be today’s 60 is today’s 70…what used to be 70 is today’s 80,” he said.

“So to really shut down and ‘relax’ for 15 to 20 years is too long.”

Having a sense of continuity and predictability is good for development, according to Graham.

Gilley admits that part of the reason she returned to work was because she needed the routine.

“When I first retired I felt lost, because I could not get a routine established at first, and that really bothered me,” she said.

But certified financial planner and national retirement expert, Bill Losey, said older workers, like Gilley bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and know-how to the workplace and that those who are not financially ready to retire should continue to work.

“For most people, their ability to generate an income is their greatest asset. Rather than retire altogether people should consider a phased retirement over a period of years or part time work,” said Losey, who is also the founder of Retirement Solutions LLC.

“It’s important to retire when you are both financially ready and mentally ready and prepared,” Losey added.

While many senior citizens 65 and older are working because they cannot survive on
their pensions or other retirement savings, it was a different story for Kearney Miller.

Eight years ago his employer, Quezada Trucking, went out of business and Miller was forced into retirement.

After two months, Miller said he couldn’t take the monotony and had to go back to work.

“I always have to be doing something. I just can’t sit around. I stayed around there two months ended up washing windows and everything, so I said I had to find me a job,” said the 68 year-old.

So Miller went and got a part-time job with a local trucking company transporting goods for Altria and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“Believe it or not, some seniors enjoy working past retirement to help combat loneliness and keep a sense of purpose” said Jeff Hartman, Marketing Coordinator, for SENIORS GUIDE.

“Some senior citizens will pick up a part-time job as a way of getting out and doing
something to keep them active, said Hartman.

January of this year, the first of the Baby Boomers – those 79 million Americans born from 1946 through 1964 – turned 65, and many are planning to continue to work. A June AARP report found that 81 percent of Baby Boomers planned to keep working at least part-time past retirement.

But despite the rise in the numbers of workers more than 65 years old in the workforce, there has also been an increase in numbers of those who wanted to work but were
unable to do so.

The number of unemployed workers 65 and older has nearly tripled since 2001. That
adds up to about 15 unemployed older Americans per every one still in the workforce. And that doesn’t include people who no longer are counted in unemployment figures because they’ve given up seeking work and have applied for Social Security.

Regardless, Losey said it is important for everyone to start saving for retirement,
especially those 20-something’s who are just starting off in their careers.

“If you haven’t started already, open an IRA and/or fund a 401k. These are generally the years when it’s toughest to scrape together the cash for investing, but starting young and having decades for tax deferred growth could provide a nice six- or seven-figure
portfolio in retirement. At a minimum, save enough to get your full company match.”

About the Data This report was based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics from June 2001 through June 2011.

See the data analysis