Significant Increase in Number of Americans Working Past Retirement

August 5, 2011


Evelyn Hutch­er­son, of Richmond, is one of many Americans working past retirement age.

Evelyn Hutch­er­son is prompt.  At 7:30 a.m. she set­tles into her cubi­cle and chats eas­ily with her co-workers in the third floor office at the Vir­ginia Employ­ment Com­mis­sion on E. Main Street in Richmond.

She pre­pares for her work day by orga­niz­ing her desk and sign­ing into her Dell desk­top computer. Her fin­gers trem­ble on the home keys of the key­board. They are pale, knotted at the joints  by arthritis.

But Hutch­er­son doesn’t let the signs of aging get in her way. She still types eight hours a day, dri­ves on the high­way and main­tains an active social life.

“I try not to worry ’bout the small things,” said the World War II veteran.

Indeed, at 91-years-old Hutch­er­son is still work­ing – four days a week to be exact. As an office ser­vice spe­cial­ist, Hutch­er­son 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 Sta­tis­ticsthe 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 use to be 70 is today’s 80,” he said.

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

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 how the number of workers 65 and older has increased over the past decade