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For Many Older Americans, Retirement Will Involve Work

A large portion of retired Americans are still working in some capacity or plan to do so in the future, according to a new survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In fact, one-fourth of the survey respondents say they plan to never retire, particularly those who earn less than $50,000 per year.

This post-retirement work may involve reducing one’s previous hours to part-time status, moving to a new employer or switching to a new field of work altogether.

Key findings from the survey from adults age 50 and older:

  • Six in 10 Americans age 50 to 64 plan to work past the age of 65. Nearly half of those who are 65 and older say they already work or plan to work during this later stage of life.
  • One-fourth of older workers say they plan to never retire. This sentiment is more common among lower-income workers than higher-income workers, with 33 percent of those earning less than $50,000 a year saying they will never retire, compared with 20 percent of those who earn $100,000 or more.
  • Working adults age 65 and older still put in an average of 31 hours per week.
  • Americans age 50 and older who have spent at least 20 years working for the same employer (four in 10 people) are more excited and less anxious about retirement than those without such long histories with a single employer.
  • A majority of older Americans who are planning to remain in or rejoin the workforce are planning to switch either professional fields or employers in the future.
  • A sizeable minority of older workers are taking steps to keep their skill sets fresh by pursuing job training or additional education.
  • One-fourth of adults age 50 and older have looked for a job in the past five years. Many are encountering difficulties in the job market, with a third reporting that it has been so difficult that they’ve given up looking at some point during their search.

“The circumstances and future plans of older Americans must be well understood by decision-makers,” said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center. “Not only are older Americans going to work longer, but four in 10 respondents are planning to change career fields in the future. These results point to significant changes in the American workforce with impacts likely felt by workers and employers.”

This survey comes at a time when the size of the older population is larger than ever and projected to keep growing. The number of Americans age 65 and older grew from 35.9 million to 44.7 million between the years 2003 and 2013. In the next quarter century, this number is expected to rise to 82.3 million.

Source: NORC at the University of Chicago

For Many Older Americans, Retirement Will Involve Work

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). For Many Older Americans, Retirement Will Involve Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 29 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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