Working After Retirement: The Gap Between Expectations and Reality

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

09/22/2006 - More than three quarters of today's workers (77%) expect to work for pay even after they retire, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Of those who feel this way, most say it's because they'll want to, not because they'll have to. But whatever the motivation, these expectations are dramatically out of step with the experiences of people who are already retired – just 12% of whom are currently working for pay (either part or full time), according to the Pew survey, and just 27% of whom have ever worked for pay while in retirement, according to a survey this year by another research organization.

Along these same lines, there is also a disparity between the age at which today's workers say they plan to retire and the age at which today's retirees actually did retire.

The average worker expects to retire at age 61, according to the Pew survey, while the average retiree actually retired at 57.8. These numbers have both crept upward since the mid-1990's; in the decades before that, the age at which people expected to retire had been falling, as had the labor force participation rates of older men.

The latest Pew findings suggest that retirement is a phase of life about which public attitudes, expectations and experiences are in a period of transition. And given the demographic changes afoot (the share of adults ages 65 and older is expected to grow from 12% of the U.S. population in 2000 to 21% in 20503 ) as well as the changes underway in the basic financial framework of retirement (fewer people now than in the past work for employers who provide defined benefit pension plans) this evolution in attitudes is likely to continue for years to come.

The Pew telephone survey was taken from June 20 through July 16 among a nationally representative sample of 2,003 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Read the full article Working After Retirement: The Gap Between Expectations and Reality on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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