According to a recent poll, nearly a quarter of all working Americans say that they don’t plan on retiring. However, this flies in the face of statistics that say injuries, layoffs, illnesses, and caregiving responsibilities for older workers force many to leave their jobs much sooner than they would like.
A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research says that 23% of American workers and nearly two in ten of those older than 50 don’t plan on retiring. And another 25% say they will work long after they turn 65.
And this is confirmed by government data that clearly shows that nearly one in five Americans over the age of 65 were actively looking or working in June.
The question is, why?
For most, it seems to be a matter of money.
Anqi Chen, assistant director of savings research at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College says, “people have to live in retirement much longer, and they may not have enough assets to support themselves in retirement.”
One question on the poll asked people how comfortable they felt with their finances regarding retirement. 29% of Americans over age 50 and 14% under age 50 said they feel extremely or very prepared. Nearly four in ten over 50 said they feel somewhat prepared and about one third felt unprepared. As for the younger generations, about 56% of people under age 50 said they did not feel ready for retirement.
When asking those who were already retired, 25% said they did not feel that they were at all prepared, while 38% said they were very or extremely prepared.
However, for those who feel uncomfortable with their financial ability to retire, staying in the workforce isn’t always an option. Unexpected injuries, illnesses, or layoffs happen all too often and cause many who weren’t planning on retiring and therefore, haven’t saved a whole lot, to suddenly be without a way to make ends meet amid extremely high medical bills.
People like Larry Zarzecki, a former Maryland police officer. In his 40s, Larry developed a resting tremor in his right hand and a series of other symptoms that affected his work. He was later diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 47 and was forced to retire early.
Now at 57, he finds it hard to make ends meet and says he has “to take from Peter and give to Paul, per se, to help make ends meet.” Zarzecki has health insurance through the state and receives a pension but still has to pay over $3000 in out of pocket medication bills.
According to him, it’s “Eat, heat, or treat…I can’t afford, nor will my insurance cover, the most modern medication there is for Parkinson’s.” He adds, “These are decisions that people in my position have to make. When it’s cold out, or if it’s real hot out, do you eat, heat (your home), or treat (your disease)?”
Americans seem to have mixed emotions about how an aging workforce affects our economy. 39% of Americans feel that people staying in the workforce longer is mostly good for workers, but 29% say that it is mostly bad. And another 30% say it doesn’t make any difference. However, about 45% say that it is good for the economy as a whole.
Or there are those like Ronni Bennett, who never planned on retiring but lost her New York City-based job at age 63. Since then, she has tried to find a steady source of income, but finds the process to be like “banging my head against a wall.” With the cost of living being so high in Manhattan, she was forced to move away, first to Portland, Maine and then again to Lake Oswego in Oregon only a few years later.
Amid the trials of finding new work in new states and the normal process of aging, she also has to deal with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She says, “One of the things about thinking about never retiring is that you didn’t save a whole lot of money.” Now she dreams of winning the lottery so she can move back to New York.
The AP-NORC Center surveyed 1,423 American adults from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, designed as an accurate representation of the US population. The survey holds a margin of error for all respondents of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.