The Myth of the Post-Retirement Worker

The Myth of the Post-Retirement Worker

By now, you're probably aware that the average American is woefully underprepared when it comes to saving for retirement.

"That's okay," you might think. "I can always just work for a few more years, or take on a part-time job to cover my expenses."

That's a common belief many of us hold. LearnVest research has shown that 40% of Americans plan to work after retiring, and a CareerBuilder survey reports a higher percentage, up to 60%—hence the rise of buzzwords like "recareering" and "semi-retirement."

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A recent New York Times article, however, says that's not going to be the reality for most of us. It cites an AARP survey that reveals an even higher percentage of those who plan to work, at 72%. In reality, the number who actually do work into their golden years is 18.9%.

The article posits that the gap exists for a variety of reasons: Sometimes a worker leaves the workforce early because he times his retirement with his spouse's. Or there was a "shock" that took an employee out of the workforce, like having to care for a sick relative or a change of regime in the office. And often when an older worker loses his job, he can't break back into a competitive workplace still rife with age discrimination.

Or perhaps, working after age 65 is harder than it looks. Today's jobs may not require as much manual labor as they used to, but they're hard in a different way: Many of them require good eyesight and the ability to concentrate intensely—which can pose challenges for aging Americans.

Sometimes, though, the reason for the gap is positive. Many people assume they'll have to work because they won't have enough retirement money. “People look at their savings and pensions and say, ‘I think it’s going to be O.K., but I don’t know.' ... But then when people reach 61, 62, 63, a lot of them figure out that they can retire,” author and retirement consultant Helen Dennis, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, told the Times.

Since you can't plan for every bit of uncertainty, it's critical that you do plan where possible—and avoid these all-too-common retirement mistakes.

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