Many older workers report in surveys that they want to work until age 70, or never retire at all. For example, according to a recent survey conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), more than half (53%) of older workers surveyed state they want to work beyond age 65 or never retire. Most likely, many of these older workers know they don’t have enough savings to retire any time soon, so their “retirement plan” is to keep on working as long as they can.
But is working beyond age 65 a legitimate option? Not always. According to another survey report by the TCRS, almost half of older workers (47%) would like a phased transition of their working hours and responsibilities, while only 20 percent of employers offer such a program.
While working longer is a common-sense response to inadequate retirement savings, one that can substantially boost your eventual retirement income, the flaw with this “plan” is that you may not end up working as long as you’d like. Case in point: Another TCRS survey of retirees found that more than half (56%) retired sooner than they’d planned.
The fact is, if you don’t take three critical steps to improve the odds of extending your earning years, you don’t have a plan – all you have is hope. Instead of hope, you need to determine:
- why you want to work longer,
- explore creative ways to do so, and
- maintain your health and skills so you can work as long as you’d like.
Figuring out why
Your first step is to clarify the reasons you want to continue working.
Here’s one list of possible reasons, identified in my book, Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure, and Fulfilling Long Life:
- You need money to pay your bills. This will depend largely on your spending habits and how much income you’ll receive from your financial resources in retirement.
- You have a purposeful strategy to cover your living expenses while you let your financial resources grow. For many people, delaying the start of Social Security is a smart strategy; waiting to start drawing down your retirement savings is also a wise move. As a result, you may want to work just enough to cover most or all of your living expenses to enable your Social Security benefits and retirement savings to grow as much as possible.
- You want some extra spending money. In this case, you might have enough lifetime retirement income to pay your basic bills, but you want some extra money for travel, gifts, or hobbies, or simply to have a cushion should you need it.
- You might need affordable health insurance from an employer. This reason for continuing to work is often critical if you want to retire before age 65, the eligibility age for Medicare.
- You like your work. Some people simply enjoy the work they do, they’re working at something they believe in, or they still have goals they want to achieve before they stop working.
- You like the social contacts and fulfillment you get from work. Many people like being productive and useful to society, and they enjoy the social interaction they have with people at work.
If you’re like most people, you often have more than just one reason to continue working, and your list of reasons can help guide the type of work that best fits your goals.
Remember, hope is not a strategy! It will take a lot of work to plan to keep working. Do the job right by taking the steps to turn your hope into a realistic retirement plan.