While the majority of older Americans say they will retire at a later age than they previously thought, the percentage of people near retirement who say they will probably never retire is going down, a report released in December by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found.
The report is based on data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, and examined employed Americans 50 and older between 2006 and 2010.
The report found that the percentage of workers 50 or older who planned to retire early at age 62 fell from 7% in 2006 to just under 5% in 2010. Over 16% planned to retire at 65 in 2006, but by 2010, that percentage fell to 14%.
In 2006, less than 2% of workers near retirement believed they would be working until age 80. In 2010, that number jumped to 5.2%. “There might be some individuals who prefer working longer, but such sharp increases in the size of the group that plans to work longer (within the short period of 2006–2010) suggests that people close to retirement are not confident about a financially secure retirement, and therefore plan to work longer,” according to the report.
While workers recognize that they will likely be in the work force longer than they might have expected, they at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. In 2006, 21% of workers said they would probably never stop working. In 2008, during the recession, that number increased to 22%, but by 2010 it had fallen to 16%. Additionally, the percentage of workers 50 or older who don’t know when they will retire fell from almost 19% in 2006 to 14% in 2010.
What may be most troubling, especially for those “never retirees,” many workers may be unable to work as long as they planned. EBRI’s 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey found 45% of retirees in 2011 left the work force earlier than they thought they would. Of those, 63% left for their own health; 23% left due to downsize or closure (20% left for “other work-related reasons”); and 18% left to care for a family member. Just 6% of retirees in the 2011 survey offered “positive reasons” for leaving the work force.