How long will you work? Even if you once envisioned that you might be relaxing on the beach at age 60 or so, a combination of social and economic factors is likely to keep you in the labor force for many years to come.
One of the biggest issues, of course, is the recession. Even with the current rebound, our 401Ks are still nowhere there as fat as they were in 2006 and 2007, when the future looked so much rosier. But even without the recession, we might be working much longer. Our benefits from Social Security, once Plan B, are on the decline as well, according to researchers from Ohio State University and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Ohio State economist David Blau, co-author of a study on the subject in a recent issue of The Journal of Human Resources, compared the number of men aged 55 to 69 in the workforce in the periods of 1988-1992 and 2001-2005. Blau and his co-author, Ryan Goodstein of the FDIC, say up to half of that increase can be attributed to the decline in Social Security benefits.
The changing status of women also affects the length of time married couples work, Blau says. Since wives generally tend to be younger than their husbands, they will likely be working for a few years more. Many couples want to retire at the same time, which means that a larger number of men are putting off retirement until their wives reach the point when they are ready to quit.
Another reason we want to work longer is because we can. A generation ago, a fifty- or sixty-something man or woman was considered to have one foot in the grave. In a sense, that wasn't incorrect, given their life expectancies at that time. But our generation is healthier and has had better medical care throughout our lifetimes. We can expect to be vital into our 70s as long as we take care of ourselves.
And if we're not ready to pack it in, why should we?