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article imagePoll shows retirees rethinking the 'American Dream'

By Karen Graham     Oct 15, 2013 in Lifestyle
Older Americans are looking at retirement in a different light than their grandparents. Workers reaching retirement age are discovering Social Security is not the safety net they thought it would be, nor is it the wished for "American Dream."
Putting off plans for retirement has become a necessity for many older workers today, with almost 82 percent of workers over 50 years of age saying they will continue to work, even after retirement. This startling information is coming out of an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released on Monday.
The poll was conducted nationwide from Aug. 8 through Sept. 10 by telephone and mobile phone with 1,024 people, aged 50 and over. It was an effort to better understand the work patterns of older Americans, and was funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
While authorities are saying the poll is an illuminating reflection of our changing times, it is probably more a sign of older folks facing a sad reality. It is a reality that has been coming on for years, the realization the Social Security retirement benefits of our grandparents era was not going to be the same for this generation.
Even with three-quarters or more of older workers saying they will continue to work even after retirement, another 47 percent say they will put off retirement until they are older by at least three years or more. This group includes men, those earning less than $50,000 a year, parents of minor children, minorities and those lacking health insurance.
Fully three-quarters of respondents cited employee health benefits, personal health and financial need as extremely important in holding off on retirement. The recession has also played an important part in their decision, too. Many people cited a loss in 401K plans.
Changes in the definition of retirement
Social Security was first introduced during the Great Depression in the 1930's. At that time, more than 50 percent of the elderly were living in poverty. The act was an attempt to ensure some form of "social insurance," limiting the ravages of unemployment, poverty and the burdens of widows and fatherless children.
For many years, the "American Dream" was a reality, as people looked forward to retirement and the chance to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors. But as all good things must come to an end, by the 1990s a shift was seen as the number of older workers in the workforce started rising. Today, it is estimated that by the year 2020, fully one-fourth of the workforce will consist of workers over the age of 55.
The poll bears this out, with 9 out of 10 of those responding saying they liked, or were satisfied with their jobs. Coupled with our longer life spans, better health care, and a more active lifestyle, it is easy to to see we have a generation much better equipped to handle the ups and downs that our society throws their way.
We must not forget those older folks that ended up retiring because it was not their choice. One-third of respondents said they did not stop working by their own choice. Demographics played a role in this group of workers. Racial minorities, those with less formal education and those making $50,000 or less a year were hit hardest. Eight percent of this group cited age, and then heath as being the cause of their forced retirement.
Retirement is just not an option
The biggest reason mentioned, and probably the most important reason for delaying retirement is financial. Again, the poll bears this out, with only 6 percent of those polled having $1,000 or more in a retirement account, and only one in four saying they were depending on Social Security alone for their retirement.
For years in this country, it seemed that incomes would continue to rise, the stock market was doing well and investments were returning decent dividends. Then we were hit with the "Great Recession" and all bets were off. People had to delve into their 401K's or take money out of savings accounts. The $100,000 retirement account many workers were relying on was soon depleted.
This is the state of affairs for many older workers today as they contemplate retirement. Many wonder if they will ever be able to retire. But with the aging of the population, we may soon find we need these people more than we realize. The good thing about this is at least, we have a workforce that is available, and they are willing.
More about Retirees, Workforce, Social security, Older workers, Poll
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