Retirement is a moving target

When you get into your 50s — or so I’ve heard — you start looking forward to retirement and fearing it at the same time. You look forward to it because …. do I really have to explain that? You fear it because there’s always the danger of outliving the money you’ve put aside.

Today, the Economist fans the fear by noting that the time people are spending in retirement is increasing. That could lead politicians to change the rules of retirement to delay retirement benefits, which — in turn — fans the flame of fear that we’ll never actually get to retire.

In practice many people in the rich-world OECD countries retire several years early, which lets them enjoy, on average, some 19 years in retirement before death. Spaniards should spare a thought for the previous generation; those who became pensioners in 1970 could expect to survive for less than a decade.

Coincidentally, US News reported this week, the push to delay retirement is gaining some favor at a time when many older workers are being forced into early retirement because they’re losing their jobs.

(Paul) Skidmore is among a growing number of people who want to work into their 60s but are pushed into early retirement by the weak job market. The number of unemployed Americans ages 55 and older expressing interest in finding a job has grown by 60 percent since the end of 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But finding work has proved difficult. The unemployment rate for older job seekers has more than doubled since 2007 to 7.2 percent in December 2009, and the average duration of the job search for older workers was 36 weeks in November–far longer than the 28 weeks most younger workers remain unemployed. Some discouraged seniors eventually give up on finding a new job and start calling themselves retired.

This week, National Public Radio provided a three part series on the 50- and 60-somethings who are stuck in this spot. Find it here. Share your situation below.

  • I’m 6&. Excellent health (plan to backpack the Sioux-Hustler wilderness trail in the BWCA this May.

    Dropped to 0.9 time in January of 2009.

    This gives me a 4 day work week. I’m still considered fulltime for benefits (family health coverage – wife and college student son). I earn the salary of a ‘real’ (not parttime job).

    This also fits nicely with the commuter bus schedule for my travel from Cloquet to Duluth each workday.

    Receiving social security but not my pension (until I leave my current job).

    I like the job I’m doing. I like the long weekends. I can fund my son’s college education (partially) to lessen his debt.

    I like the schedule. My employer was helpful.

    So I guess I’m not really ‘stuck in this spot’ but I’m also not looking to run out the employment door asap.

  • Menlo Gabar

    I am ready to change my concept of retirment. At 53, I would be eligible to retire at 60. Given the state of the economy, that will probably now be more like 70. I only hope to have interesting work and a benevolent employer.

  • I hadn’t quite put the math together as well as you did — we’re living longer and yet forced early retirements are becoming common, potentially increasing the length of time we have to spend figuring out “well now what?”

    I expect I’d enjoy full retirement for, oh, maybe a month before growing restless and bored.