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Maybe It’s Time to Retire Retirement

Category: Work and Volunteering

December 12, 2018 — This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Series. Part 2, “Older Workers Face Bleak Employment Prospects“, describes the problem along with some strategies to overcome them. Back when the concept of retirement became institutionalized, our live expectancies were nothing like what they are now. When Social Security came into being in 1935 the retirement age was set at 65, but the odds were that if you made it that far you wouldn’t be collecting long. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s life expectancy for men was 59 and 63 for women: for people born in 2018 the expectancies are 83 and 86.

Although not everyone over 65 is healthy, vigorous, and mentally sharp, millions of us are. Which leads many experts to propose that in the face of a tightening employment market, employers should consider putting the whole idea of retirement on hold. This excellent article in Nautilus, “Retiring Retirement: A Growing Portion of the Elderly Look Anything But”, explains the growing phenomenon of people who are not acting their age, and the reasons why they should be more gainfully employed.

The authors give some wonderful examples. One of their fathers-in-law, a 97 year old retired Air Force Colonel, is posed in front of his brand new car. He lives alone, travels, just starting taking Spanish lessons, and looks 25 years younger than his chronological age.

Many people who are retired don’t want to be. They have too many skills and too much energy to be sidelined – particularly as the U.S. working age population declines in size relative to older Americans. The thesis of the piece is that more needs to be done to keep older workers and their talents employed, not only for their health and well-being (people who work at least a year after age 65 tend to live longer), but to benefit society by putting their talents to work. Older workers are more likely to have a college education as well.

Here is our favorite quote from the article – a great way to look at the gift our longer lifespans provide us:

“We need to stop thinking about chronological age as a meaningful marker,” says Laura Carstensen, the director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity. “We’ve been given 30 extra years with no strings attached.”

She goes on to say that “We have to think about creating new cultures, and changing social norms and institutions to build a society that supports long life.”

Researchers at the University of Illinois confirmed that more and more older Americans are in good health and capable of working well passed traditional retirement ages. They found that nearly 30 percent of citizens over the age of 85 remain in excellent health.

Some employers are getting on the bandwagon as a way to retain difficult to replace older workers. BMW revised some of its production lines in Germany, making changes like flexible magnifying glasses and ergonomic chairs to make it easier for older workers to retain their productivity. BMW later expanded the pilot program in other countries. Stanley Consultants, a U.S. firm, continually finds ways to keep older employees productive, and hardly anyone actually retires there. The company consistently ranks on the AARP’s annual list of best employers for workers over 50.

Would you like to keep working past your traditional retirement age, or are you already doing that? Did you find barriers to working as you went over age 50? Are there modifications to your job that would have allowed you to stay on the job? Please share your thoughts on this topic in the Comments section below.

For further reading
Fit Seniors Have Hearts That Are 30 Years Younger

Posted by Admin on December 11th, 2018


  1. There is another angle to working longer if that job pays much less than a person’s previous career/job. Their social security pay out will change if they work 8 years or more for significantly less pay. This situation would affect those workers who lost a former well paying job at an early age late 50’s – early 60’s. Yes – some people do enjoy working longer and it may not be an issue about savings and future income but it is a critical situation for others.

    by JoannL — December 12, 2018

  2. Yes, I am still working, but as I want to…that means part-time three days per week. I volunteer other days and would love to hope that will keep me vital. I am already told that I do not look my age, but I attribute that to my genes. My grandfather constantly had to prove his age—and loved every minute of it.

    The problem is that employers here in the USA do not want older workers. The Germans are light years ahead of us in retaining older workers with experience. I never dreamed that I would not be working full-time up to 70 and beyond. It now has become a reality. Thank God that I have a lovely situation and things for the moment are working out. I thank God for that.

    I meet people here in Washington, DC who do not want to retire as they see people who do often just become unhappy. Many of the ones still working that I know are self employed.

    One thing I notice, if you look at the older supreme court justices, one would think why would they retire. They are employed in interesting work, valued for their contributions, picked up at their homes every day and treated with great respect. Not to mention they make a great salary and pension. Too bad other older workers do not have the same situations.

    by Jennifer — December 12, 2018

  3. Yes, a lot of us would like to keep working and not necessarily into our 80’s but mid 60’s. Employers seem to think as soon as employees hit mid 50’s that it is time to shed the ‘geezers’ and hire new college blood. I agree we need young people coming down the pike but we also need the knowledge the older people offer. Corporations need to change their mindsets. I worked with this older guy who was a hybrid machinist/engineer. He was in his mid 70’s and was sharp as a tack. I loved working with him because he was so talented! He always came through with solutions to problems. So tossing a person out the door with 30-40 years of experience is very foolish. It all boils down to some pencil pusher who is trying to cut costs and thinks that they can get rid of the high paid geezers and replace them with lower paid college kids. They forget that knowledge means something. College kids are smart and gung ho but need a mentor to guide them in the first few years.

    by Louise — December 12, 2018

  4. JoanneL, We are not sure that your comment reflects the situation accurately. Unfortunately the link goes to a paid publication and we can’t read the article, although we do respect Robert Powell’s expertise greatly. Just not sure how taking any job could reduce your SS benefit. The way SS calculates the benefit is as follows:
    “Up to 35 years of earnings are needed to compute average indexed monthly earnings. After we determine the number of years, we choose those years with the highest indexed earnings, sum such indexed earnings, and divide the total amount by the total number of months in those years. We then round the resulting average amount down to the next lower dollar amount. The result is the AIME (monthly benefit). ” See

    If you have not worked 35 years, the Social Security Administration will average in zeros for any years less than 35. In most situations people work for more than 35 years, and their early year earnings are low. So it is hard to understand how working for a lower paying job in your 50s or 60s could hurt – if you have less than 35 years, the new job replaces 0 earning years. If you have 35 years already, SS will take the highest 35 to calculate the benefit. Anyone else see this differently?

    by Admin — December 12, 2018

  5. Admin, you are absolutely correct. Working additional years can only potentially help. I see no way it would ever hurt. Thanks.

    by Tiger Benny — December 12, 2018

  6. ADMIN and Tiger Benny…you are spot on, working a few additional years can not hurt. And something else to ponder is A) if you are saving in a 401K or a ROTH from age 65 to age 70 your nest egg will grow dramatically due to if nothing else, compounding and B) you will max out your Social Security payment, in my case full retirement at 66 and 8 months is $2700 but that grows to $3500 at age 70.

    by BillJosh — December 12, 2018

  7. I agree that working longer will not reduce Social Security benefits.

    Perhaps JoanneL is thinking about the “offsets” to benefits for those working and getting benefits under the full retirement age?

    The offsets do reduce the monthly benefit received, but increase future monthly benefits.

    I am 70, and I have continued to work because I have been healthy, I enjoy it, it provides meaning, and it uses my gifts. That said, I will likely retire next year because there are other things I want to achieve.

    by Everette — December 12, 2018

  8. Retire retirement? No thanks. I’ve already worked 50 years and am still working part time. Not interested in dying on the job. I agree with As Everette ^^^. There are other things I want to do and enjoy.

    p.s. Just because a 97 can legally drive doesn’t mean he should. No matter how youthful he appears, his reaction time will not be what they were 25 years earlier. Just saying.

    by JCarol — December 16, 2018

  9. The Wall Street Journal has a new series on the un-employment problems of older Americans, which we will be reporting on in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is one of their principal conclusions:
    “The older you are, the longer you are unemployed.” Nearly eight million older Americans are out of work or stuck in low-quality jobs, denying them a crucial time to accumulate savings.” (might require paid subscription)

    by Admin — December 21, 2018

  10. The link does require a paid subscription–too bad. Is there some way that the article can be copied and pasted so everyone can read it?

    by Jennifer — December 26, 2018

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