Twenty percent of pre-retirees made plans to postpone retirement last year, a new survey shows, perhaps suggesting that work, savings and Social Security make up the new three-legged stool of retirement.
More than a third of workers ages 44 to 53 who were surveyed listed “loss of full-time employment” among their biggest financial concerns. And 58 percent of people ages 34 to 53 (roughly Generation X) said they planned to retire at 65 or later, up from the 42 percent who said so in a similar study in 2011, according to the recent survey, which was conducted by the Insured Retirement Institute, a trade group representing insurers and financial brokers.
“We’ve really got a generation here that is very concerned about their level of retirement savings,” said Frank O’Connor, IRI’s vice president of research. “They aren’t confident about their preparations, and the solution in their minds is that they’ll just work longer.”
The problem, O’Connor and myriad financial advisers suggest, is that the ability to work longer is hardly guaranteed. Older workers have to be healthy enough to work, which is only partly in their control, he said, and the work has to be there.
“The question is, ‘Does the workforce want you? Are your skills up to date enough?’ Both the ability to go to work and the ability to find employment are fairly significant ifs,” O’Connor said.
Wondering how to tip the balance toward a longer working life that will let you cut the number of years to finance in retirement? Try these four tips:
–Team up. With technical innovation compressing the shelf life of many careers, working in intergenerational teams helps older workers stay up to speed for longer, said Diane Schwerha, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at Ohio University. “In college we learn informally from other students and when you’re just starting out in your career you tend to have these informal channels,” she said. Try to keep those open and active as you age, even if your workplace doesn’t formally recognize a team-based system, she said.
–Ergo, ergonomics. Advocating as early as possible for ergonomic fixes in the workplace pays off in healthier, longer working lives for many occupations, Schwerha said. Even small, inexpensive fixes to lighting and chair and desk heights can make a big difference, she said. And while it’s critical for older workers to stay in physical shape, don’t assume it’s best to be standing at a desk all day, she said. Stretching and taking walking breaks throughout the day may be better than standing all day for a worker with bad knees, for example, she said.
–Ask for flex. Flexible work arrangements are hardly new, but making them work in a given job still typically takes some promotion on the worker’s part. “It’s critical to move beyond why you need the flexibility and focus on how it works for the employer,” said Emma Plumb, director of 1 Million for Workplace Flexibility, a coalition of advocates for workplace flexibility. (Check out more tips at www.workflexibility.org.)
–Moonlight. After breaking the news recently to a woman client in her mid-50s that her savings rate wasn’t going to get her the retirement income she wants, financial adviser Allison Alexander recommended the client seek out some moonlighting income. “We take a holistic view, documenting a client’s vision and goals. We often talk about financial goals, but if clients have a passion or an area of deep interest we take note of that,” said Alexander, an adviser with Savant Capital Management in Rockford, Ill. By moonlighting, the client picked up not only extra income she could put away for retirement, but also key networking contacts and new skills that could help her extend her career if the first job goes away. And by the time workers are well into their 50s, some of them are in or close to an empty nest, with fewer family responsibilities. “Even just volunteering for another organization is a great way to find out if that organization might provide income in the future,” she said.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Janet Kidd Stewart writes The Journey for Tribune Content Agency. Share your journey to or through retirement or pose a question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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