Data and Research

Working Retirees ‘The New Normal’

A new study finds one in five workers age 50 or above has retired from his old employment and moved into a new paying position, which researchers dub a “retirement job.”

By Fred Schneyer editors@strategic-i.com | October 07, 2010

The study, “Working In Retirement: A 21st Century Phenomenon,“ contends the notion of retirees staying in the workforce is becoming the “new normal.” In the future, before entirely withdrawing from work, having a retirement job “is a bridge that tends to emphasize working by choice and for enjoyment,” the report said.

The research from the Families and Work Institute and the Sloan Center on Aging & Work found 75% of workers age 50 and older anticipate having retirement jobs.

According to the study, generating income isn’t the only reason for the working-in-retirement trend: 31% report that they are working to stay active, and 18% say they want to contribute and be productive. Less than one in five report working because of insufficient income; the typical median yearly income among those working in retirement is $21,000 less than those who have never retired.

Not only that, according to the research, most working retirees like what they do and are engaged with their employer.  They more positively rate their workplaces for work-life fit, supervisor task support, and climate of respect and trust, and are most likely to be engaged in their jobs when their jobs are challenging and provide learning opportunities.

The majority of working retirees report working full time and wanting to work the same or more hours, and more than half say they have no plans to leave their current employment situation for at least another five years. Nearly 10% of those working in retirement state that they will continue doing the same work until they die.

"Traditionally, we have conceived of the life cycle as a ladder where we move from education to employment to retirement,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute, in a news release about the research. “That is not the reality today. We need to understand that the employees of today and tomorrow will cycle in and out of education, employment, and retirement. The better we understand this new paradigm, the better we will be able to plan for and manage it.”

The study used data from Families and Work Institute’s 2008 nationally representative study of the U.S. workforce, the National Study of the Changing Workforce.