Today’s older adults face a different set of opportunities than seniors in previous generations.
They have a longer lifespan than their parents and access to technological advancements that allow them to live (and work) longer, even with a disability. They’re also more educated — 29% of people ages 65 and older had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher as of 2018, compared with just 5% of adults in that age range in 1965.
Improvements like these may be giving seniors the chance to stay in the workforce longer, and many older adults are doing just that. In fact, one in six adults is holding a job beyond the retirement age of 65, and the labor force participation rate of adults over the age of 75 has nearly doubled over the last two decades.
While delaying retirement might sound unappealing to someone who’d rather spend their days on the golf course, growing numbers of seniors are instead holding onto their careers and reaping the benefits.
Here are five of the reasons why you might not want to retire right away — or ever:
- Keep traditions alive: Seniors can take credit for keeping certain trades alive. More than a quarter of people who repair footwear and leather goods or work in funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories are older than age 65. Many other industries, including animal production, religious organizations and retail florists, also rely on a high percentage of older workers. By not retiring, these experienced employees are uniquely positioned to share their legacy knowledge and become mentors to younger generations of workers who value them as teachers — a potentially fulfilling experience to have in your golden years.
- Financial advantages: Just because you turn 65 doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to give up that paycheck. A 2015 analysis found that 34% of 65-year-old women and 22% of 65-year-old men would reach age 90 — a significant improvement from 50 years ago. Those extra years, along with health care costs of aging and increasing costs of living, mean you may need more in the bank to live comfortably throughout the rest of your life. Maintaining a salary could take some strain off your retirement savings. And even if you already have plenty in the bank to maintain your lifestyle, continuing to earn a regular paycheck into your later years could give you the means to splurge on things like a dream vacation, luxury car, second home or property renovation without worrying about penny pinching.
- Mental health benefits: Income is just one way work pays off for seniors. Older adults who stay in the workforce may also enjoy mental health benefits. A 2014 study found that retiring at an older age was connected with a significant reduction in the risk of developing dementia. Employment also enhances psychological well-being by providing a set schedule, social interactions, opportunity to participate in a collective effort, social identity and structured activities for daily life, according to the World Health Organization. Building on that, there’s some evidence that shrinking social networks during early retirement may be linked to accelerative cognitive aging — something to think about when considering leaving the workforce.
- Physical health benefits: Another reason you might not want to retire is the state of your physical health. Researchers have found that employed older adults experience better health outcomes than those who aren’t active in the workforce. Retirement has also been linked to a 5% to 16% increase in issues with mobility and performing daily tasks. Connections like these show that continuing to clock in — even after you’ve put in your time at a company — could be a factor in how well you age and how long you live. Your body might thank you for staying in the workforce.
- A sense of purpose: Having a sense of purpose offers people measurable, tangible benefits beyond simply feeling good. It’s been associated with higher amounts of household income and net worth and improved financial outcomes over time. There’s also evidence to suggest that feeling needed plays a role in the physical abilities of older adults, according to a 2017 study. Adults with a stronger sense of purpose in life were found to have higher grip strength and a “decreased risk of developing slow walking speed,” two indicators related to a person’s likelihood of developing a disease, becoming institutionalized or dying. If your job offers you a purpose in life, it’s important to think about finding a substitution for that when you leave the workforce.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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