Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A New Survey: Work is Us

Here's an astounding statistic from a new survey on work after age 55:

"By 2020, an estimated one fourth of American workers will be 55 or older, up from 19 percent in 2010."
Which, of course, raises all kinds of questions. If one-fourth of workers are 55 or older, are they valued for the work they're doing? Is their wisdom and experience being put to good use? Are they being forced out of their jobs? And when do they really want to retire? 
In the just-published survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Research, some of what I've been writing about in the last two years is quantified. 
This chart, showing the rising age of retirement,  from the report ("Working Longer, Older Americans Attitudes on Work and Retirement") says a lot: 

Here are a few nuggets from this phone survey of more than 1,000 people age 50 and over.
On feeling valued -- or devalued:
54 percent of retirees under age 65 feel they had no choice but to retire compared with 23 percent of retirees 65 or over.

 * 20 percent of people 50 or older say they have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination because of their age in the job market or at work since turning 50, including being passed over for a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead; receiving certain unwanted assignments; or being denied access to training or the opportunity to acquire new skills because of their age.

* Having an older or a younger boss makes a big difference in how you see your value. 
Thirty-nine percent of people who have a boss older than themselves consider age an asset to their careers compared with 20 percent who have younger bosses. And those with older bosses are more likely to report that they feel they have the respect of the company, are more likely to get desirable assignments, and that their experience is valued by colleagues, who turn to them for advice.

 *But a majority -- 62 percent of adults age 50 and older -- say their age is not or was not an issue in their work life and career. However, that response varied with their occupation. Those who work or worked in professional services are most likely to consider their age an asset (28 percent) compared to those who worked in  sales, retail or clerical (13 percent). Very few of those in construction, manufacturing, and farming felt age was an asset.  

* Age is a major factor in the technology industry, where 42 percent of those 50 and older considered age a liability to their career. 

On working for pay:
*Among those who are working and not yet retired, 47 percent say it is very likely or extremely likely that they will do some work for pay during their retirement and another 35 percent say it is somewhat likely. Only 10 percent say it is not too likely and only 7 percent say it is not at all likely that they will work for pay during retirement. 
(Note, nearly 40% of those surveyed said that not counting pensions and Social Security, they only have $100,000 or less in savings and investments stashed away for retirement -- so work, for them, may be critical.)

*Half of Americans 50 and older report that most or almost all of their friends and family members who are around their age are still working.

On the joy of working: 
*90 percent of those who are working and not yet retired report that they are somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs.

On delaying retirement:
* In the five years before the Great Recession starting in 2008, the average reported retirement age was 57; since then it's risen to 62. 

On the mental aspects of work:
* 18 percent of workers age 50 and older say it is much more or somewhat more difficult to
complete the mental aspects of their job compared with when they were younger, 30 percent say it is much or somewhat easier, and 51 percent say it is about the same.

On being "old."
Finally, the survey explored the definition of "old." As I've written before in "A Rant on What You Should Call Me," calling someone "old" is a fraught.
While on average, adults 50 and older think a person becomes old at 71.5 years, that idea vanishes the closer you get to it. Only 15 percent of those 65 and older agree that that's "old." And those with more money think "old" is further and further away.

Here's the full report.

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