It’s been a busy spring for surveys about boomers and retiring.
Here’s the gist of it. Employers say they really value older workers…really they do. Workers say they plan to work longer than the traditional retirement age for lots of reasons from needing the money to mental engagement. But the truthiness of it all is they are out the door, in large part due to health issues or a job loss, and the implications are far-reaching.
Here’s a round-up of what we’re learning from the newest batch of surveys. I apologize in advance for all the eye-glazing statistics. But they do tell a story.
On one hand, a joint poll released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and AARP shows that U.S. employers are fretting the loss of boomer workers.More than seven in 10—72 percent—human resource professionals polled depict the loss of talented older workers to be “a problem” or “a potential problem” for their organizations.
Why? Skills, of course. More than half of human resource managers indicated they find older workers to have stronger writing, grammar, and spelling skills in English and have a stronger professionalism/work ethic.
They say they’re aiming to do something about it, including hiring retired employees as consultants or temporary workers (30 percent), offering flexible work arrangements (27 percent) and designing part-time positions to attract older workers (24 percent). However, even though nearly three-quarters of HR professionals call the loss of older boomer workers a problem, only a small percentage of organizations, 5 percent, have implemented specific policies and management practices in anticipation of this potential “talent” loss.
Let em go. How does the expression go? If you really love something set it free, if it comes back to you…This all makes sense. Employers are cutting older and presumably more expensive workers loose, then hiring them back without benefits and maybe at a lower salary–my analysis, but my guess is you’ve seen evidence of this as well.
The big online job site, CareerBuilder, released a Harris Interactive survey that showed that more than a third of American companies will hire contract or temporary workers in 2012, up from 28 percent in 2009, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals.
For those workers looking for fulltime work, the unemployment rate for men over 55 is 6.3 percent, according the the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate for older women– 5.9 percent. More than half of jobseekers over 55 have been looking for at least a year.
What retirement transition? Employers are not entirely responsible for the brain drain. Despite the general idea that baby boomers will continue to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65, those born in 1946 are herding down the off ramp, according to Transitioning into Retirement:The MetLife Study of Baby Boomers at 65.
A sizeable 59 percent of the first boomers to turn 65 are at least partially retired – 44 percent are completely retired and 14 percent are retired, but working part-time, according to the study. The average retirement age for the 1946 boomers who have already retired is 60 for men and 57 for women.
Of those still working, 37 percent say they’ll retire in the next year and on average plan to do so by the time they’re 68, according to the telephone survey of 1,012 people born in 1946 conducted by GfK Custom Research North America.
Interestingly, half of those 1946 boomers who are retired say they retired earlier than they had expected. Why? Four-in-ten say they did so for health reasons. Another 16 percent cited loss of a job or job opportunities. A few, 3 percent of the baby boomers, surveyed left their job because their spouse had retired.
Baby boomers currently working expect to retire at an average age of 69, and over a third hope to retire in 2012 at age 66.
Tapping Social Security. An aside here. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed are already collecting Social Security benefits, and on average began doing so at the age of 63, defying the strident advice that people should choose to wait to receive benefits until a later age in order to receive a higher payout.
“Many of the boomers weathered the recession well and have been able to stop working. Half of all boomers feel confident that they are on track or have already hit their retirement goals,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “We found that more are homeowners today than 2008, that the value of their homes decreased by only about 5.2% on average, that the majority feel they’re in good health and that 83% have grandchildren. Overall, it’s a pretty confident group of Americans.”
Not so fast. Well that’s encouraging, but according to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey published by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute, only a small fraction of Americans–14 percent–are very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.
Researchers found that the percentage of workers who expect to retire after age 65 has increased from 11 percent in 1991 to 37 percent in the 2012 survey. In 1991, only 8 percent of retirees said they retired after age 65. This percentage increased to 20 percent in 2010 and remains at 18 percent in the 2012 RCS. The median age at which retirees report they actually retired has remained at age 62 throughout this time.
The differences between workers’ expected age of retirement and retirees’ actual age of retirement reveals a considerable gap between workers’ expectations and retirees’ experience. Just 8 percent of workers say they plan to retire before age 60, compared with 40 percent of retirees who report they retired that early.
The best laid plans go astray. One reason for the difference between workers’ expectations and retirees’ experience of retirement age is that many Americans find themselves retiring unexpectedly as we learn from the MetLife survey, too. The RCS has consistently found that a large percentage of retirees leave the work force earlier than planned.
Many retirees who retired earlier than planned cite negative reasons for leaving the work force including
health problems or disability (51 percent)changes at their company, such as downsizing or closure and having to care for a spouse or another family member.Others say changes in the skills required for their job or other work-related reasons played a role.
Not much positivity here. Some retirees did mention positive reasons for retiring early, such as being able to afford an earlier retirement, or wanting to do something else, but just 8 percent offer only positive reasons. And we all know the fallout from retiring earlier than planned–having enough money for a comfortable retirement and paying for basic expenses and medical expenses.
Let’s hope those concerned companies that SHRM and AARP talked to are serious about hiring and retaining older workers. I don’t know the answer to all this, but the fact that all these surveys are scrambling to make sense of what boomers can expect in terms of future work and retirement makes me worried about the “problem” or “potential problem,” too.
Read Published Article on Forbes.com
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I’m the author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job, available here www.kerryhannon.com. I am a fellow in the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship program created by New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America. To learn about great jobs for retirees, check out my column on AARP. Follow me on Twitter, @KerryHannon