Old age (but not retirement) starts at 75

Sep 02 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

As more and more Americans live past 90 or even 100, the nation's perception of what counts as "old" is changing, with most now believing old age does not start until you are 75. Just don't believe that will mean they expect to work for a decade longer.

In fact, the majority of workers polled by investment firm Charles Schwab & Co were adamant social security benefits should continue to start dropping on the mat from the age of 63 onwards, with up-and-coming Generation Y workers arguing it should be from age 61.

This reluctance to accept the demographic time-bomb facing most Western economies is a concern, argued Ken Dychtwald, president and chief executive of population and age think-tank Age Wave, which collaborated on the poll of nearly 4,000 people.

"Surprisingly, study respondents believe they should qualify for 'old age' benefits 12 years before they become 'old,'" he pointed out.

"With life expectancy increasing, many fear that their current savings will not sustain them to pay for everyday needs throughout retirement," he added.

But there was also some sense that, with retirement now becoming a more active, and longer, time of life, that there was scope for working at least to some extent during it.

Seven out of 10 of those polled said they planned to work while in retirement, and another 60 per cent said they planned to take up a new career altogether. In fact, only seven per cent said they would solely unwind.

"Delaying retirement provides individuals the opportunity to further grow their personal portfolio," agreed Andy Gill, senior vice president, investor services at Charles Schwab & Co.

"Many retirees are entering new part-time careers as both a new challenge within the workplace and a source of additional income," he added.

And the changing demographic would mean employers would need to look long and hard at what was meant by "retirement" as well, argued Dychtwald

"As Americans push the envelope on what it means to grow old and retire, it seems natural that companies would embrace these new paradigms and offer more flexibility in work style and in the education, tools and resources they offer employees," he suggested.

Some firms, as U.S HR consultancy Hewitt showed last month, are as a result increasingly using phased retirement programmes to encourage its Baby Boomer workers only to go gradually into retirement.

This included offering part-time employment on a year-round basis and giving near-retirement workers access to retirement benefits, it found.