Working past retirement age is an increasing trend in today’s economy, and while many people do so for social and lifestyle reasons, a great many more find it a financial necessity.
“What we hear, speaking to returning workers after retirement age, are things like economics and survival on a retirement income to pay for health care, prescriptions and sometimes property taxes are reasons they give to continue working,” said Margie Eby, administrator of the State College CareerLink office, the state employment services bureau.
Still others work past 65 years old because they like their jobs and want to contribute to their communities.
“It’s hard to remove yourself completely from work,” said Bobbi Dixon, a 65-year-old staffing professional who lives in Blair County but regularly works in Advantage Resource Group’s State College office.
In July, Dixon will move to part time after 28 years with Advantage, giving her spending money and more time with her grandchildren and retired husband.
She’s just one of many people who’ve made that decision.
“The reason why they choose to keep working is that the idea of retirement has changed,” said Gayle Davis, the employment and training coordinator for Experience Works’ central Pennsylvania office.
Experience Works is a national nonprofit moving low-income workers older than 55 back into the workforce through openings with other nonprofits. The organization receives federal grants to help people update their skills, gain experience with nonprofits and find private sector work.
Today, many older workers are facing job losses or the reduction or loss of their 401(k) retirement plans. They’re also living longer, Davis said.
“People are finding it is a necessity to continue working,” she said.
America’s economy has changed over the past half century, said Sara Rix, an economic analyst with Washington, D.C.-based AARP, the advocacy group for older Americans.
The decline in private pensions and associated retirement health benefits and the increase in the retirement age, better educational attainment and general health are all reasons people work past retirement age, Rix said.
“These changes took place well before this latest recession, so we can’t blame that,” she said, although the 2008 recession was a contributing factor for people to remain in the workforce past retirement age.
In January, there were 7.9 million Americans older than 65 employed in the U.S., a 69 percent increase from 2004, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Numbers can be a bit misleading, Rix said. Labor force participation rates are a better indicator because they include the unemployed looking for work and are less susceptible to influence from changing demographics, such as the large size of the baby boom generation, which is now retiring.
In 1950, the participation rate for those older than 65 was 27 percent, according to AARP. By 1985, that rate had dropped to just less than 11 percent before rising to 19 percent in 2013.
Still, it can be a challenge for retirees to re-enter the workforce. They often have a lot of experience in one industry, such as construction, but they’re no longer physically capable of working in it, Davis said. Or the industry moved offshore, as did garment production.
“It’s difficult when you’re at the other end of the age spectrum,” she said.
“You’re not going to get a job at the top with your experience.”
However, that may not be an ideal situation for retirees anyway, she said.
Low-stress, part-time jobs that don’t require relocation but build on the worker’s interests are usually better.
Centre County’s unemployment rate was just 5.3 percent in December, tied for the second-lowest in the commonwealth, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry’s monthly statistics.
The region added 200 education and health service jobs from 2012, 1,500 government jobs and 800 leisure and hospitality jobs in that year.
That means jobs are generally available and many are in growing employment opportunities for older workers, such as retail outlets, leisure services and home health care jobs. Self employment, consulting and small business ownership also are gaining popularity among older workers, HR professionals said.
“Many people come back, and they retired from high-level positions,” said Jeffrey Krauss, co-owner of The HR Office Inc., a State College company offering job placement for workers and human-resources services to companies.
Someone who retired from a high-stress job probably wants to have fun in his or her second career, Krauss said, particularly if finances aren’t dire. In that respect, work can fill social needs, too.
“If you gauge it, you probably spend more time with people at work than with your own family,” Krauss said.
Penn State provides many job opportunities in this realm, such as working at sporting and cultural events, he said.
“There’s no stress, it’s social and you earn some money.”
Dixon said she can relate; she just isn’t ready to stop working.
“I want to remain working to keep my mind active,” she said, “and I’ve always liked working.”