Early retirement?

Some seniors are back in the labor force

Posted 11/16/22

REGION — “There has been a huge uptick to ‘unretire,’ according to the labor market statistics,” said Loreen Gebelein, director of Sullivan County’s Center for …

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Early retirement?

Some seniors are back in the labor force


REGION — “There has been a huge uptick to ‘unretire,’ according to the labor market statistics,” said Loreen Gebelein, director of Sullivan County’s Center for Workforce Development in New York.

“Retirement,” agreed Becker’s Hospital Review, “is not irreversible.”

Nearly 64 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are back on the payrolls. That’s close to where things stood in January 2020.

Of course, younger people have quit, moved, changed jobs. Seniors thinking about working could benefit.

Some jobs, like corrections, are offering financial incentives to lure retired officers back.

The extra money helps, but there are other reasons to work as long as possible.

First, though, some numbers.

Early retirement

More than two million people retired early in the first 18 months of the pandemic, according to Joblist. Many have gone back to work. But not all.

New stats from the Census Bureau show that only about 2.9 percent of people aged 55 to 70 who had been employed in January 2020 retired early. However, those aged 62 to  65 either retired early more often, or planned to (4.6 percent). People in poor health quit early too (5.6 percent).

And if you were an older person working in hospitality or education, you were more likely to stop working. “Workers in education jobs more often retired or planned to retire earlier [4.3 percent],” wrote the Census Bureau. Workers in hospitality and other services were also more likely to step out of the workforce—3.6 percent reported they had retired early or planned to retire early.

What about the others? The ones who haven’t left?

Many potential employees out there

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gebelein wrote in an email, estimates that by 2024, a quarter of the workforce will be over the age of 55, and of these, a third will be 65 or more.

In Sullivan County, 19.2 percent of residents are over 65.

In Pike County, PA, that figure is 23.5 percent.

In Wayne County, PA, it’s 24.8 percent.

The benefit of working

First, the money.

“With the inflation rate,” Gebelein wrote, savings couldn’t be sustained. “It has forced a lot of older people to have to go back to work just to live.”

Nationally, about 27 percent of returning workers of all ages said they had financial concerns, particularly inflation, according to Joblist. And given the volatile stock market and world uncertainty, a job can seem like a good financial decision.

AARP notes that “Inflation causes pain for everyone, but it’s particularly brutal for retirees on fixed incomes.”

You have to cut back your spending, because costs have gone up. And if you’re hit with an unexpected expense, what do you do?

Social Security payments increase to offset inflation, Investopedia points out. But the increase is based on the Consumer Price Index—which, advocates for the elderly argue, doesn’t compensate for the higher costs of health care and other items elders are more likely to use.

Working’s good for your brain, too. “A healthy diet, regular aerobic exercise and proper sleep are essential to keep your brain healthy,” according to a post on Harvard Health. But work engagement (for pay or as a volunteer) might matter too. Some studies imply that learning new skills and connecting with others could prevent cognitive decline.

The Harvard Health post quotes Lydia Cho, a neuropsychologist with McLean Hospital. “While your brain is not a muscle, you might think of it in a similar way. Without enough exercise, it can become weak and prone to problems… That is why using your thinking skills regularly is one of the best ways to protect against mental aging.”

Open doors

When it comes to “people over the age of 50 and not currently retired,” Gebelein wrote in an email, “people are working longer.”

Even if you’re physically not able to do what you used to do—maybe you can’t be on your feet all day, you have old injuries, or your body’s not up to heavy lifting—there are other possibilities out there.

“With so many businesses desperate for employees, it has opened up the playing field,” Gebelein wrote. “Many older people didn’t think they would get hired due to age—which is discriminatory—but now they feel more free to embrace their age and look for something different or something they have always wanted to do.”

retirement, un-retirement, workforce


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