Workers Who Delay Retirement May Be Happiest

Once a radical view, working longer as a means to health and happiness is the new reality for many.

  • Share
  • Read Later

Much has been made of the slow economy forcing older people to stay on the job longer than they’d like. Older workers believe health care costs alone will consume their savings in retirement, and about half plan to keep working for no other reason. But how terrible is this, really?

A growing body of research suggests that staying on the job longer is good not just for your wealth but for your health, too. That was the central premise of my first book with gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, and when we published The Power Years in 2005 this was an under appreciated view.

Today this line of thinking is broadly accepted and often the central tenet of financial firms’ advice to under-saved baby boomers. Working just two or three years longer can shore up your retirement security; it gives you the added benefit of staying busy, connected and relevant, all of which diminish stress and loneliness which are so damaging to mental and physical well being.

Of course, this is the glass half-full point of view. Others note that not everyone is able to work longer. In a post last year I noted:

“A McKinsey study of retirees in 2006 found that 57% quit work for good earlier than they had expected; 40% were forced to quit because of job loss (44%), their own health (47%) or to become a caregiver (9%). In a more recent survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found this year that half of workers will retire earlier than planned because of health issues (51%), job loss (21%), caring for a spouse (19%), or obsolete job skills (11%).”

But for those with the choice, the benefits of staying at work are no longer mere conjecture. A study last fall from the American Psychological Association Center for Organizational Excellence found that the top reasons working Americans aged 18 and older stay with their current employers are that their jobs fit well with their lives and they enjoy what they do. These ranked above benefits and pay.

(MORE: If There’s No Inflation, Why Are Prices Up So Much?)

The demographic most likely to cite work-life fit and enjoyment are workers past age 55, according to the study. Some 80% cited job enjoyment while 76% cited work-life fit. That compares to 58% and 61%, respectively, of workers aged 18 to 34.

“Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life,” David Ballard, head of APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, said in a release. Increasingly, older workers are the prime beneficiaries and it’s helping to solve the retirement security puzzle.

(MORE: Have Americans Given Up on Saving for Retirement?)