Delaying Retirement? Count Yourself Lucky

The recession has forced many to delay retirement. That only feels like a hardship. Here's a look at the bright side.

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The Great Recession came with a variety of silver linings, including a renewed commitment to save, reduce debt and focus on core values like relationships and experiences. Less noted has been a salutary effect on older workers and the employers that are aware enough to value them.

Tough times generally have forced 60-plus workers to stay on the job longer in order to repair their ravaged savings. Many also have hung on to keep health insurance and bridge to the better Social Security benefits that come with reaching “normal” retirement age, which is slowly being pushed out into the future.

A third of businesses report that up to 15% of workers are now older than the organization’s average retirement age, reports the Conference Board. Many others are within just a few years of retirement age and show no signs of calling it quits.

Staying at work longer only feels like a hardship. Workers past the age of 60 who have been pushed aside through downsizing and cannot find employment feel the real pain. Even if pressed by finances, if you have the option of staying on the job longer you are one of the fortunate ones.

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Working longer does much more than allow you to keep saving and build the financial cushion you’ll need to quit work for good. It has all sorts of health and wellness benefits.

A 2012 AARP survey of working Americans found that health and happiness generally rise with age. Other surveys have found adults over age 65 report lower levels of depression and loneliness. Those who retire relatively young tend to find that they vastly underestimated the social connections that come with an office setting, according to a study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave.

Meanwhile, employers benefit from older workers’ experience and seasoned judgment. Jacquelyn James, director of research at the Sloan Center on Aging at Boston College, writes in her blog:

“Numerous studies have shown that older workers are the most satisfied with their jobs and the most engaged of all age groups, which any manager can tell you leads to higher levels of presenteeism and productivity. They very often bring relevant experiences, strong attention-to-detail, and resilience built from years on the job that their younger peers may be less likely to offer.”

Many employers assume that older workers won’t be around long, so they hesitate to hire them. Yet in today’s workplace the typical 25-to-34 year-old stays at a job just over three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The longevity revolution means that a 60-year-old still has eight to 12, or even more, productive years. So there’s a good chance an older new hire will stay longer than a young one.

For those who are able, working longer is the silver bullet to many retirement-related issues—and a boon to businesses that can see through the clutter.

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