For those wondering about the true strength of the US economy, look no further than Americans’ post-“retirement” plans revealed in the latest Gallup survey, according to why only 25% of Americans plan to stop working past retirement age. Meanwhile, nearly two in three employed U.S. adults, or 63%, responded they plan to work past retirement age on a part-time basis, while an additional 11% said they will work full time once they hit retirement age.
These results come from Gallup’s Economy and Personal Finance survey, conducted April 5-9. As in 2011 and 2013, the two previous times Gallup asked this question, working adults are most likely to say they intend to “continue working, and work part time.” As one would expect, over the same time period, the percentage who say they plan to “stop working altogether” has ticked up. However, in a surprising twist, of those who say they will continue working, but only full time, the majority plan to do so because they want to, not because they have to.
Regardless of their retirement-age plans — whether they work full time, work part time or stop working — employed adults mostly say their choice is out of preference rather than necessity. The vast majority of those who plan to stop working say it is because they want to rather than will need to. Also, by a better-than 2-to-1 ratio, those who plan to continue working part time say it is something they want to do, rather than will have to do.
Still, whatever the underlying dynamics, the trend is stark. Nonretired U.S. adults are split on when their “retirement age” actually will be, but the greatest percentage (39%) say they expect to retire after age 65, about the same as last year. Roughly one in four expect to retire at exactly age 65, while 29% believe they will retire before then. While the trends has remained relatively consistent this decade, there has been a seismic shift since 1995 in the age at which nonretirees believe they will retire. In two polls conducted that year, an average of 14% said they expected to retire after 65 and 49% before 65. These percentages have flipped in the last two decades, as the age to start collecting Social Security has risen to 67 and more Americans feel a financial need to stay in the workforce.
For current retirees, the picture is quite different. Sixty-eight percent say they retired before age 65, while 30% left the workforce when they were 65 or older. The difference in the retirement age of current retirees and the plans of those still working may be related to the changes in Social Security and movement away from guaranteed benefit plans, such as pensions.
The conclusion: more Americans say they want to continue working when they reach retirement age rather than retire altogether, with part-time work being the most popular option. However, the shift since 2013 by nonretirees who say they “want to” – rather than “will have to” – work part time suggests the need to work isn’t as dire in today’s post-Great Recession economy. Another possibility is that some employed Americans may be overly optimistic about their retirement finances, perhaps thinking they have enough money for retirement when in actuality they might not. Whatever the personal reason, more and more Americans are working well into their late 60s and 70s, preventing young Americans from entering the work force.
At the same time, nearly 40% of Americans now believe they will retire after 65, a stark departure from their beliefs in the 1990s. Whether it is working to make ends meet or for pleasure/life enhancement, more Americans plan to stay in the workforce longer.