Retirement is a growing luxury in the U.S.

view original post

Freeman, The (Waukesha, WI)

Older adults add incredible value to America’s workforce. But increasingly seniors are returning to work to merely make ends meet. Low savings, longer lives and a rickety safety net are combining to present new challenges. It’s a reminder that society benefits both from ready employment and from protecting Americans’ golden years.

A survey released last month by AARP puts the sobering facts into perspective. One in 5 adults over age 50 say they have no retirement savings, and nearly two-thirds are worried they will not have enough money to support themselves in retirement.

Nearly one-third of older adults who roll over credit card debt report carrying a balance of $10,000 or more, while more seniors are racking up heavier debt from a year ago. While about one-third expect their finances to improve over the coming 12 months, a larger percentage is worried about prices outpacing their incomes and their ability to cover basic expenses.

The gloomy outlook raises red flags both for America’s seniors and states like Florida that have long sold themselves as retirement havens. The figure of 1 in 5 adults over age 50 with no retirement savings came from interviews completed with more than 8,000 people, the AARP said. One-fourth also expect to never retire, a share that has steadily increased in the twice-yearly survey since 2022.

The AARP’s findings echo a recent report by Times staff writer Lauren Peace, who chronicled how rising prices and depleted savings are driving some Tampa Bay area retirees back into the workforce. As Peace reported, Americans are living longer, and many seniors are finding their fixed budgets cannot cover rising household costs, medical bills, food and other essentials.

Seniors bring a wealth of value to the workplace, from life experience and varied skill sets to a reputation for being dependable. The number of seniors in the workforce is growing at a rate greater than all other age groups combined; by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 12% of people ages 75 and older will be working, more than double the rate in 2000. They are a key age group whose participation in the workforce fills a critical need in the economy. Beyond earning a paycheck, many seniors also credit working with staying mentally sharp and socially engaged.

But it’s one thing for Americans to work as long as they’re able and interested; it’s another when seniors are reentering the workforce because their finances and the social safety net forces them there. According to the latest annual reports, Medicare — the government-sponsored health insurance that covers 65 million older and disabled Americans — will run short of paying full benefits by 2031, while Social Security will run short of full benefits to 66 million retirees only two years later.

Every American, as the AARP noted in the introduction to its report, “deserves to retire with dignity and financial security.” Yet more are feeling the heat, suffering anxiety and changing their lives to adapt to an uncertain future.

Government and business need to work across a range of fronts to protect pensions, bolster Medicare and Social Security and promote retirement savings plans to younger workers. Americans are 15 times more likely to save for retirement when they have access to a workplace plan, the AARP reported, yet nearly 57 million people do not have access to a retirement plan at work. That’s another retirement bubble waiting to happen.

Older Americans should be in the workforce by choice. That requires Americans to save more throughout their working lives, and for the government to adequately protect the nation’s safety net for all retirees.

— Tampa Bay Times (TNS)