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5 Reasons Far More Seniors Are Working Today

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Senior female worker with younger colleagues on the job
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If you are 65 or older, there is a decent chance you are still punching the clock at a job.

As we recently reported, the number of seniors who work has soared in recent decades. Today, 19% of people 65 and older are working, almost double the percentage in 1987, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

In total, roughly 11 million people 65 or older work today — nearly four times as many as in the mid-1980s. But why are so many seniors employed now compared to in the past? Following is a look at Pew’s explanations.

Older workers are more educated

Senior in classroom raising hand to ask a question while looking at a laptop
Milan Ilic Photographer / Shutterstock.com

Today’s seniors are more educated than their forebears, meaning they are more likely to possess the skills that companies need.

As a general rule, Pew notes, workers who have higher levels of education are more likely to be employed than their less-educated peers.

Older workers are healthier and have fewer disabilities

Senior exercising with a hula hoop
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Advances in medicine mean people generally live longer, healthier lives than they did in the past.

For example, seniors today are less likely to have disabilities that keep them out of the workforce. That means people often can work longer into their golden years than in the past.

There has been a shift from pensions to defined-contribution retirement plans

Senior worker
Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock.com

Some experts say it is a myth that most workers had pensions in the past. Still, there is little doubt that the percentage of workers covered by a defined-benefit plan like a pension has shrunk significantly in recent decades.

Instead, today’s workers are more likely to depend on defined-contribution plans — such as a 401(k) plan — for their retirement savings. That means some workers might feel compelled to work longer so they can continue to fatten their nest egg.

Also, as Pew notes:

“The old-style pensions incentivized workers to retire at a specific age, whereas defined contribution plans do not encourage early retirement.”

If you are still saving for retirement, learn tips from the experts in “The Top 10% of Retirement Savers Share These 4 Traits.”

Social Security’s full retirement age has increased

Senior woman working in coffee shop
Tyler Olson / Shutterstock.com

In the past, workers were eligible to claim their full Social Security benefit at 65. Since then, that age — which is technically known as full retirement age — has been bumped up to 66 and then 67.

Experts say the change likely has motivated more workers to stay in the workforce longer.

If you want to get the most out of Social Security, read “14 Ways To Maximize Your Social Security Checks.”

More occupations are ‘age-friendly’

A senior worker checking his laptop
StockLite / Shutterstock.com

Once upon a time, workplaces were rife with ageism, which made it tougher for older workers to hang on to their jobs.

Age discrimination is still a reality in some places, but more companies value older workers than ever before. In addition, Pew notes that research has found that jobs have become more “age-friendly” since 1990. Examples of such occupations — which typically do not require physical exertion — include:

  • Guide
  • Insurance salesperson
  • Proofreader
  • Financial manager

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