When You’re Not Ready to Retire
There are some professions with mandatory retirement requirements — for example, airline pilots, air traffic controllers, and public safety workers. For many workers, however, they’re not ready to — or financially able to — retire at age 59.
Traditionally, full Social Security benefits were available at age 65, with early benefits available at age 62 (although there was a permanent reduction to 80 percent of the full benefit amount if the benefits were drawn early). In 1983, Congress passed legislation that has gradually increased the age at which Social Security benefits can be drawn. Currently, the full benefit age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Early retirement benefits will continue to be available at age 62, but they are reduced even further. Delaying retirement is encouraged — an individual reaching age 66 currently will receive an additional 8 percent benefit for each year he or she delays collecting benefits, up until age 70, which can result in a 32 percent higher monthly benefit payment.
When it does come time to retire, that doesn’t have to be the end of your work. In the 2015 film “The Intern,” 70-year-old Ben (played by Robert DeNiro) participates in a senior citizens intern program and becomes a mentor to fashion website owner Jules (Anne Hathaway). Ben’s knowledge and insight was valued, and he stepped into a key role as Jules’ driver.
Baby boomers are generally in better health than their parents were at the same age. Other older employees may enjoy the challenge and variety that work brings into their lives. Some may continue to work to fund current and future medical expenses.
Regardless of the reason, with life expectancy rates at 79.3 years in the U.S. currently, what you traditionally think of as “retirement” may not match the reality of what you want to do with your “third act” — you may want to continue doing some sort of work to meet your intellectual and financial goals.
Challenges of 50-Plus Jobseekers
Technology is one of the biggest potential obstacles for an older jobseeker. The perception from some hiring managers is that an older jobseeker may not have the technological skills to succeed. This can be addressed by identifying the specific technology skills required for the position and finding a way to improve those skills — whether by taking a class in person, online (for example, on Udemy.com) or even learning by watching YouTube videos.
If you are considering going back to school to improve your skills, investigate your choices wisely to ensure a return on your investment. Make sure the training and/or education you are pursuing is in demand for the kind of job you’re seeking. And weigh the cost versus the return.
A 2015 survey conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute found that about a third of those surveyed had participated in training or education programs in the previous five years. Overall, they reported that their training was “helpful,” but respondents who engaged in training were more likely to say that it did not help them at all than to say it helped them a great deal in both finding and keeping a job. That’s important. Make sure you’re choosing training that will help you become more employable, particularly if you’re investing a significant amount of money.
Otherwise, if you go back to school at age 60 and plan on retiring at 66, you may still be paying off your student loans when you’re collecting retirement benefits. (Social Security payments can be garnished to pay off unpaid student loans.)
If you do change jobs, you may not earn as much as you did previously. Sometimes you’ll make less money in your next job — but not always. In the AARP survey, 48 percent of those surveyed earned less in their current job than they had before becoming unemployed. Another 22 percent reported earning the same amount, while 29 percent are earning more. Older workers value flexibility and may be willing to trade work-life balance for lower pay. Don’t be afraid to negotiate better benefits (especially intangibles, like the ability to telecommute) if a lower salary is offered.
You may have to start over again in a new industry. Career changes are common for older jobseekers. Downsizings are one of the most common reasons for later-in-life unemployment. Whole industries can disappear, so it’s important to be open to making significant changes.
In the AARP survey, more than half (53 percent) of those surveyed had an occupation different from the one they had before becoming unemployed. While some jobseekers may have made a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting, in many cases, the change was necessary to find a job.
Fear, frustration, and anxiety are all common reactions to a job search after 50. Jobseekers are encouraged to get assistance with their job search and career planning. In the 2015 AARP survey, 45 percent of jobseekers received some type of help during their job search. Assistance with updating or writing a résumé was the most common help reported, and nearly 20 percent of those who responded said they sought emotional support (therapy or support groups).