Our Increasing Age of Retirement

The economy is big news these days, and has been for some times. But while no one is affected more by our financial struggles than the elderly, the focus is more often on the middle class and the young.

CBS Logo

Recently, however, there was a brief feature on CBS’s This Morning show talking about the increasing number of people working into their seventies. It started me thinking a bit about what this means.

People Are Working Longer

When I did a Google search to see if I could find more on this report I didn't find this exact story but I found that CBS news had two other stories. I think the themes would be of interest to you:

  • One headline was, “Older Workers Snapping Up All the Jobs.”
  • The second headline was, “Older Workers Can’t Find Work.”

It sounds like a bit of confusion out there doesn’t it. But I doubt there is any confusion about the trend. Many older people are and must work longer, whether they like it or not.

Many older people are and must work longer, whether they like it or not.

Not only so, but almost everyone agrees that this trend is for the long term. Nothing on the horizon suggests any reversal is likely or even possible.

More Older People Must Work

Forgive me while I rant a little, but the truth is that the ill-informed, inadequate and inappropriate response of governments to economic problems, especially the federal government in the United States, all but guarantee that Social Security income will become less and less adequate to meet the needs of the elderly. And many older people have little else.

Most people are painfully aware of this and are adjusting their views about retirement. More than a few are already experiencing the challenge of being forced to retire but not having enough income to pay the bills. Ranting nor anything else will change these policies however, so the only solution is to plan for alternative approaches that can help us cope.

Of course the best way is to prepare for retirement years with investment income and the like. Unfortunately, that is not always done and is also becoming increasingly difficult. Some of us don’t even wake up to the need or option until it is too late to do so.


Last night, as I write this, I drove through a fast food place to pick up a late supper. I did not see a young worker in sight! Each of the workers on duty was middle aged or older.

I could not help but think that while it may not have been an option for them to have worked longer in their previous jobs, for many there could have been better options than they are experiencing.

It is hard to determine how much things are already changing. But what concerns me more is that people are not just continuing to work in jobs they had and that paid well, they are reaching retirement age in one job and having to return to work at jobs that are low wage as well as often physically demanding.

Older People Working is Not New

Many older people are working even now, as we have observed. A few elderly folks have always chosen to work. But not so many have been forced to work in fast food joints.

Personally, I have never liked the idea of retirement. From the time I was twenty I have resisted the idea strenuously and I still feel that way now that I am at an age where I could contemplate the possibility if I wanted.

Stack of tires

I used to use a term to describe my attitude that many would not even understand today. It used to be that a significant part of automobile tire sales were what they call “retreads.” These are used tires that are recycled by reapplying a new layer of tread.

So I used to say (back when more people would understand what I meant) that I did not plan to “retire”, just to “retread,” from time to time.

When younger most people change jobs often, but once they settle down they change less often and by retirement time they do not think in such terms. So when they find they need more income they do not know how to move up or even sidewise.

Instead, they retire and then when their money proves inadequate they try to find some low income job as others do. There are better ways.

Are You Planning to Work Longer?

Let’s be honest. People are going to have to work longer in the future. Some much longer. Only by planning for it can we expect to make our older years happy ones.

Since for most people it will be when not if they will continue to work as an older adult, the best thing a person can do is to plan ahead.

Here is where my “retread” concept becomes relevant for many today. Some, but not most careers allow you to continue working after a normal retirement age.

If you can, you may just want to continue to work at your regular job. But what if you are not one of the lucky ones who can continue working until you really want to retire?

If you haven't prepared with investment income (also becoming increasingly difficult), you will need to prepare by discovering a way you can “retread” into a new, hopefully only part time, career suitable for an older worker.

Since for most people it will be when not if they will continue to work as an older adult, the best thing a person can do is to plan ahead. It is not hard to see that not every older person in the country will be able to work as a WalMart greeter, even if they wanted to!

A Future for the Older Worker

These thoughts only introduce the topic at hand. I will be discussing the older person at work in more depth later. There is no doubt that this will be a pressing issue for some years to come.