More Americans age 65 and over are still punching the clock. In fact, the last time the percentage was this high was when John F. Kennedy was in the White House.
Last month, 19 percent of Americans age 65 and over were still working, according to government data released Friday. That’s the highest rate since 1962, and the trend has been upward since the figure bottomed out at 10 percent in 1985.
As America grows older and as life expectancy gets longer, some workers keep heading to the office because they like it and still feel engaged. But many others are continuing to work for a simpler, darker reason: They can’t afford not to.
More than a quarter of workers age 55 or older say they have less than $10,000 in savings and investments, according to the latest retirement confidence survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Perhaps because of small nest eggs, nearly a third of workers in that age group say they expect to work until at least 70, if they retire at all.
Older workers still heading for jobs may also be the lucky ones. Many older Americans would like to work but say they can’t find a job, whether because they lack the skills or because employers are looking for someone younger. The unemployment rate for workers age 65 and over was 3.7 percent last month. That’s a tick higher than its median over the last 30 years, though it’s down from earlier this year.
The numbers may rise higher, critics say.
Congress this past week voted to overturn a federal rule designed to help states give more workers access to retirement savings plans.
Several states have been pushing to create their own plans to get more workers into plans like a 401(k) that automatically deduct savings from each paycheck. Low-income workers tend to have much less access to savings plans through their jobs.
Republicans and players in the investment industry, though, argue that the state-run plans could end up being much more expensive than imagined and would water down safeguards in place to protect investors.