Will You Be Part of the Gray Workforce?

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For the first time in U.S. history, more than 20% of retirement age workers are choosing to stay in the workforce. That’s more than double the number who made that decision in 1985, according to a new report from United Income.

The reason is simple—they don’t have enough money. For some, they’ve never recovered the wealth lost during the Great Recession. For others, sky-high medical costs have eaten up most of their savings. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) says 48% of Americans approaching retirement have nothing saved in 401(k)s or IRAs.

The Government has known for a long time there’s a problem. For more than 20 years every worker’s annual Social Security statement has contained a warning that unless changes are made the Social Security fund would be depleted by 2034. Politicians have talked about it, campaigned on it, and then kicked the can down the road. The warnings were right-on-the-money and the issue is now at critical mass. According to the just-issued Congressional Research Service report, “Social Security’s total cost is projected to exceed its total income (including interest) in 2020 for the first time since 1982, and to remain higher throughout the remainder of the projection periods.” It’s anticipated that Social Security benefits will be cut to 79% of their projected payout in 2035. To compound the issue, Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be out of money by 2026.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the biggest spike in employment is among college-educated older workers. The number of employees age 65 or higher with at least an undergraduate degree is 53% compared to 25% in 1985.

The higher number of college-educated older workers has pushed that group’s inflation-adjusted income to an average of $78,000, which is 63% higher than the $48,000 bring-home income in 1985. Compare that to the average income of workers below age 65 who saw average income go up 38% to an average of $55,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects aging baby boomers to be the strongest area of growth in the labor market through at least 2024. “By 2024, baby boomers will have reached ages 60-78, and some of them are expected to continue working even after they qualify for Social Security benefits.”

Even for older works who seem to be well-off, economics professor Teresa Ghilarducci at the New School for Social Research, estimates that Social Security will replace 40%-50% of a worker’s pre-retirement income, while people will need 80%-100% of their working income to live comfortably in retirement.

Professor Ghilarducci estimates that a typical college-educated professional will need $1 million to $2 million dollars to retire comfortably. Is it any wonder older people are working longer?

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