Sentab News & Blog / To retire or not to retire? That is the question

To retire or not to retire? That is the question

Despite hitting what would traditionally be considered retirement age, millions of pensioners have refused the opportunity to put their feet up and instead continue working. Is it a choice or a necessity?

The most common age of retirement in the countries of Europe and Northern America is 65. So it is almost assumed that people above 65 years of age are retired. But it does not mean that their sell-by date on the work market has passed.


The employment rate of 65 plus in the UK had increased to 10.1%, according to the Labour Force Survey in 2014. It means that more than 1 million senior citizens were employed. This tendency is not specific to UK alone. Millions of people of the same age group have continued working in the US as well. In US there were close to 9 million people aged 65 plus in employment in October 2015, the number has never been higher.


Job satisfaction increases with age

Why people have chosen to continue working, one might ask. A few years ago U.S. News Money listed 10 popular reasons why people continue to work in their retirement age and found that, in addition to financial reasons, there were several other aspects that played a role. Many people said that they would be bored if they did not work. Indeed, work can be a nuisance, if it has become routine, but it can also be enjoyable and give a lot of satisfaction. By older age, people who have found their true vocation become experienced and very good at what they do. Quite often the older colleagues are seen as thought leaders and the ones who are turned to for help and good advice. Also, a study has also found that job satisfaction increases with age.

Retiring can also be a hit to one’s social life. Suddenly, the new retiree has all the free time in the world, but less people to spend it with. A huge part of our lives is spent at work, so we often develop close relationships with colleagues, hence we can find a hole once we leave work. Children and grandchildren have their own daytime activities and former colleagues are still at work. Believe it or not, but leaving work is considered one of the factors that might lead to social isolation. With this in mind, it is understandable why giving up the job can be hard for some older adults.


Discrimination is a showstopper

Where there is a will, there is a way, is an old English proverb that might be true in many cases, but not always. For instance, seniors who want to work, are not always able to. A factsheet by Age UK states that 65% of older people believe age discrimination still exists in the workplace. On average, men in the UK leave the labour market earlier now than they did in the 1950s and 1960s, and often this is not a planned early retirement, but people forced out of work by circumstances beyond their control.

Forbes magazine has listed 11 scenarios that companies use to get rid of older workers. For some reason it is still a widespread cliché that older people are not as productive as their younger counterparts. In contrast to this belief, in US a paper was published in 2013 that compared a standard measure of worker productivity, hourly wages, of workers between 60 and 74 and average workers between 25 and 59 and found that the hourly premium for older men was about 22 percent in 2011. For older women it was lower. Older adults in UK are in a less fortunate situation – median hourly pay for workers in their 50s is £12.00 and £10.00 for workers aged 60+, as opposed to £13.03 for workers in their 30s. The issues of ageism and discrimination at workplace are fortunately addressed on a higher level. For instance, the government of UK has rolled out a program to tackle age discrimination among older jobseekers.


Good for the health

It has also been found that working is good for older adults’ health. Compared to people with white-collar jobs, those who were unemployed or retired were 2.75 times more likely to report their health as “poor” or “fair”. People with blue-collar or other jobs rated their health as about the same as their white-collar peers. Of course, it is impossible to say if the poor health conditions of retired or unemployed senior citizens are the cause of them not working or is it the opposite – the bad state of health is preventing them from working, but these findings are interesting and might help to motivate businesses to accommodate older workers.

Obviously keeping physical health is not the number one reason to work in older age. Another reason could be helping out children and grandchildren to start their own lives, as it involves financial aid. Whether it is buying a family home or putting kids through college, younger generation often turns to the folks, which sometimes results in putting retirement plans on hold for few more years.

Although, financial struggles of older populations are becoming more evident. According to World Population Ageing Report by United Nations, the ratio of poverty rate of older persons to the poverty rate of the total population in some developed countries is incredibly high. In US the growing debt and cuts in medical benefits force more and more retirees into poverty. It is not an easy subject to discuss with their families either, since older adults may be ashamed of their debt and in order to avoid becoming a burden to their children, they rather continue their employment.


It’s a personal decision

Deciding if and when to retire is very much our own decision. Some people cannot wait to finish up at the office, pack their suitcases and sail away to all the places they have dreamt about their whole lives. Others find it hard to make the ends meet without decent income and continue working, full or part time. And some just love their jobs, the mental and physical stimulation that comes with it, and never stop working. It is important to do whatever brings the most joy.

Dear reader, do any of these issues we mention about retirement affect you? Or have you got any other insights from your own personal experience? If so, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.