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Study: American workers plan to slow-roll into retirement

By Tim Grant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Published: May 19, 2024, 6:00am

Often when people aged 50 or older contact her, Pittsburgh financial coach Shay Port said the conversation starts with them declaring that they will never be able to retire.

“They say things like, ‘I know I will have to work the rest of my life,’” Port said. “And that’s what I try to help them with — actually being able to retire at some point.”

Say goodbye to the big retirement party and gold watch presentation. As more workers plan to delay the milestone event — if they ever reach it at all — the American dream of retirement is shifting.

According to a study released this week by Allianz Life, nearly half — 47% — of Americans plan to make a slow transition into their golden years rather than slamming the brakes.

“In the past, retirement started abruptly on your last day of work. But that idea is changing,” said Kelly LaVigne, vice president of consumer insights at Minneapolis-based Alliance Life Insurance Company of North America.

“Many Americans are thinking about slowly working less and less as they age,” he said.

While nearly half of Americans see retirement as a slow transition away from full-time work, only 38% think of it as a distinct date in the future to stop working and start drawing down on retirement assets. At the same time, 15% told Allianz researchers they don’t see themselves ever slowing down or retiring.

Baby boomers — between the ages of 59 and 77 — who are either near or past retirement age, are more likely to think about retirement as a slow transition (58%). That compares to 53% of Gen Xers — between the ages of 44 and 59 — who think retirement is a slow transition; and 45% of millennials — ages 27 to 43.

The need to work longer is driven mostly by financial necessity.

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (68%) expect to work beyond retirement age to have enough money, and 61% expect they will need to continue working in retirement to survive.

“This is important when, on average, most Americans expect to live nearly 30 years in retirement,” the report said.

Staying in the workforce longer can make workers feel more financially confident that the money they have will last their whole lifetime. The majority — 63% — of people surveyed said they will continue working at least part-time in retirement to supplement their income.

“You could also benefit from staying on an employer health plan,” LaVigne said. “Working later in life can help you put away more money, postpone withdrawing from retirement assets, delay taking Social Security, and hopefully have a more enjoyable time once you actually do leave the workforce.”