Insights from Stephanie Berman, MSN, RN, CALM
Seniors & Retirement, Why Sometimes the Two Don’t Go Hand in Hand
You may believe that most seniors are enjoying their well-earned rest after years of hard work. Now is the time for them to relax and savor the fruits of their labor—retired and living comfortably.
In reality, not all seniors fit that description. For some, retirement is simply not an option. Some older adults are still working, either because they need the income or because they enjoy staying active and engaged. Others may not be retired but cannot work due to age-related health conditions. And many seniors live on a tight budget, especially if they’re on a fixed income.
Each person has unique circumstances, and while some seniors have chosen to retire and can do so comfortably, a third of seniors will work well past retirement age or will not retire at all. For many, maintaining their standard of living involves continuing to work throughout their golden years. So is it that seniors are unwilling or unable to retire? The research says:
Millions of Americans are working into their golden years because they simply can’t afford not to.
What’s fascinating is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- The labor force of people ages 16 to 24 is projected to shrink by 7.5% from 2020 to 2030
- Over that same period, the number of workers ages 75 and older is expected to increase in the US by 96.5%
Yes, you read that right—96.5%.
So, why can’t some seniors afford to retire?
There are several reasons why seniors cannot afford to retire. One of the most significant is the rising cost of healthcare. The good news is that people are living much longer. However, it’s more expensive to do so. In the United States, healthcare costs have been rising steadily for years, and this trend is expected to continue. As seniors age, they often require more medical care, which can be costly.
A number of factors contribute to this trend, including the rising cost of medical supplies and equipment, the increase in the number of people with chronic health conditions, and the aging of the population.
For many seniors, Social Security is the only source of income. The average monthly benefit for retired workers is just over $1,600, which is hardly enough to cover basic living expenses. As a result, many seniors are forced to continue working in order to make ends meet.
Other seniors may have saved for retirement, but rising healthcare costs can quickly eat away their nest egg. In addition, some seniors find themselves faced with unexpected expenses, such as long-term care or home repairs. As a result, they may have no choice but to dip into their savings or delay retirement until they can get their finances back on track.
Suitable housing options
Some older adults cannot retire because they do not have suitable housing options. For example, they may own a home that is too large and expensive to maintain, owe mortgage payments, be unable to live independently or need help doing so, or live in an area with high crime rates or limited public transportation. While some seniors are able to move to retirement communities or assisted living communities, others do not have the financial resources to do so.
Retirement is financially out of reach
We work, we age, and we retire. That’s a myth that needs to be dispelled as soon as possible. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the means to save for retirement. The cost of living has increased, and most have been stretching their dollars to raise their families and stay afloat.
Retirement isn’t possible because some did not or cannot plan for it financially. 49% of adults ages 55 to 66 had no personal retirement savings in 2017, according to the US Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Additionally, about 50% of women ages 55 to 66 have no personal retirement savings. This means many older adults will have to continue working in order to support themselves, and retirement feels out of reach.
Retirement is a sad reality for many Americans
The stark truth is that many seniors are not and will not be able to retire. Whether it’s the rising cost of living, the decrease in the value of pensions, or the prolonged effects of not being able to prepare—retirement may be or feel like nothing more than a pipe dream.
Our seniors deserve our respect and our support. Many must continue working well into their golden years to make ends meet. So the next time you see a senior, remember they may not be able to live out their retirement dreams and aren’t sitting on a beach somewhere. Let’s all be more understanding and helpful because we’re all going to be seniors one day.
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