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Study: One-third of workers see no retirement ahead

August 17, 2012

| Money Rates Columnist

A sizable percentage of Americans don't expect to stop working -- ever.

That's according to the 2011 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey Report from the Society of Actuaries, which found that 35 percent of pre-retirees surveyed in 2011 do not expect to ever leave the workforce. That is up from the 29 percent of pre-retirees who reported the same in 2009.

Financial concerns among retirement worries

For the vast majority of pre-retirees who don't expect to retire, remaining active and engaged during their senior years is of importance. Of the 35 percent not expecting to retire, 89 percent said staying active was one reason to remain working.

However, financial concerns also weighed heavily on the minds of many pre-retirees. The survey found 45 percent of those not expecting to retire believe they will be financially unable to do so.

Pre-retirees not expecting to retire also gave the following reasons for being unable to stop working:

  • The need for additional income: 87 percent
  • The need to preserve or increase assets: 80 percent
  • To maintain benefits offered through employment: 61 percent

Actual retirement ages differ from expectations

Although many pre-retirees have a negative view of their retirement prospects, their expectations differ significantly from the reality of when older workers are actually retiring.

"There is a big gap in the age at which pre-retirees expect to retire and actual retirement ages of those who have retired from their primary occupation," said Carol Bogosian, an actuary and retirement expert, in a written statement issued by the Society of Actuaries."This may be partially due to involuntary retirement and health problems."

In the Society of Actuaries report, half of pre-retirees say that will wait until at least age 65 before leaving the workforce. Only 12 percent felt they would be able to retire early. However, 51 percent of retirees surveyed for the same report said they left employment before age 60.

Those findings echo a similar report published by the MetLife Mature Market Institute earlier this spring. That report found the average retirement age for those born in 1946 was 59.7 for men and 57.2 for women.

"Many of the Boomers weathered the recession well and have been able to stop working," said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in a statement issued with the institute's findings. "Half of all Boomers feel confident that they are on track or have already hit their retirement goals."

While it's unclear whether this pattern of early retirement will persist, the fact that many baby boomers have been able to retire early may suggest to current workers that their retirement prospects aren't as bleak as they seem.

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