Dreams of early retirement used to be an American norm. Now, people hope not to be pushed into retirement involuntarily, before they’re ready. As a series of Gallup surveys shows, respondents who expect to work past 65 now outnumber those who think they will quit before reaching that age (see the chart). This cohort has nearly tripled since 1995, when just 12 percent of non-retirees said they expected to toil past 65.
While the trend predates the current recession, money is plainly a factor. In 2002, 59 percent of Gallup’s non-retirees thought they’d have enough money to live “comfortably.” The number slid to 41 percent last year, before rebounding somewhat in the new poll (fielded last month), to 46 percent.
For better or worse, people are engaged in overseeing their retirement funds. In an Ipsos Public Affairs/ING poll released last month, 77 percent of respondents said they take “an active role” in managing those accounts. Still, 66 percent conceded they’re not able to salt away as much money as they’d like. Sixty percent fear they will not be financially ready for retirement. The number is higher (69 percent) among those who don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account. But a majority of respondents who do have such funds feel the same worry (56 percent).
And people should be worried. Despite the popular notion that poverty among old folks has vanished in the era of Social Security and Medicare, an AARP report last month said “poverty among the aged 65 and older population remains a serious and persistent problem.” Analyzing government data from 2008, it said 3.7 million older adults “are not able to meet their basic expenses every day.” Another 10 million are “low income,” though not in out-and-out poverty.