Older, greyer and still working

 

Increasing determination to keep working long past traditional and popular retirement ages.

 

While the median retirement age in Australia is around 61, many older Australians are showing a determination to keep working long past traditional and popular retirement ages.

A little delving into the spreadsheets for the March quarter Australian labour force report from the ABS unveils in detail a somewhat slow-moving change that has been taking place among older workers over the past three decades.

These statistics show that almost 13 per cent of the population aged 65 or over was either working or looking for work in March 2016 - up from a little more than 5 per cent in March 1986.

This gradual change would reflect such factors as greater longevity, medical advances and perhaps expanding employment opportunities for older workers. And, at least anecdotally, attitudes to retirement are shifting with more individuals reportedly favouring at least part-time work to full-time retirement.

And of course, there is the financial side of things. As Smart Investing regularly discusses, an extended working life provides more opportunity to save more for what will be a shorter, less-costly retirement.

Not surprisingly, older workers are showing a strong preference for working part-time. Of the 456,500 employed Australians aged 65 and over, 260,400 - or 57 per cent - are working part-time. Many would, not doubt, be easing themselves into retirement.

Now look consider the 55-64 age group. More than 66 per cent are either working or looking for work - up from 42 per cent in March 1986, three decades earlier.

Perhaps what is surprising about this age group is the high percentage favouring part-time work. Of the 1.8 million employed people in the 55-64 age group, almost a third are working part-time.

The popularity of part-time work in these age groups reflects an apparently growing recognition that there may be an alternative, depending upon the circumstances, to finishing full-time work on a Friday night and beginning full-time retirement on the following Monday.

A person's ability to work past popular retirement ages much depends, of course, on health, family circumstances and employment or self-employment opportunities.

To read more about working past traditional retirement ages, see Smart Investing April 6.

 

By Robin Bowerman
Smart Investing 
Principal & Head of Retail, Vanguard Investments Australia
28 April 2016 | Retirement and superannuation

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