Baby boomers are killing the idea of retirement and want to work forever

January 13, 2022, 12:53 AM UTC

Baby boomers nearing retirement age don’t want to kick up their feet and relax through their sunset years. Instead, most of them want to continue working, but just fewer hours or in less demanding roles, according to a new survey. 

Seventy-nine percent of workers 57 to 75-years old said they would rather be semi-retired than leave the workforce entirely, according to a survey released on Wednesday by Express Employment Professionals staffing agency and Harris Poll.

The main reason: many baby boomers are worried about their finances. Nearly two-thirds expressed concern about having enough savings to quit the daily work grind. 

“Semi-retirement—working longer in some fashion—gives people a little more wiggle room,” Christine Benz, personal finance director at Morningstar told Fortune. “If the market is poor in the first part of their retirements, having at least part of their incomes coming in the door through working income means less stress.”

The financial upheaval caused by COVID-19 is responsible for some of the apprehension. More than two out of 10 baby boomers said the pandemic has made them delay retirement because they feel less financially secure. 

But, more generally, many baby boomers simply aren’t stashing much cash away, either because they can’t or don’t want to. Only 44% said they were currently putting any money aside for retirement.

In an ideal world, most baby boomers said they would be willing to change work roles during their semi-retirement from what they currently do. That included becoming a knowledge expert, a mentor to younger employees, or helping manage client relations. They also wanted less regimented jobs. Nearly eight out of 10 said they would like a flexible work schedule, two-thirds wanted to transition to a consulting role, and 59% would be willing to work reduced hours with reduced benefits.

Interest in alternative kinds of retirement is part of a trend that has emerged during the pandemic of Americans changing what they want from work, including more flexibility and higher pay. And it may well survive after the pandemic is over.

“Although the pandemic has been the catalyst for a lot of changes in how people work, with flexible schedules and working from home becoming the norm for many employers through this period—those trends are here to stay,” Benz says. “That’s especially for more experienced workers who have a lot of leverage in the workplace.”

However, companies have so far been slow to propose semi-retirement options to workers. Only 21% of survey respondents said their workplace offers such arrangements.

But Bill Stoller, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, told Fortune that employers will eventually have no choice but to let older employees work on their own terms. He described it as a necessity, pointing to the current shortage of labor that is forcing businesses to scramble for workers, low birth rates, and baby boomers reaching retirement age. 

Said Stoller, “This is an issue that may not be solved for many generations, so companies must use all the available tools at their discretion to build the labor force of the future that is substantial and competent.”

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