Is 55 the New 25 for Workers?

Just when you thought all the good boomers were gone, a new report suggests just the opposite.

According to the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, workers aged 55 or older in the labor force increased from about 38% in 1993 to 45% in 2006. For those ages 65 to 69, the percentage increased from about 18% in 1985 to 29% in 2006.

Additionally, the EBRI says the percentage of workers age 55 or older who work full time, full year steadily increased from 54% in 1993 to 64% in 2005. The EBRI’s report points out that this trend might be driven by older employees’ need to obtain affordable employment-based health insurance.

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There is a slight increase among older female workers as well. Companies are starting to see more and more 55+ female workers: an increase from nearly 47% in 1993 to about 59% in 2005. Among male workers aged 55+, the numbers increased from about 61% in 1993 to nearly 70% in 2005.

The Washington, DC-based nonprofit research institute predicts this trend will only continue, alluding to private-sector employers who are phasing out retiree health insurance for younger workers. In addition, the report suggests that companies that are shifting out of defined benefit pensions and into defined contribution retirement plans means workers might need to continue to accumulate savings.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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2 Comments on “Is 55 the New 25 for Workers?

  1. The major reason the market is seeing the increase is more a matter of higher numbers of the population falling into that range.

    The concept of the Baby Boomer relates to the spike in births after World War II, so the boom has led to a high number of current members of our population/workforce that were born between 1946 – 1960.

    Outside of the quantitative factor, there are qualitative factors that result in these individuals working as well. As you mention, the cost of medicine and healthcare is truly one of them; so is the increase in life expectancy. Many have realized that the million they have set aside for retirement won’t go as far as they originally planned for it to.

    As far as if 55 is the new 25, the answer is ‘not likely’. Baby Boomers have a much different view of life and work than Gen-Y. “When Generations Collide” (by Lancaster and Stillman) is a great book on this topic. In fact, here’s a cool powerpoint that breaks down some of the more general differences:
    http://www.etsu.edu/edc/EDC%20Training%20Handouts/When%20Generations%20Collide%20final.ppt

    If you can’t get to it, let me know and I’ll email you a copy. All in all, though, it’s a tough situation.

    From a personal standpoint, my Grandfather is a Korean War vet with only one leg and eye remaining (from his fighting the Chinese in the Chosin Reservoir in 1950), and it is not a good feeling knowing that he still has to bag groceries to pay his property taxes and buy food, despite being fully disabled per the federal government. I try to do what I can, but he’s a tough cookie that “isn’t looking for any handouts”.

    I’m 31, but I don’t hear those words from too many 25-yr olds! 🙂 Then again, he was born in the middle of the Great Depression, so he’s absolutely cut from a different cloth!

  2. Kudos to your grandfather…he’s my kind ‘o guy. If time had stood still and we had more married couples and one income was sufficient to maintain a decent standard of living for a family, then we would be seeing more retirees. But things are different now. The expansion of our economy during the 20th century and the social and family structure options have mapped out a different life than we might have imagined. It’s bad in some ways, but very good in others.

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