Playing on the beach with grandchildren, fishing in mountain streams, and perfecting golf scores…those are fading dreams of retirement for scores of older people in the US. Many have changed or postponed their retirement plans due to job losses, reduced home values, and decimated 401k assets. Some now believe they’ll never retire. Even more alarming is the lack of savings among those of retirement age. According to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), most workers questioned say they have virtually no savings or investments. And 37% of those surveyed think they will have to wait until after age 65 to retire.
When they can least afford it, many seniors are also carrying mortgages and credit card debt. Others have made loans to adult children that have not yet been repaid. AARP comments that 34% of older Americans have used credit cards for basic expenses such as mortgage payments, healthcare, groceries, and utilities. As a result, their average household credit card debt stands at approximately $8,248.
What percentage of the US population is currently of traditional retirement age? According to Census 2010, the number of people aged 65 and older jumped 15.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, and they now comprise 13 percent of the total US population.
Face the Facts USA notes that four in 10 Americans aged 55 and older are still working. This is the highest percentage of people aged 55-plus in the workforce in more than half a century. Longer life expectancy, better health, and more women in the workforce are all factors contributing to this change. Other reasons for postponing retirement include concerns about assets lost during the Great Recession; access to healthcare before being eligible for Medicare; a desire to contribute to society; enjoyment of one’s job; staying busy; and earning extra money. Over the years, the US economy has shifted from heavy industrial manufacturing jobs to less physically taxing service occupations, enabling more seniors to work longer.
What do these changes in the workforce and retirement plans mean to the overall economy? They provide both challenges and opportunities for companies and governments. For example, some cash-strapped seniors have given up their homes and moved in with their adult children. An increase of multi-generational households creates opportunities for a variety of businesses including construction companies, home remodelers, home improvement stores, and handyman franchises.
In this new social landscape, local governments may have to provide health services to unemployed, uninsured seniors who are not yet eligible for Medicare. Hospitals, emergency rooms, and urgent care clinics will feel the pinch of caring for those who are unable to pay. On the other hand, business opportunities will grow as many seniors prefer to age in place and will require additional services, such as home health aides, delivery of medical supplies and groceries, or help with household bills. Insurance policies tailored for seniors can tap into this important consumer market.
Where can you find seniors in the US? They’re everywhere! Learn more about the US senior population with Esri’s 2012/2017 Updated Demographics.