BUSINESS Planning to work beyond 65
It’s easier if you have a college degree
NEW YORK — Nearly 1 in 5 Americans 65 or older is still working, the highest percentage in more than half a century. And the one who still is working may be better off.
As more and more Americans delay retirement, it is those with a college degree who find it easiest to keep working past 65. Their lesseducated peers, meanwhile, are having a more difficult time staying in the workforce.
It is a crucial distinction because financial experts say both groups would benefit from working an extra year or more to improve their retirement security.
By staying on the job, older Americans can build savings, which in too many cases are inadequate. Plus, they can allow bigger Social Security benefits to accrue. And many older Americans like the idea of staying engaged by working.
Less-educated Americans, though, aren’t always able to follow this path, even though they tend to have less in retirement savings. Instead, many are forced to retire before their mid-60s because of poor health, the inability to do jobs that require a lot of physical activity or other reasons.
“If less-educated people were retiring early and comfortable in their retirement years, good for them, but we know they aren’t,” said Matt Rutledge, research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
There is a widening gap in retirement ages between college and high-school graduates, Rutledge says, one that is most apparent when looking at the average age of retirement for men. The increasing number of women in the workforce in recent decades can skew the overall figures.
Men with college degrees are retiring at an average age of 65.7, according to Rutledge’s calculations based on government data. That is nearly three years later than men with only high school degrees, who are retiring at an average age of 62.8.
This divide between highly and less-educated Americans begins long before the golden years. Starting from their 20s, college graduates are more likely to have jobs and to make more money than their less-educated peers. Last year, for example, the typical college graduate earned nearly twothirds more than the typical high school graduate, among all workers age 25 and older.
That is driving a split in retirement savings: The typical households run by someone with a college degree have $116,900 in a retirement account, more than triple the $36,000 median for households run by someone with only a high school diploma.
Health is a big factor in deciding when to retire, Rutledge said. A stroke, heart attack or depression could knock anyone into an earlier-thanexpected retirement, but less-educated Americans tend to have worse health as a group than their highereducated peers.
Less-educated Americans also are more likely to be in physically demanding jobs, which are tougher to keep as age increases.
Among men age 50 and over, for example, 61 percent of workers without a college degree have to move heavy loads (or people) as a regular part of their job. That’s more than double the 23 percent rate of their college-graduate peers, according to researchers at Harvard University, RAND Corp. and UCLA. Lower-educated workers also are much more likely to have jobs that require them to stand all the time, do repetitive hand movements or be in tiring or painful positions.
“It’s much easier to work sitting down at a computer at 65 than in a warehouse,” said Craig Copeland, senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
The federal government reports that 19.2 percent of everyone age 65 and older was employed as of September. That is tied for the highest rate since 1962, and it is nearly double the level of the mid-1980s.
Incentives are aligned for people to keep working, even past their mid-60s.
When clients at wealth adviser Brouwer & Janachowski come to CEO Stephen Janachowski, he shows them how much in spending money they will have each year in retirement, if they retire at 62. But then he shows how much larger that number would be if they wait until 67, as much as 50 percent higher in some cases.
“We’re not even trying to talk them into it,” he said. “It’s more giving them options. Do you want to be able to take more trips, spend more time with your family, and is it worth it to you to work longer and have more of those things?”
Consider someone who turns 66 this year and would get $1,000 monthly as their Social Security benefit. If that person had retired at 62, their monthly benefit would have been only $750. And for each year they delay getting benefits past 66, the size of that benefit will grow by 8 percent, until they reach age 70.
Gerry Goldsholle just celebrated his 78th birthday, and he still is working. He has degrees from William & Mary and Columbia University. After a roughly two-decade career with MetLife, he took an early-retirement offer when he was 50.
His first wife recently had died, and he was ready for a big change.
But after three months of retirement, he was bored. “I missed the action and working with smart people,” he said.
He started doing consulting work after people from his days with MetLife reached out to him for help with projects. This gig grew into Advice Co., which runs the legal advice site FreeAdvice.com. Goldsholle is CEO of the company and also travels extensively.
Beverly Morris, 58, wants to work but finding a job isn’t easy.
The Austin, Texas, resident used to have a good job filing insurance claims, but she recently began taking care of her six grandchildren after her daughter ran into trouble with drugs. That meant she couldn’t work nights anymore.
Morris said during job interviews she can tell her age and lack of a degree are hindering her, based on the questions asked.
In the meantime, she does work for delivery services such as GrubHub to make ends meet.
She did start college but didn’t finish it because of the appeal of the working life.
“I could get a decent job without a degree,” Morris said. “It’s not like that now.”