Retire, then work — what boomers face in later years

Tom Sadowski, a graphic designer, recently turned 65, but financial woes tied to the recession have him planning to work at least another five years.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Tom Sadowski, a graphic designer, recently turned 65, but financial woes tied to the recession have him planning to work at least another five years.

There was a time when Tom Sadowski thought he’d stop working after turning 65 earlier this year. But he’s put off retirement for at least five years — and now anticipates continuing to work afterward.

In an illuminating sign of changing times and revised visions of retirement, baby boomers such as Sadowski are not only are delaying their retirement plans, they’re also embracing the fact that retirement won’t necessarily mark a complete exit from the workforce.

Indeed, some 82 percent of workers 50 and older say it is at least “somewhat likely” they will work for pay in retirement, according to a poll released in October by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. Almost half of boomers polled now expect to retire later than they previously thought — on average nearly three years later than what they thought at age 40.


The recession claimed Sadowski’s business and a chunk of his savings, and with four teenage daughters, the graphic designer from Sterling, Va., accepts the fact he won’t retire for another five years or more.

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“At this age, my dad had already been retired 10 years and moved to Florida,” Sadowski said. “Times are different now for most people.”

Money, of course, factors heavily into boomers’ retirement plans. More than three-quarters of those polled said financial needs are a huge part of their retirement decisions, and many also cited access to employer benefits such as health insurance for working longer.

“Many people had experienced a big downward movement in their 401(k) plans, so they’re trying to make up for that period of time when they lost money,” said Olivia Mitchell, a retirement specialist who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

The shift in retirement expectations coincides with a growing trend of later-life work. Older adults are now the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce; people 55 and up are forecast to make up one-fourth of the civilian labor force in 2020.


That growth has paralleled a rising interest in retirements that are far more active than the old stereotype of moving to Florida, never to work again.

Among those who retired, 4 percent are looking for a job and 11 percent are already working again. And those still on the job showed far greater interest in continuing to work: Some 47 percent of employed survey respondents said they are very or extremely likely to do some work for pay in retirement and 35 percent said they are somewhat likely.

“The definition of retirement has changed,” said Brad Glickman, a certified financial planner in Chevy Chase, Md., with a large number of boomer clients. “Now the question we ask our clients is, ‘What’s your job after retirement?’”

One such retiree who returned to the workforce is Clara Marion, 69, of Covington, La., a teacher who retired in 2000 and went back to work a year later.

She retired again in 2007 but soon returned to part-time work because she needed the money.


Though Marion’s finances are primarily what keep her working, she said she enjoys her work — and she’s not alone: Nine out of 10 workers polled said they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job.

Many boomer-aged Americans are remarkably unprepared for retirement: One in 6 reported having less than $1,000 in retirement savings and 1 in 4 working respondents aren’t saving for retirement outside of Social Security. Some 12 percent of non-retired people reported borrowing from a 401(k) or other retirement plan in the past year. Though 29 percent reported at least $100,000 in savings, some find even that’s not enough.

“All too often, people have a lump-sum illusion. They think, ‘I have $100,000 in my 401(k),’ and they think, ‘I’m rich,’” said Mitchell, the Penn professor. “But it doesn’t add up to much. It certainly is not going to keep them in champagne and truffles.”