First Person: I’m Glad People Are Retiring Later

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I can't feel sorry for older baby boomers that lament about being broke in retirement, even though they chose to retire early. In fact, I never understood why many people from that generation acted as though they are entitled to a life of laziness and leisure simply because they passed a milestone birthday. According to a recent article by MSN Money, that milestone birthday or average retirement age in the United States has climbed to 61.

According to a new Gallup survey, U. S. retirees two decades ago stopped working at an average age of 57. Younger workers said they expect to retire at age 66, which is up from age 60 in 1995. That being said, the concept of retiring, much less retiring early, is actually unique to modern society.

Working until death

It seems the "traditional notion" of retiring at age 65 is disappearing, according to experts. However, what's more interesting is the fact that the notion of retiring at age 65 is actually only normal for people retiring in the late 20th-century. According to an article by The Motley Fool, most Americans worked until they died until after World War II. A chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 78 percent of men age 65 and older participated in the labor force in 1880. By 1930, 58 percent of senior citizen men were still in the workforce. Even in 1950, 47 percent of men who were 65 and older were still working. It wasn't until 2000 that the number of older men working dipped to 17.5 percent. In 2010, 22.1 percent of older men were participating in the labor force.

Expecting to be catered to

It's always bothered me that many baby boomers have the attitude that they should be catered to, especially as they enter retirement. It used to be older people had a sense of obligation to help take care of their families. People took pride in being able to work and provide. I hear elderly baby boomers complain about the service at restaurants and retail outlets. Experts also say baby boomers are more reluctant to volunteer in retirement compared to their predecessors. Although they claim they retired early to free up more jobs for young people, experts say there are actually fewer jobs when people retire early. That's because early retirees have less money to spend.

Being spoiled by Social Security

Many baby boomers also take their Social Security monthly benefits for granted. I hear them complain that they don't get enough money from the government as they struggle with personal debt. According to The Motley Fool article, the average monthly Social Security benefit is three times larger now compared to 1940, and that's after being adjusted for inflation. In 1950, retirees collected $321 in real (inflation-adjusted terms) compared to $1,277 in 2010. Meanwhile, the poverty rates for people 65 and older continued to fall even during the Great Recession.

Gen-X workers may say they plan to work into their later years because they are panicked about not having enough for retirement. In fact, the recent Gallup poll showed 37 percent of respondents said they will work past age 65. Ten years ago, only 22 percent said they would work past age 65. Members of Gen-X don't receive their full retirement benefits until they turn 67. But, I think we plan to work longer for other reasons. My husband and I want to continue to contribute. We don't view work as something we need to avoid. If anything, I rather avoid a fate of passing the days away playing bingo, bridge and shuffleboard.

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More from this contributor:

I'm Not Retiring to a College Town

Retiring in my 80s

Planning for a Simple Retirement

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