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Finding a new job at 65

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Posted: 1 pm ET

The thought of working when you're older than 65 doesn't appeal to lots of people and it's not part of their retirement planning. When I post anything about it here, there are always frustrated and even angry comments from people who feel:

  • They deserve a break. They've worked and paid into Social Security since they were in their teens and they are ready to quit.
  • They are willing but unable to find a job. No doubt about it. Age discrimination is a problem.
  • Their health isn't good enough. Some people who want to work can't.

So when I read a report from investment banker Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. that between 2003 and 2011, people older than 65 comprised 2.2 million of the 6.9 million workers who were previously unemployed but found new jobs, I was shocked. That's an amazing one-third of the new hires. If true, it offers a different perspective on retirement.

I feared that I had misunderstood the report, so I called Mark Pawlak, who is the market strategist for KBW, as it is known in the investment world, and he confirmed that I was reading those statistics correctly. In total, he said, workers older than 65 now represent 4.6 percent of the total U.S. work force, up from 3.3 percent prior to 2003.

At the same time, the number of workers age 16 to 19 has fallen to 1.6 million, a decline that is comparable to the increase in the number of older workers. Pawlak didn't have any solid evidence to share that explains that, but he said his data suggested that one group is substituting for the other group. In other words, instead of a part-time high school kid, it's grandpa saying, "Welcome to Wal-Mart."

Overall, Pawlak says he finds the data encouraging. He embarked on this study to determine whether unemployment in the U.S. is a result of a structural change in the work force, with fewer people able to find work because the opportunities aren't there and aren't likely to increase. Before he started the study, he said the anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that because wherever investment bankers went they heard the same thing -- there just aren't any jobs to be had.

But the more he looked at the data, the more convinced he became that this bout of unemployment is a cyclical economic problem, not a structural one. As the economic pie expands worldwide, Americans will continue to enjoy a big piece. "The bigger the pie, the better off we are as a country," Pawlak says.

The economy will expand and people of all ages will find work, he predicted. "I walked away from this research upbeat, and I'm not the eternal optimist."

Let's hope he's right. A greatly expanded economy would solve most of Social Security and Medicare's problems, relieve the housing logjam and push up prices and make it more likely that anybody who wants to work at any age will find a good job.

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Joe Clenney
March 24, 2011 at 7:18 am

I am a retired teacher. I would suggest that everyone set a goal to have that house paid off as soon as possible because the family has to have home base. Pay on principle every month by cutting out all junk food which is expensive and unhealthy and use this money to pay on principle. Without house pmts. the family will have a better chance and retirment will be possible for Mom and Dad. Coach Joe PS I definately would not want to be in the classroom at 78 even though I truly enjoyed my students for 43 years.

D. Martin
March 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I am 51 and my husband is 61. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We have four adult children living at home (19, 20, 22, and 24). They all work (the youngest just got a part-time job; and they all attend school full or part time). My husband has been working for the last 8 or 9 years in sales after being laid off in the computer industry. I am a teacher who began my new career after my kids were in school and after a physical disability prevented me from returning to my previous profession. We refinanced our home a few years ago and now I cannot qualify to change our mortgage from a 30 year to a 15 year due to our situation. This means that I must work until I am 78 years old before the mortgage will be paid off. Our home is worth half of what it was worth 10 years ago. My husband has had both of his hips replaced and I need both knees replaced and have many other health issues due to giving 16 years of my life to being a street paramedic. We also care for my husband's mother who is an insulin dependent diabetic now on dialysis. She has under $2000 left in savings to pay for meds, insurance copays, and rent for the condo she had to sell in order to survive.

My fear is that there will be limited or no SS $ for my husband or myself that we have paid into since we were 15 or 16 years old. My other fear is that I will not be able to pay off this mortgage and get a small place in a rural community that we can afford to retire in. I don't know what the answer is but I have never been so fearful about our future as I am right now. We can't even help our kids to finish college.

Ken Brammer
March 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm

A greatly expanded economy MIGHT help solve social security, and boost housing, but it would barely make a dent in Medicare, unfortunately. That is a much bigger fish to fry.

I guess this should also light a nice little fire under the chairs of teenagers to take work seriously and seek a USEFUL education.

Good news all around. But I had to laugh at the medicare comment.