Working longer seems like a simple way to stretch retirement resources, but a lot of people obviously find this an unacceptable retirement planning option. At least, it appears that way based on a very unscientific measurement: the number of posted comments and e-mails I get every time I suggest it.
Richard Johnson, senior fellow at the Urban Institute think tank, has spent a lot of time considering employment for older workers. He concludes that employers don't have much incentive to hire older workers because -- right or wrong -- they view them as costly: unhealthy, demanding of high salaries and hard to train.
The exceptions are fields where it is difficult to find skilled people. "Hospitals are very willing to make concessions because they can't find enough nurses," he says.
The situation is similar in some engineering fields and at many energy-related companies, he says.
If you're an older worker who isn't in one of those businesses, but would like to keep working, he suggests considering a career switch. About 25 percent of people older than 50 successfully switch careers, he says, and are able to find suitable work.
He also points out that employers are increasingly committed to cutting the cost of benefits. Everything else being equal, a potential employee who doesn't require health insurance because he gets it elsewhere or qualifies for Medicare could prove to be a more attractive prospect than a younger person.
It's also important, he says, for an older job hunter to be able to demonstrate that his skill set is current. Between 1971 and 2006, the share of workers in jobs requiring reasoning, writing and decision-making increased from 25.7 percent to 34.8 percent. Johnson's research suggests that many employers are unconvinced that you can teach an old dog new tricks. So if you're looking for a job, be prepared to prove that you already have the chops and can hit the ground running.