The trend of workers extending their careers for financial and other reasons has started to level off for reasons including that “disabilities can push older workers out of the labor force before their intended retirement date,” says a report from the Center for Retirement Research.
It said that at age 50—a point at which planning for concluding a working career starts to come more into focus—average life expectancy for men rose from 28.6 to 29.8 years over 2006-2018, and for women from 32.5 to 33.6.
However, it said noted that longer life is strongly correlated to higher levels of education—which generally leads to less physically demanding or dangerous jobs—and the “trend of rising educational attainment, which helped spur past improvements in disability-free life expectancy, has largely played out,” it says.
“Trends in mortality among the working-age population are also not encouraging. Although life expectancy has risen across the population over the past several decades, the gains have mostly occurred at older ages, when individuals are well past retirement age,” it says. Also, the most recent data have shown a decline in prime-age life expectancy, due to the reasons including the pandemic and deaths from drug use.
The report projected that of those capable of working at age 62, 17 percent of men and 11 percent of women will be incapable of working five years later—and 29 and 22 percent, respectively, will be incapable of working eight years later. In both cases those with higher levels of education were more likely to be able to continue working.
“This pattern suggests that calls for older workers to delay retirement, which have proved successful over the past couple of decades, may be less fruitful going forward . . . In thinking of solutions for inadequate retirement savings, therefore, working longer may be fine for those with more education” but not as realistic for others, it said.