Part of planning your retirement strategy involves choosing your target retirement age, and for many Americans, 75 may become the new 65. In a 2016 AARP survey, more than half of respondents said they planned to work past their mid-60s and 11% said they expected to still be working in their 80s. (See: Don’t Retire Early – Change Careers Instead.) 

In many cases, insufficient savings seems to be a driving factor behind seniors’ decision to stay on the job longer. The latest Employee Benefit Research Institute Retirement Confidence Survey shows that 54% of workers who have access to a retirement plan at work have less than $100,000 saved for their later years. 

If delaying retirement to continue working is part of your plan, a new research brief suggests that it’s better to start planning for it sooner rather than later. Specifically, the paper points to one key factor that can influence how likely you are to be able to continue your career path in your 60s and beyond: making a job change.  

Switching Jobs: It’s All About the Timing

The brief, published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, notes that older Americans who make a voluntary job change in their 50s are 20% more likely overall to still be working at age 65. In terms of educational attainment, workers who had at least some college experience were 10.9% more likely to still be in the workforce at 65 after changing jobs, versus 7.5% for those with only a high school education. (See: 7 Tips for Getting a New Job in Your 50s.

Interestingly, among those with just a high school education, the decision to voluntarily change jobs was also strongly influenced by whether workers still had mortgage debt. Those who were actively paying down a mortgage at age 60 and changed jobs in their 50s had a higher likelihood of still being employed at age 65.

The study doesn’t account for overall indebtedness, but the findings reflect a trend in the financial standing of older Americans. Research from the New York Federal Reserve shows that between 2003 and 2015, the total debt owed by seniors ages 50 to 80 increased by 59%. The average 65-year-old had 47% more mortgage debt in 2015 than they did in 2003. 

The brief found no significant difference between men and women who decided to change jobs in their 50s. Both had the same probability of still being on the job by age 65. That reflects the findings of Transamerica’s 17th Annual Retirement Survey. In that survey, 50% of women and 52% of men said they plan to continue working in retirement. Women, however, are saving less for their retirement, contributing a median of just 6% of income to their employer-sponsored plan, compared to 10% for men. 

Making the Transition to a New Job in Your 50s

The research brief suggests that when workers in their 50s change jobs of their own free will, they tend to have better outcomes than those who may lose their jobs because of downsizing or other reasons. Changing jobs, however, is often easier said than done, particularly for older workers, so it’s important to do your research before making a leap. (See: How to Find a Job After Age 50.)

If you’re using job search websites to find work, for example, be aware that your age could count against you when attempting to fill out applications online. Questions have been raised concerning possible age discrimination at several online job search platforms. (See: Job-Hunting Sites Accused of Discriminating vs. Older Workers (MWW,TGNA).)

You may have more success finding a new career path with an employment search agency. There are a number of online agencies that cater to older workers. These sites offer positions for both part-time and full-time work across a number of industries. Just watch out for the fees that these agencies may charge for helping you to find work. 

Reaching out to your network is another possibility for finding work after age 50. If you’ve cultivated professional relationships with key people in your field, you may be able to leverage that connection to unlock a new job opportunity.

The Bottom Line

If you plan to keep working in your 60s, and you’re now in your 40s or early 50s, it may be to your advantage to give a career move some thought. Just remember that if you’re planning to leave your current employer, you’ll also need to think about what you want to do with your old 401(k) plan and how you'll save for retirement going forward. 




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