Delayed Retirements Causing Mixed Consequences

By Staff
July 14, 2009

The economic downturn has caused many baby boomers to rethink their retirement plans, creating both relief and concern among employers and workers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a recent survey of more than 2,200 U.S. workers by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 44 percent of employees over age 49 noted that they plan to postpone retirement. Of those, about half are planning to work at least three years longer than they originally anticipated. Consequently, many employers are not experiencing the mass retirements that some feared would occur in professions such as nursing and education, but the trend has made it even more difficult for younger workers to find jobs.

"We have a little more time to plan for the departure of older workers and be more strategic in retraining or transferring their institutional knowledge," noted Robert Bell, assistant city manager of the Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control District in California, who was grateful that only half the expected city workers retired this year than originally anticipated.

But David Dobkin, dean of faculty at Princeton University, pointed out in The Journal that since less than half the typical number of faculty are considering retirement this year, he feared that academic departments might become "stagnant."

Indeed, the Kansas City Star [from an article originally located at] reports that according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, job offers for 2009 college graduates were 22 percent lower than the year before. While the recession undoubtedly impacted the numbers significantly, the lack of anticipated job openings was also a probable factor.

Financial experts agree that putting off retirement makes good economic sense, especially for many baby boomers trying to replenish depleted 401(k) accounts. U.S. News & World Report notes that working an extra year or two "is a sure way to pad to retirement accounts and reduce the number of years your savings must last."

Rick Wright, 60, an information technology worker for Kansas City, agrees. "Had the economy been stable, I wouldn't have given it a second thought," he told the Kansas City Star regarding his decision to delay retirement. "I'm no economic genius, but I'm afraid of inflation when they pump all this recovery money into the economy. I'll have a good retirement wage, but even then, I have to be careful."

In a nod to the trend, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants said that 35 percent of its financial planning professionals' clients were postponing retirement because of the economy, and two-thirds of the clients expected to be in the workforce for an additional five years.

"What this suggests," noted institute Vice President James Meltzer in the Kansas City Star, "is that 70 is the new 65."

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