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More people are working well past retirement age. It's not easy

·3 mins

New York - Hope Murray retired in 2013 after a 50-year career that ranged from game show producer to Hollywood party planner to casino executive. She settled into a life of golf, game nights, and pickleball in her San Diego community, her daughter living nearby. Then things got more expensive. Gas was nearly $5 a gallon, medication costs were adding up, the grocery bill was increasing. So she downsized, stopped driving as much, and waited longer between haircuts. But she could no longer afford some of her medications. So last October, at the age of 80, Murray ended her retirement and got a job giving out samples at Costco. Americans over 75 are the fastest-growing age group in the workforce, more than quadrupling in size since 1964, according to research. forecasters expect that cohort of older, working Americans to double over the next decade. People are living longer and are more likely to be healthy into old age. The nature of work has also changed. Zoom, and the post-pandemic boom in remote work also makes it easier for older Americans to remain in the workforce. But while a 65-year-old is more likely to apply for a desk job or remote work than something that requires heavy lifting, about 50% of older workers still have physically demanding jobs. For many people, though, working into their golden years simply comes down to lacking enough money to stop working and keep a roof over their heads. Social Security payments still provide about 90% of income for more than a quarter of older adults. But without intervention, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by the mid-2030s, meaning that only a portion of retirees’ expected benefits will be paid out. Over the years, retirement plans evolved away from pensions that encourage workers to retire by 65. About half of private sector workers were covered by those so-called defined-benefit plans in the mid-1980s, but by 2022 only 15% had them. What’s left is the 401(k), which 68% of private industry workers have access to, but only 50% use. But sometimes even a pension isn’t enough. Unemployment in the US is near historic lows, sitting at 3.8%, and employers are taking a closer look at people who used to be at the end of the hiring line. But older workers are often left out of the employment boom. It’s illegal in the United States to discriminate against an older worker because of their age. But there’s a high burden of proof, and it’s even more difficult for an older job seeker to prove that they didn’t get a role because of their age. A recent survey found that about two-thirds of adults over the age of 50 think that older workers face discrimination in the workplace. Researchers have done what they call “audit studies,” in which they send the same resume to employers and only alter the applicant’s age. Older applicants got fewer callbacks. The Center for Retirement Research has found no evidence that older workers are less productive overall. They did, however, find that they were more expensive because of higher earnings expectations and higher healthcare costs. As more people than ever need to continue working past the traditional retirement age, the challenges and realities of finding meaningful and sustainable employment for older workers come to the forefront.