Many Americans Distraught About Long-Term Career Plans, Study Finds

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More and more Americans are feeling blue about the likelihood of remaining in the workforce into old age, according to a survey released this week.

The survey, released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, shows that 28% of Americans are “not at all confident” that they’ll be able to live comfortably in their old age as a result of the state of the workforce. The number is up from 23% last year and is the worst percentage of retirement pessimism in 25 years.

But while many Americans are feeling crestfallen about retirement, the study also shows that many are not doing all they can to avoid working well into their old age.

A decade ago, the survey revealed that 24% of Americans believed they were adequately preparing for retirement; this year, only 17% feel prepared. As much as 36% of workers believe they’ll have to postpone retirement, the survey revealed. In 1991, this number was at 11%.

These numbers may not coincide with what actually happens in the work place. Nearly half of current retirees left the workforce earlier than they planned this year, most citing medical problems.

According to the most recent US Census Report, more and more older people are staying in the workforce. Within the 65 and over population, 65- to 69-year-olds saw the largest change in the labor participation rate, increasing from 21% in 1990 to 30% in 2010. Almost a third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 70 are working. Of those older than 75, about 7% are still in the workforce.

Still, not all who remain in the workforce in their later years are distressed. Dian Sparling, a 71 year old nurse midwife in Colorado, returned to work after a brief semi-retirement because she loves what she does. The 71-year-old told National Public Radio that while it takes longer to recover from long nights at work, she has reassured her friends and family that she aims to retire by 75.

One of the main reasons for staying in the workforce is Sparling cannot seem to find someone who could run her practice just the way she wants it.

“It would be horrible if I had to do this and stay up all night and didn’t love what I do,” Sparling told NPR.

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