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More in N.H. working past 65, which could be good for businesses looking to hire

  • The number of years people will live after retiring continues to grow as life spans get longer, making it harder to save enough during working years. Courtesy—Center for Retirement Research

  • The country's estimated 40 million unpaid family caregivers are spending an average 6,954 a year of their own money toward the care of loved ones, according to a 2016 report by AARP. (Dreamstime/TNS) Dreamstime



Monitor staff
Thursday, October 05, 2017

When it comes to thinking about retirement, 70 is the new 65.

That message, presented at a conference Thursday, needs to be considered not just by individuals making financial decisions to prepare for longer life spans, but also by businesses, especially those in New Hampshire who are struggling to find enough workers.

“It’s increasingly clear to me that the gap (in hiring) will be met by workers 65 and older. But we don’t even talk about it,” said Jim Roche, president of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association. “I don’t think a lot of companies ... even think about how to hold on to workers who are nearing retirement.”

Roche was among those who spoke Thursday at a conference titled “Rethinking Retirement,” hosted by AARP at the N.H. Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Much of the discussion concerned the reality of demographics in New Hampshire, which has the second-oldest median age of any state, combined with the reality of our rock-bottom unemployment rate.

One result of these factors, said Bruce DeMay, director of the state’s Economic and Labor Market Information bureau, is that more people are working into traditional retirement years.

In 1994, for example, 3.4 percent of the state’s labor force was between the ages of 65 and 74 – in 2016, that percentage had almost doubled to 6.3 percent, he said. New Hampshire now has the third-highest labor participation rate for people over 65.

And a good thing, too, judging from a presentation by Andrew Eschtruth from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The group gathered data showing that few people have saved enough money for retirement, partly because, on average, people are living much longer: In 1960, national data indicated that working people lived an average of 13 years after they retired; today that figure is 20 years, an increase of 50 percent.

That group argues that today’s workers should plan to stay in the workforce until age 70 instead of age 65, both to increase the money they save for retirement and to increase the monthly payout from Social Security. Drawing social Security at age 62, the earliest age possible, produces monthly payments at 75 percent of the standard, whereas waiting until you’re age 70 to start drawing produces monthly payments at 132 percent of the standard, an increase of 75 percent.

“It sounds like we’re doom and gloom, saying, ‘You have to keep working.’ People say, ‘Oh, you want me to die at my desk!’ ” Eschtruth said.

However, he argued that this sort of thinking doesn’t take into account increased life spans. Retiring at 69 today, he said, produces the same ratio of working years to retirement years as was experienced by people who retired at age 65 in the year 1950.

The conference discussed a number of obstacles to working later in life, ranging from age discrimination to self-imposed problems by senior job-seekers.

Susan Jepson, who worked at National Able Networks in Massachusetts helping people 55 and older find new work, said it’s not uncommon for older people to have a “chip on their shoulder” about younger people failing to value their years of experience when hiring, or working for a reduced salary.

“If you person doing the (job) interview looks like your grandchild ... it’s easy to think, ‘You don’t understand. I’ve been doing this for 35 years,’ ” she said. “It can be hard to realize that the money is going to be for what the job is worth, not for the work you did before.”

Overall, the conference participants agreed that society should stop thinking of retirement as a semi-automatic event that should happen at a specific age.

That’s a change in attitudes already taken by the sponsor, which was known as American Association of Retired Persons until 1999, when it switched to just the acronym AARP. Now it says the RP stands for “real possibilities.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)