Popular culture would have us believe that retirement is a grand reward earned after a long and productive career, but more and more women in their 60s and 70s are rejecting that notion. They continue to work, not because they have to, but oftentimes because they’re just having too much fun.
As Claire Cain Miller reported in the New York Times, two new reports show that increasing numbers of older women are voluntarily staying in the workforce long past retirement age. According to an analysis of census data by two Harvard economists, almost 30% of women 65 to 69 are working, an increase from a piddly 15% in the late 1980s. Roughly 18% of women 70 to 74 are punching the clock, which is up from 8 percent a few decades ago. (Like this article? Read next: Taking the Plunge — When Should You Retire?)
Who Keeps Working?
While plenty of Americans find themselves working long past the age of retirement out of financial necessity, a certain group of women choose to keep working. The Harvard economists found that women with a higher level of education and greater savings are more likely to put off retirement by choice. This makes a lot of intuitive sense. Women with greater education typically have more career choices and end up in positions with more autonomy, authority, and prestige.
It’s easy to walk out of a tiny cubicle when you hit 65, but it might be harder to walk out of the corner office!
Today’s retirement-age women were also among the first wave of women to embrace the life of a professional in the 1970s and 1980s. The Harvard researchers found that women who worked when they were younger were more likely to work when they were older. They were also more likely to keep working later in life if they enjoyed their jobs six to eight years earlier. (Not happy with your job? Here are ten signs that it’s time for a career change.)
What this all means is that perhaps it’s time for us to retire traditional ideas of retirement. Women live, on average, almost five years longer than men in the United States. With advances in medicine, many of us are living longer in good or stable health. It makes sense that if a woman feels that her profession gives her life meaning that she wouldn’t want to give that up just because of a birthday.
Should You Keep Working?
If you are reaching retirement age, it is a good idea to start thinking about what, exactly, retirement means to you. If you’re having a blast at your job, maybe there’s no need for you to leave at all! No one says that you have to spend your days lounging at the beach or knitting at home. Additionally, if your retirement savings aren’t where they need to be, then working a few more years may give you the time you need to catch up on your retirement funding.