You know the drill: Most of us were raised expecting to retire sometime around or after age 65—it’s been the late-in-life American Dream. Granted, many of us can’t afford to do so, but for those who are having the quintessential “golden years” experience of leisure, not labor, there is an intriguing new finding.
According to a new study conducted by Christopher Tonetti, an associate professor of economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and his colleagues, most retirees would rather not have their work lives come to a grinding halt. They’d rather wind down if (and it’s a big if) they could find a job that offered some flexibility. Says Tonetti unequivocally: “A lot of Americans who are sitting at home not working want to be working.”
A lot of Americans who are sitting at home not working want to be working.
Here’s a little more about the survey that 1,771 older Americans answered: Tonetti and his team culled employment and retirement information on the respondents and then asked them some hypothetical questions like, “Would you return to a job that was identical to your previous employment in every way?” and “What if the hours afforded more flexibility or the wage was slightly lower?”
Older People Want to Work!
The astounding findings revealed that almost 40 percent of participants would return to work if offered a job with the same hours and same wage as their last position. Almost a third said that, in retrospect, they wouldn’t have retired at all and would have kept their last job if given the chance.
These numbers shot up even higher when those surveyed were given the option of still working but with flexible hours. Close to 60 percent said they would happily head back on the job if a flexible—not full-time—schedule was part of the deal. Perhaps more shockingly, 40 percent said they’d take a 10 percent cut in their hourly wage, and 20 percent would accept a 20 percent hourly-wage cut under these conditions.
So given this interest among older Americans to keep working, why isn’t it actually happening in our society? “We need to understand why firms don’t seem to find it profitable to hire older Americans, even at wages that are lower than they used to earn, and why they don’t seem to want to offer part-time or flexible schedules,” says Tonetti. “But getting managers, or HR, to truthfully and accurately discuss hiring and continued employment practices for older workers—that’s a very tricky thing to do.” Let’s hope it happens, and soon.