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Work in retirement – by the numbers

Jan 6, 2021
Empower Insights

Working in retirement is a popular choice for many older Americans. Let’s take a look at the who, why and what of this trend.

The number of retirement-age Americans in the workforce is at an all-time high. According to one report, in February 2019 over 20% of Americans age 65 or older were working or looking for work.That’s the highest level ever recorded — and it’s a percentage that’s only expected to rise, with some 13 million Americans age 65 and older expected to be in the workforce by 2024.1

While this trend exists across demographics, women anticipate working into old age more than men do. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that 38% of women expect to work past age 67 compared with just 33% of men.20% of Americans over 65 are working or looking for work.2 38% of women and 33% of men expect to work past age 67.2

Working after reaching retirement age infographic. 38% of women and 33% of men expect to work past age 67 and 20% of Americans over 65 are working or looking for work.

While money is a primary reason to remain in the workforce, the decision to work in retirement isn’t entirely economic. According to a survey by The Huffington Post, older Americans also cite desires to stay mentally sharp and physically active, maintain social connections, and preserve a sense of identity as primary reasons for continuing to work.3

Top 5 reasons to keep working after retirement: 1. Stay mentally sharp 2. Stay physically active 3. Make money 4. Preserve self-worth 5. Maintain social connections

Our 2019 white paper “Rethink, Rewire, Retire” found that retirees gravitate toward meaning in their encore careers — and that they want to work on their terms. As such, the most popular options are freelancing in an area of expertise, working or volunteering for a nonprofit, and taking jobs that allow a retiree to set their own schedule.

Popular options for working after retirement infographic: freelancing in an area of expertise, non-profit work, and jobs that allow them to set on their own schedule.


Make the most of all your work with an Empower Investment account.

1 United Income, Lincoln Plews, “Older Americans in the Workforce,” April 2019.

2 NBC News, Martha C. White, “More women think they’ll be working well into traditional retirement years,” September 2019.

3 Huffington Post, Ken Dycthwald, “Why Work in Retirement? The Four Types of Working Retirees,” December 2017.

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