Monday, October 25, 2010

Extending the Working Life

Sun Life conducts regular surveys in the US to find out why people continue to work past retirement age. Recently, there has been a shift in attitudes: it is now more common for people to work because of economic hardship than for more positive reasons:

The survey found that more than half of working respondents — 52 percent — expect to work at least three years longer than originally planned and just as many respondents expect to retire at age 70 as age 65. These delays, according to the Sun Life spokesman, “are driven by economic conditions, a lack of confidence in government benefits in the future and dwindling retirement savings.”
In two earlier surveys in 2008 and 2009, the most common reason given by those who said they planned to work at 67 was “to stay mentally engaged.” Now, “to earn enough money to live well” is just as popular an answer. In addition, in this year’s survey, “to earn enough money to live well” was most often identified as the top reason respondents said they would continue to work past the traditional retirement age of 65. Sun Life also found that fewer respondents this year than in the past were continuing to work because they “love their career.”

Undoubtedly people forced to work longer than they wish for economic reasons are not happy about being compelled to do so. And no doubt their unhappiness would be directed, if they lived in France, against the state, because in France there is an expectation that the state will take care of the elderly. In the US, which has a mixed retirement system (PAYGO social security plus capitalization in the form of IRAs, 401Ks, private pensions), the burden does not fall entirely on the state. The recent eruption in France is of course due in part to France's distinctive political culture, but it is also due in part to France's institutional arrangements. When we have difficulty understanding each other's attitudes, these differences must be kept in mind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

another hypothesis (make what you will of it)