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Retired and Working Older Adults React Differently to Economic Pressure

NORC Article

Foresight 50+

Foresight 50+ by AARP and NORC offers deep insight into the views and behaviors of Americans 50 and older.

For inquiries, contact Martha Crowley:

December 2023

Many older, working adults are changing how they prepare for retirement because of the current national economy. 

That finding comes from a new Foresight 50+ Omnibus survey that uses the probability-based panel, Foresight 50+, which was developed by AARP and NORC. 

It might come as no surprise that age matters when it comes to retirement. Adults 65 and older are more likely to be retired, while around half of adults 50 to 64 years old are working full-time. Most of the currently retired adults did so before turning 65. 

*Half of older adults under sixty-five are working full-time while most adults sixty-five and over are retired. A graph shows that 52% of adults ages 50-64 are working full-time, while 14% are working part-time and another 14% are retired, with 20% responding “other.”   Of adults 65 and over only 8% are working full-time, with 10% working part-time and 76% retired. 5% responded “other.”   Source: Foresight 50+ conducted October 12-16, 2023, with 1,034 adults nationwide.*

The Grass Is Greener on the Retired Side

Older adults still in the workforce feel more uneasy about their financial outlook in retirement than their retired counterparts. 

Only a quarter of adults over 50 who are working full-time feel extremely or very well prepared financially for retirement. Three-quarters of these adults say they will wait to retire until age 65 or later, including 23 percent who say they will never retire.  

*Older working adults are more likely to retire at or after 65 while most retired adults retire before 65. A bar graph shows that of adults 50 who are working full time, 21% say they plan to retire before 65, 54% say they plan to retire at 65 or later, 23% say they never expect to retire and 2% responded that they were unsure.   Of adults 50 and older who are working part time, 12% say they plan to retire before 65, 41% say they plan to retire at 65 or later, 30% say they never expect to retire, and 17% say they are unsure.   Of adults 50 and older who are retired, 65% said they retired before age 65, 31% said they retired at age 65 or later, and 4% say they never expected to retire.   Source: Foresight 50+ conducted October 12-16, 2023, with 1,034 adults nationwide.*

Some adults will retire despite their financial readiness. Of those adults who plan to retire before 65, around half feel extremely or very well prepared for retirement. For those planning to retire after 65, only 26 percent feel extremely or very well prepared.

Older adults already in retirement were a little more optimistic when they retired. Just over half of retired adults felt extremely or very well financially prepared for retirement when they retired.  

*Retired adults felt more financially prepare for retirement than older adults still working currently feel. A bar graph shows that of adults 50 and older who are working full time, 26% feel extremely or very well prepared for retirement, 44% feel somewhat prepared for retirement, and 29% feel not very or not at all prepared for retirement.   Of adults 50 and older working part-time, 33% feel extremely or very well prepared for retirement, 29% feel somewhat prepared, and 38% feel not very or not at all prepared for retirement.   Of adults 50 and older who are retired, 54% felt extremely or very well prepared for retirement, 32% felt somewhat prepared for retirement, and 13% felt not very or not at all prepared for retirement.   Source: Foresight 50+ conducted October 12-16, 2023, with 1,034 adults nationwide.*
*Around half of older working adults who plan to retire before turning 65 years old feel very financially prepared. A bar graph shows that of adults who expect to retire before age 65, 47% feel extremely or very well prepared, 40% feel somewhat prepared, and 13% feel not very or not at all prepared.   Of adults planning to retire at age 65 or later, 26% feel extremely or very well prepared, 47% feel somewhat prepared, and 27% feel not very or not at all prepared.   Of adults who never expect to retire, 15% say they feel extremely or very well prepared, 31% say they feel somewhat prepare, and 54% say they feel not very or not at all prepared.   Source: Foresight 50+ conducted October 12-16, 2023, with 1,034 adults nationwide.*

Challenging Times, Changing Habits

Despite their concerns, older adults are being choosy about how they adjust to the economic pressure, and those not yet retired are making the biggest changes. Because of the current economy, at least half of older adults still working full-time have changed their retirement saving habits, when they plan to retire, and how much they plan to work during retirement. 

Older adults not yet into retirement are also planning to work longer. Over 60 percent of those working full-time changed whether they plan to continue working in some capacity during retirement, compared to only around 10 percent  of their retired counterparts.

Despite economic concerns, retired older adults are less likely to set a new course. Only 18 percent of retired adults are changing how much they save for retirement compared to 54 percent of those still working full-time.

*The economy has affected older working adults more than those who are already retired. A bar graph shows that of adults 50 and older who are working full time, 54% are planning to change how much they are saving for retirement, 56 say they are changing when they plan to retire, and 62% say they are changing whether they plan to continue working in some capacity during retirement.   Of adults who are 50 and older who are working part time, 39% say they are changing how much they are saving for retirement, 33% say they are planning to change when they plan to retire, and 53% are changing whether they pan to continue working in some capacity during retirement.   Of adults who are 50 and older who are already retired, 18% say they are changing who much they are planning to save for retirement, 33% say they are planning to change when they retire, and 10% say they plan to change whether they plan to continue working in some capacity during retirement.   Source: Foresight 50+ conducted October 12-16, 2023, with 1,034 adults nationwide.*

In all, adults already in retirement seem to feel more confident in their decisions and finances, while those not yet retired feel like they are facing more challenges. 

These findings come from online and telephone (landline and mobile) interviews with 1,034 U.S. adults on the Foresight 50+ Omnibus Survey October 12-16, 2023. The margin of sampling error was +/- 4.2 percentage points. 

This study is part of a new series of Foresight 50+ Omnibus surveys focused on amplifying the voices of people fifty and over. Now more than ever, policymakers and others need this type of scientifically rigorous and readily available data in real time to help them improve policies and programs for an aging population. The Foresight 50+ FastTrack series—a set of periodic insights using the Foresight 50+ panel—will meet this need by regularly providing key findings and insights on an array of topics, that might otherwise be unavailable to the public. The series will also showcase ways your organization can use the panel to answer your questions about the highly influential 50+ demographic. 

The Foresight 50+ panel can oversample a variety of target groups, such as Medicare beneficiaries, grandparents, frequent travelers, and others. Combined with our affordable TrueNorth methodology, Foresight 50+ can incorporate data from lower-quality sample sources to gain insight into even smaller subpopulations, such as veterans or people with food allergies or other health conditions. 

For more information on our other surveys or to learn how we can customize a survey of this demographic to your needs, visit our solution page or email Foresight50-bd@norc.org


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