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More Americans Plan to Retire After 70

The demise of traditional pensions is putting your golden years further out of reach.

U.S. workers are more confident that they'll be able to retire someday. Just not until they're 70. 

Some 23 percent of Americans with jobs said they planned on being septuagenarian employees, up from 16 percent in 2009, according to Willis Towers Watson, a human resource consulting firm. While the average employee calculates he or she will retire at age 65, as a group they place the odds that they'll still be working at age 70 at 50 percent.

If love of the job is what keeps someone working until or beyond 70, that's one thing. (Or beyond age 80: Hello, Mssrs. Buffett and Bogle.) But the survey of 5,100 U.S. employees, and 30,000 in total, in 19 countries, found that employees who expected to work longer were "less healthy, more stressed and more likely to feel stuck in their jobs than those who expect to retire earlier."

The evocative and somewhat creepy term used for these people is "hidden pensioners." An even less happy survey result is that 40 percent of those planning to work into their 70s feel stuck in their jobs. Of those planning to retire at age 65 or earlier, about 28 percent feel that way.

"The decline of defined benefit plans and employer subsidies for early retirement removed one tool that encouraged that orderly rate of workers retiring," said Steve Nyce, a senior economist at Willis Towers Watson. 

There is some good news in the survey, however: In the U.S., and around the world, the level of short-term financial worry has fallen.

 Here are other highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be) from the survey: 

  • Employees in the U.S. are more pessimistic about whether their generation will be "much worse off in retirement" compared with their parents' generation. In America, 76 percent agreed or strongly agreed with that statement. Globally, 66 percent agreed. "The U.K., Japan, the U.S.—the more developed economies—tend to be less optimistic about the next generation," said Nyce. 

  • A significantly smaller percentage of women than men feel confident about having enough savings to live comfortably for 25 years in retirement. The biggest gaps by gender here were among those between the ages of 20 to 29, and those age 50 or older.
  • The percentage of men 65 or older still on the job in the U.S. was 22 percent last year, up from 15 percent in 2003. Old age labor participation rates should rise a fair bit over the next decade or two, said Nyce. In the 1960s, the participation rate of older workers in the labor force was around 25 percent, he said. 

    The countries seeing the biggest leaps in old age labor force participation over the past five years or so include the U.K., where it almost doubled to 13 percent, and Canada, where it stands at 17 percent, up from 9 percent in 2001. But everything pales next to the rate in South Korea, where it's 42 percent, up from 39 percent in 1989. 

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