The retirement age is stabilizing largely because the forces pushing it higher have been played out. Consider the shift in retirement plans, for example. In 1979, 74 percent of workers participating in retirement plans had a defined benefit pension that would provide a fixed income stream, according to Labor Department data.
As more workers became responsible for generating their own retirement income through 401(k) accounts and the like, older workers started putting off retirement. The center found that workforce participation rates for men and women age 55 to 64 started gradually increasing in the mid–1980s.
"Studies show that workers covered by 401(k) plans retire a year or two later on average than similarly situated workers covered by a defined benefit plan," the study found.
As of 2013, though, 93 percent of workers in retirement plans already had defined contribution plans, so there are fewer workers left who might adjust their retirement timing because of a change in their retirement savings plan.
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The decline of retiree health benefits has also been a factor. Thirty or 40 years ago, large companies, at least, regularly provided health coverage for their retirees, but no more. The share of companies with 200 or more workers offering retiree health benefits to active workers declined from 66 percent in 1988 to 28 percent in 2013, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. So, fewer people have opted to stay on the job to maintain health coverage because retiree health benefits are less available.
Changes in the nature of work also contributed to a rise in older worker participation. As the manufacturing sector has contracted, many jobs have become less physically demanding, enabling older workers to stay on the job longer. But that trend has also fizzled out, the report found.