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More than half of 60-somethings say they're delaying retirement

  • In 1996, less than 46 percent of people age 60 to 64 were working. In 2016, that share stood at 56 percent. In 2026, it's expected to reach almost 60 percent.
  • The average 401(k) plan account balance for people age 65 and older stood at about $197,000 in 2016.
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Despite the triple-digit gains in the stock market over the last nine years and its positive impact on Americans' savings, more than half of workers over age 60 said they are putting off retirement, a new survey shows.

Fully 53 percent of full-time workers in that age group say they are postponing when they'll stop working, according to the CareerBuilder survey. Two in five workers think they won't be able to retire until at least age 70.

The survey, conducted by The Harris Poll late last year, covered 809 full-time workers across a variety of industries and company sizes — and included 157 such workers age 60 and older.

"I think some of this is residual anxiety," said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. "The recession wasn't that long ago, and it changed the financial picture for a lot of people. Some older workers might rather be safe than sorry."

Over-60 crowd's workforce participation rate

Age
1996
2006
2016
2026 (projected)
60-64 45.8% 52.5% 55.8% 59.6%
65-69 21.9% 29% 32.2% 36.6%
70-74 12.5% 17% 19.2% 22.7%
75 and older 4.7% 6.4% 8.4% 10.8%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The number of older Americans in the work force has been growing steadily for years.

In 1996, less than 46 percent of people age 60 to 64 were working, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2016, that number grew to nearly 56 percent. By 2026, it's expected to reach about 60 percent.

Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. Unlike the generation that came before them, many are relying solely on Social Security and their own savings to fund their retirement instead of also having a pension.

Additionally, rising health care costs have hit older Americans especially hard. A couple retiring today, both age 65, can expect to spend $280,000 on their medical care over the rest of their lives, according to Fidelity Investments.

Separate research from Vanguard shows that among its clients, the average 401(k) plan account balance for people age 65 and older was $196,907 in 2016. The median account balance — half fall below, half above — is far lower, at $60,724.

Meanwhile, Haefner said that some older workers might also be delaying retirement for the simple reason that they like their job.

"They might be feeling more valued by their employer than they did 20 years ago," Haefner said. "They have great institutional knowledge, and they're great trainers and mentors. It's a way they can stand out from their coworkers."

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