AARP Says More Work And Less Retirement Is Good News

Remember when AARP was an organization for retired persons? Remember when the American Dream included a decent job, a house and yard, and retirement?

The acronym AARP was shorthand for “American Association of Retired Persons.” But the organization decided to change its brand. The spelled-out moniker was dropped in favor of just plain AARP.

The capital letters AARP became the full, official name. The letters don’t stand for anything. I’m beginning to wonder what AARP, the organization, stands for.

Did the organization that advocated for retired persons change its identity — and its mission — along with its brand? Has AARP decided that retirement is no longer cool? It almost seems as if they’ve  decided to support WORK and give up on RETIREMENT.

The cover story for the September issue of AARP Bulletin proclaims:

“Good News for Older Workers: Keep, Change or Improve Your Job After 50.”

The “RP” in AARP now stands for “Real Possibilities.” I’m not making this up.

“Tens of millions of older Americans are working today at ages when their parents and grandparents had retired.

Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, only about 1 worker in 10 planned to stay in the workforce beyond age 65. Today, that number has risen to almost 4 in 10.

In 1991, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 30 percent of Americans age 55 or older were working. By 2013, the workforce participation rate for those 55-plus had passed 40 percent, and it’s rising steadily. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the current era marks the first time in U.S. history when four generations — pre-boomers, boomers, Generation X and millennials — are engaged in the workforce at the same time.”

The above quote is from the article, “The Value of Older Workers: Experience makes them better problem solvers and more reliable,” by R.R. Reid in the September 2015 issue of AARP Bulletin. The September issue is not yet up on the website, but AARP Bulletin Today includes many related articles.

The hard copy of the September issue cites excellent sources for the claim that millions of older Americans who would have been enjoying their hard-earned retirement in the late 20th Century remain hard at work in the brave, new 21st Century. So it must be true. People of my baby boomer cohort are less likely to be retired — and more likely to still be working — than were our parents and grandparents, who were probably retired at our age.

300px-SocialSecurityposter2I’m constantly reading or hearing about the difficulties of retirement. Many people say they can’t afford to retire; some say they expect to work until they die. They believe they have little choice. For many, the cost of living outstrips retirement income based on Social Security, pensions, and savings. See the results of AARP’s latest survey of workers aged 55-64.

Retirement income is usually fixed income. The amount of our monthly income from Social Security, pensions, and savings is not likely to go up. Monthly income is more likely to go down, as a retiree burns through savings. Even the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is not guaranteed. See the earlier blog post.

Many people fear that their Social Security benefit will, in the not-too-distant future, be reduced to 75 percent of the present benefit. That fear is based on a drumbeat of negative news. (I personally believe that we can and will find a way to preserve full Social Security benefits, and also ensure that Social Security remains viable for our children and grandchildren. Call me an optimist.)

AARP views the trend to less retirement and more work through rose-colored glasses. But I’m wondering if the American Dream of retirement for nearly everyone has ended. Workers in the 1930s to 1970s era were likely to have pensions and to own houses with paid-up mortgages. But since about the mid-1970s, the trend has been away from guaranteed pensions. In the later decades of the last century, many workers began to rely on home equity loans. People refinanced their homes repeatedly, and never paid off the mortgage.

Only in recent years have many baby boomers started to wake up and smell the burned coffee. The new reality is retirement without adequate pensions and savings. And meanwhile, you’re still paying the monthly mortgage. Is the American Dream of retirement about to become a nightmare?

I can hardly wait to see how Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old intern working for a much younger boss (Anne Hathaway). Watch the trailer. Is it a comedy or a horror movie?

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5 thoughts on “AARP Says More Work And Less Retirement Is Good News

  1. Jean

    AARP has long had a strong middle and upper-middle class bias, and that continues both in the methodology of this study (an online survey) and in the interpretation of the results. I also think it’s interesting that their emphasis here is on the increasing proportion who expect to keep working and not on the vast majority (more than 60%) who do not. I believe the research on current retirees shows that most of those who say they will keep working after retirement change their mind by the time they get to retirement.

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    1. Editor (Retired) Post author

      I agree. Thank you. I also have some reservations that AARP allows companies to use the AARP brand to sell insurance policies, credit cards, and more, for a fee. The organization must be taking in quite a bit of money by licensing its name for commercial uses. And of course, members pay dues. What does a nonprofit membership organization do with all that income?

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  2. Pingback: Retirement Made Simple, A Brave New Blog | JOHN HAYDEN REPORTING

  3. roughwighting

    Somehow I missed this post until now. Excellently written and conveyed. I truly don’t think most people can afford to retire, to be honest. And for those who are healthy and still enjoying life, I don’t find that a negative. Yes, I saw my parents’ friends retire on amazing pensions and travel all over the world and enjoy life. But they were pretty bored between travels. Many of my friends in their early 60s can’t imagine retiring – they’re having too much fun in their jobs and in finding an identity in their jobs. Plus, they need the money! On the other hand, my friends who have retired (and have great retirement nests) are a bit dismissive of those who continue to work, feeling that the working friends aren’t stopping to smell the roses. I guess a rose smells differently to each individual. 🙂

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  4. Editor (Retired) Post author

    I recently talked with a friend from college (college was nearly 50 years ago for us) who said we’d be the last generation able to afford retirement. Now I’ve opened my eyes to reality, and I realize that even many people in my baby boomer generation won’t be able to retire. After a little more than two years in retirement, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t afford it! I’ll be moving to a slightly larger apartment in February, and will look for a part-time job to pay for it.

    Many people do enjoy their work and don’t want to retire. They are the fortunate ones. For every person who wants to keep working forever, there are at least 10 more people in their 50s and 60s hanging on to subsistence jobs. They’ve lost their career jobs in the recent economic unpleasantness, and due to age discrimination, good luck finding a decent gig if you’re over 50. Then there are the folks who’ve done hard physical work all their lives, and their bodies are wearing out. Hopefully most of them will be able to rest a little bit once they’re eligible for Social Security and Medicare.

    The prospect of working in Walmart or worse until you die is bleak. But that’s what many folks are looking at. In an ideal world, perhaps everyone would have access to a productive and satisfying job until 80. But we’re seeing more jobs continue to evaporate into thin air because of robotization, advanced computers, and a huge global oversupply of labor. The number of graying people around the world is rising, and the number of decent jobs is contracting. Pity our poor grandchildren who can’t get a decent job because baby boomers can’t retire. It’s a conundrum.

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