Tomorrow’s retirees expect to work more than today’s, survey finds

Views of retirement are evolving between generations, with the expectations of those still working different from those who have already quit, survey results released Tuesday by Milwaukee's Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. show.

The research suggests substantial changes in retirement age and lifestyle are on the horizon. People expect to work longer, but many will do so by choice rather than necessity. Others aren't as fortunate and don't feel they'll have the luxury of choice, the company said.

"Retirement is being redefined from one generation to the next," said Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual president. "For those who have the flexibility and security to choose, many are deciding to continue working, possibly in second careers that are personally meaningful to them."

Among retirees surveyed, the average age they retired was 59. The majority — 72 percent — say they are completely retired from working.

Among those still working, the average age they expect to work until is 68, almost a decade longer than the current retirees in the study. About 45 percent say they will continue to work in retirement, not because they have to but because they want to.


But many others who are still working are either uncertain about when they'll retire, or know they don't have many choices, the survey found. One in five is not sure how many years he or she will spend in retirement. About 13 percent think they'll never be able to retire.

Nearly 4 in 10 of those aged 60 and older estimate that they will have to work until age 75 or more before they can retire.

Working adults are pessimistic, but retirees say life after work is good, the survey showed.

Working adults tend to use words like "bad/poor," "bleak/dismal" and "nonexistent" to describe their vision of their own future retirement, while Americans already retired are more apt to choose words like "fun/cheerful" and "good/pleasant" to describe their retired life today and tomorrow, Northwestern Mutual said.

Only 37 percent of working adults expect they will be happier in retirement than they are now. But 84 percent of current retirees say they are happy in retirement, and 60 percent say they're happier now than they were when they were working.

Seventy-percent of retirees describe their lives as "fulfilling," and a large majority focus on health and fitness and stay active with charities. But half of retirees saw health care costs increase significantly in retirement, and among them, 45 percent didn't anticipate those expenses.

Northwestern Mutual's "2014 Planning and Progress Study" explores the state of financial planning in America today and looks at people's current attitudes and behaviors toward money, goal-setting and priorities.

The study was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual and included 2,092 American adults aged 18 or older who participated in an online survey between Jan. 21 and Feb. 5 of this year. Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated, the company said.

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