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Survey finds older employees plan to keep working because they want to, not because they have to

Worked at Goldman Sachs since birth

Financial services firm Charles Schwab released a survey today showing that more than three out of four (76 percent) of middle-income Americans between the ages of 50 and 69 say they are sticking with their jobs because they “want to,” not because they can’t leave. Moreover, one in four workers in this age group (27 percent) say this is the happiest time of their working career, and another one in 10 (11 percent) believe the best is yet to come.

What does this mean for financial markets professionals? Those in the twilight of their careers are apt to be more reluctant to get out of the way for younger up and coming professionals, which in turn, could make it even more difficult for those just entering the job market.

The Schwab survey also found that women are even more likely than men to stay with their jobs because they like what they do (63 percent vs. 56 percent).

”Working is clearly about more than the money,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president of Schwab Community Services. “Being in this age group myself, I can say from my own vantage point that the older segment of the workforce has a wealth of experience, perspective, talent and energy to offer their employers, and it’s great to get that validation from our survey. The majority of older workers are very engaged and productive in their jobs, and employers should be pleased to see that they’re happy in them, too.”

The majority of workers ages 50 to 69 say they like what they’re doing (59 percent) and the people they work with (49 percent). More than two-thirds (67 percent) consider themselves ahead of the game when it comes to job skills and report being “intellectually stimulated,” “still learning” and “working to [their] full potential” at their jobs.

The difference a decade makes

There are some striking differences between people in their 50s vs. those in their 60s when it comes to overall contentment in the workplace. A significantly higher percentage of 60-somethings than 50-somethings say they don’t plan to stop working (34 percnet vs. 25 percent, respectively). In fact, nearly twice as many workers in their 60s vs. 50s say they just don’t want to retire (32 percent vs. 19 percent). The study shows that people in their 60s are more likely to be working part-time and enjoying the flexibility of doing so, liking the people they work with, feeling they would be bored if they weren’t working and not feeling ready to retire or simply not wanting to.

Conversely, more 50-somethings than 60-somethings feel “stuck” in their jobs, perceiving greater barriers to making a job change. They say they’re sticking with their current employer because they need the money (64 percent vs. 55 percent) or because they feel it would be tough to switch jobs in this economy (52 percent vs. 29 percent) or because they don’t want to start over and lose seniority (29 percent vs. 17 percent).

The opportunity for employers

Older workers tend to serve as mentors to their younger colleagues, with more than two-thirds of them (68 percent) providing advice on a range of topics, including how their younger colleagues can do their jobs better, how to handle professional issues and how to navigate around the organization. Many fewer, however, provide advice on how to make the most of workplace benefits (only 26 percent). Since their single greatest piece of financial advice to a 30-year-old is to “live within a budget,” followed by “maximize your 401(k), IRA or retirement account,” there may be an opportunity for employers to tap the wisdom of this corps of workers to help promote financial fitness in the workplace.

About the survey

The Charles Schwab Older Workers & Money Survey was conducted by Koski Research, an independent research firm, that polled 1,004 middle-income American workers between the ages of 50 and 69 from January 19 through January 30, 2012.

AUTHORFred Yager Insider Comment

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