Top 10 Reasons Why Americans Don’t Retire

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Older workers are the fastest growing segment of the American labor market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the proportion of workers aged 65 to 74 and older is expected to continue growing until at least 2024.

But if you think money is the reason people work after 65, you’re only partially correct. In fact, there are many interesting motives behind this gray wave in the workplace.

We consulted the latest annual Workers’ Retirement Survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies to reveal the main reasons why older Americans work past the traditional retirement age.

10. Personal development

old woman working
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Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 22%

Not all of the reasons older workers stay in the job have to do with finance.

Work can provide both professional and personal growth that is both stimulating and satisfying, and many people aren’t ready to leave that behind – at least not yet.

Older workers seem to prefer jobs that are flexible and independent: the BLS study found that workers 65 and older made up more than 16% of the self-employed.

9. Maintain social ties

two women working
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Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 25%

Business brings together people who may never meet. Workplace camaraderie helps us boost our morale and feel connected.

AARP profiles an 81-year-old UPS driver with no plans to retire anytime soon. The guy takes pride in his on-time delivery and enjoys the work as he enjoys connections with customers and fellow delivery drivers.

8. Need health benefits

man checking his heart
Nattakorn_Maneerat /

Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 26%

You may want to quit working, work part-time, or be self-employed, but you may be out of luck if you don’t yet qualify for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older.

The lucky ones have medical coverage through a spouse’s job or (rarely) have a compensation package with medical benefits up to age 65. Less fortunate are those who have to find and buy private insurance coverage to fill the gap so they can get Medicare.

Otherwise, you may be in the 1 in 6 Americans insured through their job who stays for those medical benefits even though they’d prefer to leave, according to Gallup.

7. I can’t afford to retire because I didn’t save enough

An upset big woman writes a check

Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 29%

“Most seniors who work after age 65 work because their retirement income and retirement plan wealth are nonexistent or very low,” Theresa Gilarducci, a labor economist and professor at the New School for Social Research, tells CBS News.

If you’re having trouble meeting your retirement needs, it could be a sign that it’s time to “step back.” To make sure you have the money you need for retirement, check out our Retirement Money News course.

6. Worrying that Social Security will be less than expected

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Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 31%

Social Security isn’t meant to provide enough money to cover all of your financial needs in retirement (although it can be done).

The average Social Security benefits check in 2021 is $1,118.94 per month for 62-year-olds (when most people claim benefits).

For a small one-time fee, our partner Social Security options will analyze your situation and show you how to maximize your benefits.

4. Has a sense of purpose (tie)

worker fixes an hour
Daniel Weidmann /

Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 40%

“When you have 20 years left, do you still want something to do with your life right? Work can give you some goals in life in those 20 years,” a woman told a focus group in a study on why European workers work past the traditional retirement age.

4. Enjoy What I Do (Tie)

Big black man driving a forklift at work
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Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 40%

Enjoying their work is a great motivator for older workers.

The BLS finds that workers 55 and older are attracted to certain types of work. Among these professions:

  • Bus driver
  • Archivists, curators, and museum technicians
  • clergy
  • Jewelers and gem and mineral workers
  • legislators
  • Medical transcribers
  • reviewers
  • Real estate brokers and sales agents
  • tax preparers
  • travel agents

3. Keeping my mind alert

old worker

Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 47%

After spending a lifetime acquiring skills, it is hard for many people to let go of the mental stimulation of work.

As a 68-year-old worker told researchers studying older European workers: “If you work, you have to stay active and use your brain.”

2. You want income

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Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 53%

Money isn’t the only reason older workers are still at work. But, as we have seen, it is very important. More than half of Transamerica respondents say money is the reason they keep working after 65 years.

1. Be active

Big woman working in the coffee shop
Tyler Olson /

Percentage of older Americans who gave this reason: 54%

The four generations surveyed by Transamerica researchers all rated the idea that work keeps them “active.”

55% of Boomers said staying active was a strong incentive to work after age 65.

Sixty percent of Generation Z workers said staying active would be a reason to work when they were of retirement age, as did 51 percent of Millennials and 54 percent of Generation X workers.

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