Although the average age at which current United States retirees say they stopped working is 61, up from 59 in 2003 and 57 in 1993, a January Gallup poll of 1,929 members of that generation found that 49 percent didn’t expect to retire until age 66 or older.My first thought was: I'm surprised that the retirement age has been that low. Only 61 now, and not that long ago it was 57?
But then I see "retirees say they stopped working" and perceived the subtle merger of the idea of deliberately retiring (because you want and can afford it) and the involuntary loss of work (which becomes a permanent condition of retirement). And it's an average, so they're adding the people who keep working because they like it or because they need the money and who can't be forced out (because age discrimination is illegal) with those who lost their jobs and wanted to replace them but failed.
Those who become unemployed — some time in their 50s, perhaps— how do they get by? Are they using unemployment compensation? Do they get on disability? Do 2-earner families adjust to 1-earner income? It seems to me, that average number includes a lot of people who are not what we think of when we hear the term "retirees." They are the unemployed who turn out to be permanently unemployed.
I wonder how many people who "stop work" before their mid-60s are making a real choice and how many are unhappy about their condition. The article talks about economic realities and also the psychological satisfaction of continuing to work as one ages. There's nothing at all about the desire to be free of paid labor, the love of a life structured around things other than work, other than one quote from a lady who says "Retire? I don’t know what that would look like... I don’t play golf."
The alternative to a paid job is a stereotypically old leisure pursuit: golf. People keep going in their jobs — or suffer from joblessness — and can't properly imagine how to live other than to work? What would I do? Golf?!
It's funny to me that the Baby Boomers think like that. (Do we really?) When we were young, back in the 60s, the talk was of finding a way to live that did not involve working for living. Naive, yes. But it was a youthful dream. A subsistence commune, perhaps? We read "Your Money or Your Life" — which showed how you could (and should) escape from paid labor early in life so you could proceed to do the things you love.
When did having a job become the meaning of life for Baby Boomers? How did we get hoodwinked into being such docile laborers in the economy, when we were going to tune in, turn on, and drop out?