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Retirees Taking Roads Less Traveled


The days of people turning 65 and automatically flocking to Florida for golf, sun and early-bird specials are dwindling. In fact, Americans are taking different approaches to retirement.

Not being financially able to retire or wanting to remain active in the workforce, at least to some capacity, is causing people to take varied approaches to retirement, according to a Vanguard report, "Six Paths To Retirement."

The study was based on interviews Vanguard conducted among 38 men and women between the ages of 40 and 75, as well as a Harris Interactive survey of nearly 2,500 people between the ages of 40 and 69.

"There is more than one way to retire, and people go through different phases and expectations," said Jeff Tjornehoj, a senior research analyst with Lipper of New York. In a few years, there will probably be more than six paths to retirement, he predicted.

One group identified was the early retirees, people who exit the full-time workforce largely in their 50s and stop working altogether. Twenty-nine percent of Americans currently aged 55 to 69 decided to take this route, Vanguard found.

One major factor in retirement planning is health, and people with chronic or unexpected health problems have limited choices, said David Wray, president of the 401(k)/Profit Sharing Council in Washington.

Increasingly, retirees are deciding to both work and play, taking on some type of part-time employment either for the sake of being active or to meet basic expenses. Twelve percent of people aged 55 to 69 favor this path.

Wal-Mart is an good example of the work and play group, where older workers can have flexible hours, don't have to work an eight-hour shift and can still make some extra money and get out of the house, Tjornehoj said.

Staying Sharp

Joe Birkofer, a principal with Houston-based Legacy Asset Management, finds that very few of his clients in their 60s want to stop working altogether. A 66-year-old client of his is a successful sales executive who plans to retire within the next 18 months and is already planning on working at the local Home Depot. "It's not because he needs the money, but because he wants to keep his pencil sharp and enjoys handiwork," Birkofer said.

There are also many older Americans who are starting to downshift, reducing their number of working hours or switching to a less demanding job. "The phenomenon cuts across all six paths to retirement to varying degrees," the report states.

People are hearing from friends 10 years older than them that it is a real shock not having to go to work every day, said Don Cassidy, executive director of the Retirement Investing Institute in Denver.

The survey found that 35% of Americans aged 55 to 69 are still working. In many cases, these individuals don't have the financial resources, such as a defined benefit or defined contribution plan, to be able to retire.

A handful chose to return to work after they retired. Five percent of individuals aged 55 to 69 years old left work in their early 50s, and then, either due to emotional or financial factors, went back to work.

There are a number of workers in their 40s and 50s who expect to retire when they are 60, but find their company scaling back on the defined benefit plan or discover that Social Security or their savings is not enough to sustain them in retirement, Tjornehoj said.

Spouses who retire early make up a small group of Americans. Nine percent of those aged 55 to 69 years old in the survey left the workforce in their early 40s or 50s. This group is mostly married women in excellent health, Vanguard found.

And there is still a percentage of people who say they will never retire. Ten percent of people in their 60s in the survey continue to work in various jobs. Of them, 71% said they did so because they want to remain active, although a majority, 58%, said they were working to meet basic living expenses.

Many people in this country do not have enough money to retire and will work full-time until they are shown the door, Cassidy said. There is a clear distinction between people who have to work and people who want to be part of the workforce, Birkofer said.

About six in 10 Americans aged 40 to 69 indicated that retirement includes some element of work, suggesting that the idea of a "new retirement" for the Baby Boom generation-combined work and leisure-is not particularly new, the report found.

People in good health want to stay engaged in the workforce and be meaningful and involved in society, Wray said. After all, the idea of "playing golf for the next 20 years might get old after a while," he said.

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