Sep 15, 2023 - News

More Seattle seniors are working past 65

Illustration of an office chair with a doily on top, sitting on front of vintage wallpaper.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Roughly 1 in 4 Seattle seniors are working past the age of 65, a decision senior advocacy groups say is often driven by fear and financial insecurity.

Why it matters: At an age when people could historically retire and get full social security benefits, 25.4% of Seattle seniors — or 23,421 people — remain in the workforce, according to a new study.

  • That's above the national average of 1 in 5, per the study which looked at U.S. Census Bureau numbers for the percentage of people aged 65 and over actively employed in the last 12 months.

What they're saying: Many find meaning and connection through the jobs they do, but for others, our high cost of living means they can't afford to step back, Jason Erskine, a spokesperson for AARP in Washington, told Axios.

  • In a recent AARP survey, 87% of older workers pointed to their paycheck as a leading reason for why they are continuing to work.
  • "Whether it's housing, utilities, groceries or pain at the pump – older adults are finding themselves squeezed financially," he said. "That's true just about everywhere, but certainly here in Seattle and Western Washington."

By the numbers: In Seattle, the median senior household income is $64,944 compared to the median income in the surrounding area that includes Tacoma and Bellevue of $106,909 last year.

  • To live comfortably in Seattle a person needs to make more than $77,000 by some estimates.

The big picture: Americans retiring now are the first generation forced to rely on private savings, 401(k) plans and IRAs, which don't generate steady and predictable income the way pensions and Social Security do.

  • Just 36% of those 55 and older — nearing typical retirement age — say they'll be able to retire at the time they expected and 1 in 5 say they don't think they ever will, according to a recent Axios-Ipsos poll.

Zoom out: Nationwide, over 1 in 5 (21%) of seniors aged 65 and over are still participating in the workforce, which is more than 11.8 million people.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the labor force participation of older workers will continue to rise from 26.6% in 2022 to 29.9% in 2032 for people aged 65 to 74 and from 8.2% to 9.9% for those 75 and older.

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