Legendary singer Tony Bennett, who at age 91 still tours and performs for live audiences, has quipped, “It’s too late to retire.” More and more, Americans seem to share Bennett’s sentiment; they are postponing retirement and spending their golden years on the job. Recent studies show the average retirement age rising.

Retirement Age Rising

For men, it is just shy of 65 years, up from 62 in 1985. For women, since 1985, average retirement age has increased from about 60 years to 62. Today, about 20 percent of people 65 or older work at least part-time – the highest rate in 55 years. Among 70- to 74-year-olds, 19 percent work – that’s an 11 percent gain since 1994. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts if current trends continue, by 2024 about 36 percent of 65- to 69-year-old American workers will still be in the labor force.

While some older workers who delay retirement do so because they need the money, others continue working because they remain healthy, highly-skilled and happy at their jobs. A recent study by Transamerica found that 44 percent of later-retirees continue to work by choice. In other words, many people are working longer not because they have to, but because they want to.

“By the time you’re in your 60s and 70s, you’ve probably worked yourself into something you enjoy doing,” explains Jacquelyn James, an expert on aging at Boston College.

In addition to improved health and longevity, factors contributing to later retirement include:

  • changes to social security have improved incentives to keep working;
  • fewer workers are covered by traditional pensions;
  • people with more education tend to work longer; and
  • many jobs today are less physically demanding than in the past.

Older workers also tend to thrive in knowledge-based jobs – such as finance, law or business – according to Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen.