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What Are Older Workers Seeking? An AARP/SHRM Survey of 50+ Workers

In preparation for the launch of the 2013 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 program, AARP and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a survey of 1,004 50+ workers in May 2012 to gauge their attitudes on a range of issues related to work.  Among the topics addressed were the relative importance of financial and non-financial reasons in the decision to work, whether 50+ workers expect to remain in their current field until they stop working, and the importance of certain employer-provided benefits and alternative work arrangements.  

Key findings from this survey are as follows:

  • Financial reasons such as the need for money or health insurance” represent the primary reason that nearly eight in ten (78%) workers ages 50+ are working or looking for work today.  Only one in five (19%) report that they are working (or looking for work) primarily for “non-financial reasons such as enjoyment or the desire to be productive."   However, the tendency to work (or look for work) primarily for non-financial reasons increases with age, with about two in five (41%) workers ages 70+ citing non-financial reasons.
  • More than three in four (77%) employed workers ages 50+ plan to remain in their current job until they stop working completely. However, about one in ten (9%) employed workers ages 50+ plan to change jobs but remain in the same field, about one in twenty (6%) plan to find a job in a different field, and another one in twenty (6%) plan to start their own business.  
  • Similarly, the majority (52%) of unemployed workers would prefer to find a job in the same field as their previous job.  However, just over one in four (27%) would prefer to find a job in a different field and nearly one in five (18%) would prefer to start their own business.
  • Approximately eight in ten 50+ workers consider the availability of the following employer-provided benefits to be “very” or “somewhat” important: health insurance (82%); a pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan (77%); and paid time off (80%) as important considerations in the decision to stay at their job (or the decision to accept a job).  
  • When 50+ workers were asked to indicate how important it is to them that their employer offers various alternative work arrangements, flex time was deemed important by the largest share of respondents, with just over three in five (62%) describing this as “very” or “somewhat” important.  Formal phased retirement programs and compressed work schedules were also deemed important by the majority of workers (57% and 52%, respectively).   Telecommuting was considered to be important by 44 percent and job sharing by 33 percent.   


This nationally representative survey of 1,004 adults ages 50 and older who are working or looking for work was conducted via telephone by SSRS using its telephone omnibus service from May 2 through May 30, 2012.  

For more information about the survey, please contact Rebecca Perron at rperron@aarp.org or S. Kathi Brown of AARP's Research and Strategic Analysis Department at skbrown@aarp.org.  Inquiries from the media should be directed to AARP's Media Relations Department at (202) 434-2560.

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