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Is Retirement Even Possible?

Millions of people age 70+ are still on the job.

Blame the sour economy, Bernie Madoff or other factors, but Americans’ concerns over retirement savings have been well documented. In one poll of 500 older workers in July by Golden Gateway Financial in California, 50 percent said they would retire after age 70.

By all accounts, retiring very late in life, or not at all, may deprive people of the benefits that come with those years—spending time with grandchildren, enjoying hobbies and just plain relaxing.

“I think there is such a thing as retiring too late,” says Bing Chen, a professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts and an expert on retirement issues. “But there’s a whole subgroup of people who want to keep on working,”

The work-longer trend has prompted its own brand of humor, with media reports that read “Die at Your Desk” or “Work Till You Drop.” Boomers at the water cooler talk seriously about working well into their 80s, even as they joke about the guy who voices the dreariest outlook: “I expect to be working two years after I die.”

But despite the jokes, despite the harsh realities, as the country prepares to face a historically unprecedented aging labor force, AARP’s Rix says she remains sure about one thing: “We’ll definitely see more people working into their 80s—but people will still want to retire at some point.”

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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