The Great Retirement: Did Boomers Really Leave the Workforce? Maybe Not

Businessmen are exiting from the elevator in the company building discussing between them.
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Millions of older workers left the labor force as the pandemic began, but few have indicated that this move was permanent. The Washington Post stated that most have yet to tap their Social Security benefits, saying in surveys that they may reenter the workforce after COVID fades, or they may wait for better pay or greater flexibility.

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The number of Americans over age 55 dropped 6 percentage points to 33.3% in March and April of 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. “It may no longer mean put out to pasture,” Robert Laura, a social worker-turned-financial planner who runs a retirement training program, explained to The Washington Post. “It may mean taking a break.”

According to a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, older workers who could do their jobs from home were less likely to leave the workforce, as well as those with college degrees. Reservations about returning to the job were also similar to concerns among younger employees, such as public health risks and improvements in their workplaces.

“There are workers who are available under the right circumstances, but clearly we haven’t done enough to bring them back yet,” Gal Wettstein, senior research economist at the center and co-author of the report, explained to the Dallas Morning News.

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AARP noted that the longer the pandemic continues, the less likely those with substantial savings who have retired will rejoin the workforce. However, if conditions improve, some retirees, especially those with little in savings, may decide to join the workforce once again.

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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