Schwab MoneyWise ®
Schwab MoneyWise®

Older Workers and Money Survey

The majority of people in their 50s and 60s were still working because they wanted to—not because they had to.

Schwab conducts ongoing surveys to explore the issues, attitudes, and opinions affecting people at various life stages. The focus of this 2012 survey was working adults in their 50s and 60s with household incomes between $40,000 and $90,000. The results showed that more than three-quarters (76%) said they were still working because they wanted to, not because they had to (24%).

Why did older workers say they were content to keep working? Although money was still a leading factor for 61% of participants, intrinsic motivators were close behind: 59% liked what they did; 49% liked the people they worked with; and 45% were simply not ready to retire.

One in four (27%) said it was the happiest time of their working career, while another 11% believed the best was yet to come. Older workers stated that they generally started their workdays in a positive frame of mind, feeling "respected," "loyal," "valued," "happy," and "energized."

"Working is clearly about more than the money," said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation and Senior Vice President of Schwab Community Services. "Being in this age group myself, I can say from my own vantage point that the older segment of the workforce has a wealth of experience, perspective, talent, and energy to offer their employers, and it's great to get that validation from our survey. The majority of older workers are very engaged and productive in their jobs, and employers should be pleased to see that they're happy in them, too."

Taking the pulse of financial health

The survey also explored the relationship between workplace sentiment and workers' sense of financial security.

While a majority of workers (51%) characterized themselves as doing "okay" financially, others were struggling. Thirty-one percent felt they were "just getting by," and another 8% said they were "falling behind." Only 10% said they were doing "well."

And while a greater majority expressed confidence that they would have enough income to be comfortable in retirement (62%), their financial reality didn’t support that: nearly half (47%) had less than $100,000 in investable assets.

Wallets vs. waistlines

When it came to wallets vs. waistlines, older workers were almost evenly split: 51% worried about their financial fitness, while 49% worried about their physical fitness; and 48% worried about the weight of their debt, while 52% worried about their body weight.

Older workers and financial fitness vs. physical fitness

When it came to wallets vs. waistlines, older workers were almost evenly split: 51% worried about their financial fitness, while 49% worried about their physical fitness; and 48% worried about the weight of their debt, while 52% worried about their body weight.

Older workers and financial fitness vs. physical fitness

      • 51% Worried about their financial fitness
      • 49% Worried about their physical fitness
      • 52% Worried about their body weight
      • 48% Worried about the weight of their debt

Older workers and their families

When it came to their families, older workers worried most about the prospect of needing to take care of a spouse or other family member (67%), with 37% believing they would be faced with caregiving obligations in the upcoming decade.

With respect to personal responsibility for caregiving, many more women than men saw it looming in their future (42% vs. 33%).

Older workers and their families
  • 67% Worried about taking care of a spouse or family member
  • 42% Women who expected to be caregivers
  • 33% Men who expected to be caregivers

The majority of respondents worried about their children to some degree (58%), with 39% having at least one child still living at home.

The difference a decade makes

There were some striking differences between people in their 50s and those in their 60s when it came to overall contentment in the workplace. For example, despite being closer to retirement age, a significantly higher percentage of 60-somethings said they didn’t plan to retire (34% vs. 25% of 50-somethings). And nearly twice as many workers in their 60s said they just didn't want to retire (32% vs. 19% of those in their 50s).

The difference a decade makes in workplace contentment
Workers in their 50s Workers in their 60s
Didn’t plan to retire 25% 34%
Didn’t want to retire 19% 32%
Stayed because they needed money 64% 55%
Stayed because of tough economy 52% 29%
Stayed to keep seniority 29% 17%

Opportunity in the workplace

With so many workers staying in their jobs longer, there is an opportunity for employers to tap the wisdom and influence of this corps of workers, educating them to help promote financial fitness for their younger colleagues.

"We know that employees who are knowledgeable about personal finance and who embrace good money management habits tend to be more focused and productive at work—probably because they have less to preoccupy and distract them," said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz. "I also believe the workplace is an ideal classroom for adults. Employers might do well to consider recruiting and educating their older employees to serve as financial ambassadors to their younger workers. Peer influence can be a very positive, powerful force."

In fact, older workers tend to serve as mentors to their younger colleagues, with more than two-thirds of them providing advice on a range of topics, including how their younger colleagues can do their jobs better, how to handle professional issues, and how to navigate within the organization.

Best advice from older workers to their younger colleagues
  • 40% Live within a budget

  • 33% Maximize your 401(k), IRA, and other retirement accounts

  • 12% Pay off your credit card debt

So what's their single greatest piece of financial advice to someone young? Live within a budget.

Keep learning

Get the survey highlights then see where you stand when it comes to finances and preparing for retirement.

Learn where others stand financially and take our quiz to see how you compare. Then create a retirement budget if you don’t have one, and read more about planning for retirement.


About the Survey
The 2012 Charles Schwab Older Workers and Money Survey was conducted by Koski Research, an independent research firm, on behalf of Charles Schwab. The nationally representative online survey polled 1,004 middle-income American workers between the ages of 50 and 69 from January 19 through January 30, 2012, to better understand their perspectives and outlook on working, financial well-being, and retirement. Respondents had household incomes between $40,000 and $90,000. The survey was conducted using the Survey Sampling International panel. In reading the results of this study, the general rule of thumb is that the margin of error is about 3% on the total sample and greater when looking at results for specific subgroups.

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