Sun, Feb 19, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Fulfilled by work, many older women are retiring later

By Claire Cain Miller  /  NY Times News Service

Older workers who lost their jobs during the financial crisis were more likely to be unemployed long term — especially women, in part because their resumes tended to be spottier.

However, most of the time, women are working longer because of decisions they made much earlier in their lives — to get an education and spend years building a career, Goldin and Katz found.

If people work when they are younger, economists say, they are more likely to work when they are older — and because women are marrying and having babies later, they spend more time pursuing careers first.

That means that even if they take breaks to care for children, they are likely to return to work and to work past a typical retirement age.

Children had no effect on working later in life, the analysis found.

The same thing is happening among women in their 60s in most developed countries, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The most telling discovery here, according to the Harvard researchers, was that women who enjoyed their jobs earlier in life were employed longer, independent of their education or earnings.

When asked if they had enjoyed their jobs six to eight years earlier, 85 percent to 90 percent of women ages 59 to 63 said they had.

College graduates are more likely to work into older age. Of women born between 1945 and 1949, about 50 percent in all education groups were working at age 64, compared with 60 percent of college graduates.

However, the participation rates of women without degrees are increasing at roughly the same pace.

Diane Tavoian, 64, left college at 21 and worked hourly customer service jobs in manufacturing, in the military and most recently at the post office. She briefly tried retirement at age 61, but it did not last long.

“It was just plain boring,” she said.

She is now a barista at Starbucks and finishing her bachelor’s degree through the company’s tuition coverage program.

“The money is nice, of course, but I did it because I found I could not just stay at home,” said Tavoian, who lives in Covington, Texas. “I really like the fast pace of it, and I like showing the younger baristas that a frail old lady cannot just keep up with them, but pass them by.”

Lee Ann Monfredini, 68, got her real-estate license at age 53 after a career in hospital fundraising and nonprofit consulting; she was out of the workforce for several years when her children were young.

“I feel 40,” said Monfredini, a broker in San Francisco. “I play bridge once a week and have lunch with women, but I’m really not that good at the retirement thing. And I love the joy of getting that big commission check.”

There is just one period of life when women are less likely to be working than in previous generations: their late 30s and early 40s, according to the other paper, by Goldin and Joshua Mitchell, a senior economist at the Census Bureau.

Starting with women born in the mid-1960s, more worked at ages 25 to 34 than at ages 35 to 44. Among college-educated women born between 1965 and 1969, 82 percent worked at ages 40 to 44, compared with 85 percent of women in that age group who were born a decade earlier.

The decrease in participation is small, but noticeable, and is linked to having children.

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