'Employment Status of Workers Age 55 and Older,' and 'Assets in Qualified Retirement Plans, 1985–2005: Updated'

August 2007, Vol. 28, No. 8
Paperback, 12 pp.
PDF, 3,174 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2007

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Executive Summary

"Employment Status of Workers Ages 55 or Older"


 • More older workers in the labor force: An increasing percentage of older Americans are in the labor force: Those ages 55 or older in the labor force increased from about 29 percent in 1993 to 38 percent in 2006. For those ages 65–69, the percentage increased from about 18 percent in 1985 to 29 percent in 2006.


More full time, less part time: Not only are members of the older population more likely to work, they are more likely to be working full time, full year. The trend toward more full-time, full-year work among older workers occurs across virtually every demographic category.


Need for health, retirement coverage likely factors: These trends mark a significant change in behavior for individuals in these age groups, and are likely driven by their need to obtain affordable employment-based health insurance (as opposed to unaffordable or unavailable coverage in the individual market) and the need to continue to accumulate savings in employment-based defined contribution retirement plans.


Trends likely to continue: Both trends of increased labor force participation and increased full-time, full-year work are likely to continue, since private-sector employers have been phasing out retiree health insurance for younger workers and are continuing to shift out of defined benefit pensions and into defined contribution retirement plans.


"Assets in Qualified Retirement Plans, 1985–2005: Updated"


Retirement assets growing: As of year-end 2005, total assets in tax-qualified U.S. retirement income plans (both defined benefit and defined contribution) amounted to $14.388 trillion. By 2005, qualified retirement plans had recovered from the losses experienced since 2002, when total assets amounted to $10.139 trillion.


IRAs biggest component: In 2005, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) represented the largest component of total U.S. retirement assets (25.5 percent), followed by private defined contribution plans (21 percent), state and local governments (19 percent), private defined benefit pensions (15 percent), private insured (12 percent), and the federal government (7.5 percent).