Press-Republican

Local News

January 1, 2014

'I'll work 'til I die'

Retirement unlikely for some blue-collar Americans

Tom Edwards grew up in a family that’s been cutting trees and hauling timber in the Pacific Northwest for more than a century. The Spanaway, Wash., resident says he has worked as a logger since he was a kid — it’s just what an able-bodied youngster was expected to do.

Now, at 53, with business in a slump and little money in savings, he’s pessimistic about his chances of retiring.

“It’s never going to happen. By the time I reach retirement age, there won’t be Social Security. There’s not going to be any money,” Edwards said. “I’ll do like my father did: I’ll work ‘til I die.”

Across the U.S., such concerns are common among blue-collar baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Many have jobs that provide paltry pensions or none at all, as many companies have been moving toward less generous retirement packages in the past decade.

Many boomers expect to work the rest of their lives because they have little cash put away for their old age and they worry Social Security won’t cover their bills. Some hope to move to jobs that are less physically demanding.

The share of U.S. workers who are 55 and older is expected to continue growing, according to the “The Oxford Handbook of Retirement 2013.” The group comprised 12.4 percent of the workforce in 1998. The share jumped to 18.1 percent in 2008 and is expected to be almost 25 percent by 2018.

The book is edited by Mo Wang, co-director of the Human Resource Research Center at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration. In an interview, Wang said it’s a misconception that lower-wage workers are slackers in preparing for retirement.

“People don’t have adequate earnings,” Wang told The Associated Press. “It’s not because they don’t want to save. It’s because they just can’t.”

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