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Moneywise

The early death of early retirement

It is starting to get late for early retirement.

Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post says we may be seeing the end of early retirement in the United States and across much of the world. "Considering the high unemployment since the 2008 financial crisis, you might expect the opposite," he writes. "Can't get a job? Retire instead. Surely this has happened, but it's being diluted by a determination to work longer. Early retirement is in retreat."

A recent study by Brookings Institution economists Gary Burtless and Barry Bosworth found that, in general, the number of older people retiring later has increased after the recession.

"Countries that experienced unusually severe downturns (such as Ireland and much of southern Europe) represent exceptions to this generalization," the study says. "In most countries, however, the trend toward later retirement not only continued, it accelerated."

"A shrinking share of older Americans are dropping out of the labor force and relying exclusively on retirement benefits and savings," writes Samuelson. "The causes lie in a messy mix of public policy, improved health, and changes in lifestyles and economic conditions."

So what is the social impact?

Samuelson says having people work longer will reduce the burden on welfare having to go to older folks supported by fewer younger workers.

Christopher Matthews at Time says later retirement should be seen as a good thing: "After a severe recession brought on by overly-indebted private sector, and a recovery marked by growing public sector debt, what we need more of is people working and earning money. It can also be seen as evidence against the argument that welfare benefits are holding back the labor market. After all, people of retirement age are eligible for benefits like Social Security here in the U.S., but they're increasingly choosing work instead."

On the other hand, in a weak economy, Samuelson says this means fewer jobs for the young.

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

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