More 80-Plussers on the Job

Census figures shows influx of octogenarians in the workforce

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Young enough to be costar Harrison Ford’s granddaughter, actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 38, provided most of the hard-hitting physical action — along with her stunt doubles — in the summer action flick “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Still, spry co-star Ford, 80 at the time of filming, held his own and didn’t lag behind with a walker or IV pole as derided in memes about the film.

The action star’s fifth installment in the franchise depicting the fedora -wearing professor-archaeologist mirrors real life.

More octogenarians are skipping retirement compared with the same age cohort of just a decade ago. In June, the US Census Bureau said that 18% more 80-plussers — about 650,000 — continue to work compared with 10 years before.

Of those, 50% are full-time, perhaps not at their lifelong career, but working a paid job, nonetheless.

Furthermore, the bureau estimates that among those aged 75-plus, working paid jobs will increase from 8.9% in 2020 to 11.7% by 2030 as the rate among every other age group decreases. And it’s not just because the wobbly economy and rising inflation requires older adults to work (although that represents one factor).

The age of the baby boomer generation is one reason. Just as with every other life milestone, the advancement of huge boomer population will swell the number of 80-plus-aged adults in the workforce.

Current day labor shortages have also drawn many octogenarians to eschew retirement. The workplace needs more hands. Why not continue to call on those with decades of experience and a track record of reliability?

Wesley Burghardt, recruiter with CR Fletcher Associates in Syracuse, believes that the high rate of working 80-plussers is reflected locally — and has a few ideas as to why more octogenarians are still working.

“I think COVID-19 made it so with inflation and the struggles with stock market,” he said. “Many still need to work. There are also more remote jobs nowadays. It’s a lot easier to find positions in general. You have a wider area where you can get employed with. Before COVID-19 that would not be available. They can have a job that’s less time-consuming.”

Many want to continue in the workforce to stay relevant in their original field. Almost every type of employment requires tech savvy of some sort, requiring a continual skill sharpening.

For others, working an entry-level job that simply gets them out of the house for a few hours a week. For older adults who take an entry-level job it’s typically more about maintaining a sense of productivity, staying connected and continuing to feel purposeful in life than earning money, so entry-level pay is fine.

“There’s a lot more research and knowledge about the importance of staying active and keeping your mind moving,” Burghardt said. “People want to stay active. There are jobs that are less physically demanding. Most people had ancestors working in production or manufacturing. The work environments are a lot more friendly than they used to be.”

People collecting Social Security should give special consideration to their tax status if they’re earning money.

“They must first determine what percentage of their Social Security benefit is being drawn into the tax computation,” said Randy Ziegler, certified financial planner and private wealth adviser in Oswego with Ameriprise.

The maximum is 85%.

“Will that percentage increase with a higher taxable income?” he posed. “This issue must be considered carefully in the analysis in order to avoid a surprise tax liability with one’s Social Security benefits.”