Study finds businesses trying to keep older workers

by Jim Sloan

More older workers are staying on the job past common retirement ages, and an increasing number of businesses are accommodating those workers with flexible schedules, work-at-home options and better retirement-planning education on such issues as investments, savings accounts and retirement savings rates.

This is the finding of a recent study by the Bank of America, which found that 94 percent of employers say they want to keep older workers because of their skills.

The study comes on the heels of another study showing that many American workers, who now rely more on their own retirement savings accounts than previous generations, which enjoyed company pensions, have not accumulated enough investments for retirement and are planning to work beyond the age of 65.

The news that the companies surveyed by Bank of America are planning to provide more retirement planning and education also comes at a good time. Another study found that only a third of older American workers understood simple investments or such things as inflation and compound interest rates.

Unemployment among older workers

The unemployment rate among workers 55 and over was 6.8 percent in May 2011, far lower than the 9.1 percent national average for all workers, but significantly higher than the older-worker unemployment rate of 2.9 percent three years ago.

While unemployment among older workers is increasing, the length of time they are unemployed is longer than for younger workers. According to the Bloomberg news service, workers 55 and older were out of work for an average 41 weeks last year--higher than the 35 weeks for workers between the age 25 and 54.

Are older workers less productive?

Despite the Bank of America findings, there is an ongoing debate about whether older workers are less productive than their younger counterparts, and that by staying in the workforce longer, they are occupying jobs that should go to younger workers.

According to a New York Times article by Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes of the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, studies show that older workers are not less productive, but to the contrary, can be more productive. Pitt-Catsouphes advocates employers use performance-measuring metrics--not age--to determine which employees are under-performing.

How companies are helping older workers

According to Bloomberg, older workers have been staying in the workforce longer since the 1990s, and the percentage of workers 55 and older who remain in the workforce has climbed from 29.2 percent in 1993 to 40 percent in 2011.

About half of the 650 large companies surveyed by Bank of America said they are doing things to accommodate older workers with flexible schedules, and about a quarter allow these employees to work from home.

About a third of the companies surveyed are providing retirement education about such things as savings accounts, interest rates, CD rates, bank rates and other matters related to retirement investments.

One company is launching a phased-retirement program that allows workers to ease into retirement by continuing to work part-time while contributing to the company's 401(k) retirement savings account.

Disclaimer:This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

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