Charles Schwab’s Older Workers & Money Survey Reveals Surprising Findings About Job Sentiment Among Americans in Their 50s and 60s

The Ties that Bind are Wants as Much as Needs

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 6:00 am PDT



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"Working is clearly about more than the money"

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--According to the Older Workers & Money Survey released today by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., more than three-quarters (76 percent) of middle-income Americans who are between the ages of 50 and 69 say they are sticking with their jobs because they “want to” vs. being “stuck” in them because they can’t leave. Moreover, one in four workers in this age group (27 percent) say this is the happiest time of their working career, and another one in ten (11 percent) believe the best is yet to come. They generally start their workdays in a positive frame of mind, feeling engaged, respected, valued and happy. Women are even more likely than men to stay with their jobs because they like what they do (63 percent vs. 56 percent).

”Working is clearly about more than the money,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president of Schwab Community Services. “Being in this age group myself, I can say from my own vantage point that the older segment of the workforce has a wealth of experience, perspective, talent and energy to offer their employers, and it’s great to get that validation from our survey. The majority of older workers are very engaged and productive in their jobs, and employers should be pleased to see that they’re happy in them, too.”

The majority of workers ages 50-69 say they like what they’re doing (59 percent) and the people they work with (49 percent). More than two-thirds (67 percent) consider themselves ahead of the game when it comes to job skills and report being “intellectually stimulated,” “still learning” and “working to [their] full potential” at their jobs.

The difference a decade makes

There are some striking differences between people in their 50s vs. those in their 60s when it comes to overall contentment in the workplace. A significantly higher percentage of 60-somethings than 50-somethings say they don’t plan to stop working (34 percent vs. 25 percent, respectively). In fact, nearly twice as many workers in their 60s as 50s say they just don’t want to retire (32 percent vs. 19 percent). The study shows that people in their 60s are more likely to be working part-time and enjoying the flexibility of doing so, liking the people they work with, feeling they would be bored if they weren’t working, and not feeling ready to retire or simply not wanting to.

Conversely, more 50-somethings than 60-somethings feel “stuck” in their jobs, perceiving greater barriers to making a job change. They say they’re sticking with their current employer because they need the money (64 percent vs. 55 percent) or because they feel it would be tough to switch jobs in this economy (52 percent vs. 29 percent) or because they don’t want to start over and lose seniority (29 percent vs. 17 percent).

Older workers and their families

When it comes to their families, older workers worry most about the prospect of needing to take care of a spouse or other family member (67 percent), with more than one in every three respondents (37 percent) believing they’ll be faced with care-giving obligations in the next decade. With respect to personal responsibility for care-giving, many more women than men see this looming in their future (42 percent vs. 33 percent). The majority of all respondents also worry to some degree about their “child(ren)’s ability to succeed on their own“ (58 percent), and a significant percentage still have children living at home (39 percent). The prospect of leaving a legacy, however, doesn’t keep many people awake at night: Along a continuum of what worries them most, “leaving an inheritance to [their] heirs” falls right between the prospect of global climate change and a large meteor hitting the earth.

Taking the pulse of their financial health

Notable in an election year, at the top of the list of what these middle-income older workers worry about “a lot” is “the economy,” closely followed by “saving for retirement.” Politicians should also take note that older workers worry equally about their financial fitness as they do about their physical fitness. They are just as likely to worry about their financial fitness (51 percent) and weight of their debt (48 percent) as they are their physical fitness (49 percent) and body weight (52 percent).

The majority of these workers (51 percent) characterize themselves as doing “ok” financially, and an additional ten percent believe they’re doing “well.” But nearly a third (31 percent) feel they’re “just getting by,” and another eight percent say they’re “falling behind.” A majority express confidence that they’ll have enough income to be comfortable in retirement (62 percent), yet their personal finances may not support that; nearly half (47 percent) have less than $100,000 in investable assets. Interestingly, more workers in their 50s than 60s say they will rely a lot on 401(k) income during retirement.

As with most American consumers, getting out from under debt is top of mind for this population, and workers in their 50s are more concerned about the “weight of their debt” than workers in their 60s (51% vs. 42%). Regardless of the amount of a hypothetical windfall (whether $10,000 or $100,000), the majority would use the money to pay off debt. More than two thirds (69 percent) would also use at least a portion of the larger windfall to “invest… for [their] retirement.”

They are interested in and receptive to learning about how to improve their financial lives. When asked which topics might make the biggest impact on their lives if they could attend a personal finance workshop, their top three choices were “investing [their] money for growth and income,” “planning for income in retirement” and “living within a reasonable budget.” Only one in four respondents expressed an interest in a workshop on “avoiding scams, identity theft and financial fraud” – even though identity theft is a top concern for the majority of them (81 percent).

The opportunity for employers

Older workers tend to serve as mentors to their younger colleagues, with more than two-thirds of them (68 percent) providing advice on a range of topics, including how their younger colleagues can do their jobs better, how to handle professional issues and how to navigate around the organization. Many fewer, however, provide advice on how to make the most of workplace benefits (only 26 percent). Since their single greatest piece of financial advice to a 30-year-old is to “live within a budget,” followed by “maximize your 401(k), IRA or retirement account,” there may be an opportunity for employers to tap the wisdom of this corps of workers to help promote financial fitness in the workplace.

”We know that employees who are knowledgeable about personal finance and who embrace good money management habits tend to be more focused and productive at work—probably because they have less to preoccupy and distract them,” said Schwab-Pomerantz. “I also believe the workplace is an ideal classroom for adults. Employers might do well to consider recruiting and educating their older employees to serve as financial ambassadors to their younger workers. Peer influence can be a very positive, powerful force.”

About the Survey

The Charles Schwab Older Workers & Money Survey was conducted by Koski Research, an independent research firm, on behalf of Charles Schwab. The nationally-representative online survey polled 1,004 middle-income American workers between the ages of 50 and 69 from January 19 through January 30, 2012, to better understand their perspectives and outlook on working, financial well-being and retirement. Respondents had household incomes between $40,000 and $90,000. The survey was conducted using the Survey Sampling International panel. In reading the results of this study, the general rule of thumb is that the margin of error is about 3% on the total sample and greater when looking at results for specific subgroups. For additional information, visit

About Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Corporation (NYSE: SCHW) is a leading provider of financial services, with more than 300 offices and 8.6 million client brokerage accounts, 1.52 million corporate retirement plan participants, 801,000 banking accounts, and $1.83 trillion in client assets as of March 31, 2012. Through its operating subsidiaries, the company provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC,, and affiliates offer a complete range of investment services and products including an extensive selection of mutual funds; financial planning and investment advice; retirement plan and equity compensation plan services; referrals to independent fee-based investment advisors; and custodial, operational and trading support for independent, fee-based investment advisors through Schwab Advisor Services. Its banking subsidiary, Charles Schwab Bank (member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender), provides banking and mortgage services and products. Brokerage products offered by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. are not insured by the FDIC, are not deposits or obligations of Charles Schwab Bank, and are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of principal invested. More information is available at and (0412-2708)

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