Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do You Really Want to Work in Retirement?

My guess is that you don't--but you might not want to admit those slacker ambitions if you were asked in a survey about your work plans in retirement. That explains why, in survey after survey, most workers say they plan to work in retirement. In the 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey, for example, 74 percent of workers say they expect to work in retirement. Yet only 23 percent of retirees are actually working.

When done right, surveys can be wonderful social science instruments, providing insight into American attitudes and lifestyles. But even the best surveys can't escape the fact that people lie. All the time. And they are more likely to lie about some things than others. They lie about drinking alcohol (only 6 percent of men say they have more than two drinks a day, according to the CDC), they lie about how much time they spend doing housework (women say 32 hours a week but it's only 17, according to a study in the Monthly Labor Review), and they lie about their feelings toward their children (nearly half--46 percent--of parents say they never feel angry at their children, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation). People fudge the facts when they feel pressure to provide socially desirable answers.

Work is one of those socially desirable things. In our culture, the more the better. We admire those who would rather work than sleep, go on vacation, or retire. So when you read yet another survey finding that most boomers plan to work in retirement, be skeptical. Chances are, they won't.

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