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Don't Quit While You're Ahead

Hate your job? If so, the prospect of working an extra few years past when you'd hoped to retire can't make you too happy.

Increasingly, however, workers approaching retirement age are rethinking whether they do want to stop working. According to a recent survey from MFS Investment Management, nearly half of the 55- to 75-year-old workers polled plan to work during at least part of their retirement. Moreover, a surprisingly large number -- one-third -- plan to work throughout their golden years. Just 16% of those surveyed say they plan to retire and never work again.

Responding to tough times
The survey points to a number of factors that could make near-retirees want to keep working. With life expectancies continuing to lengthen, uncertainty about whether retirement nest eggs will be full enough to cover expenses throughout their lives may encourage near-retirees to keep earning a paycheck a little longer -- and to stay eligible for medical and other benefits. Inflation, along with possible cuts to Social Security and Medicare, was also a concern among those considering retirement.

It's true that workers who have retired can't expect as much from their former employers as they used to, as costs have gotten prohibitively high. General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) , Ford (NYSE: F  ) , and Goodyear (NYSE: GT  ) are some of the large employers that have made deals with their employees to transfer some retiree health-care costs to fund a trust to help cover expenses. The MFS survey notes that far fewer workers are eligible for retirement pensions than in previous generations.

Looking for peace of mind
On the other hand, workers are considering staying on past traditional retirement age for reasons beyond financial necessity. For some, working provides supplemental income that's helpful, if not entirely necessary, to keep them calm about their life savings. For others, the social aspects of working are far more important, which leads many seniors to start volunteering or take entry-level positions in completely different fields than they spent most of their careers.

Still, there's no doubt that working longer has several positive financial benefits. Every extra year you work is a year that you're not drawing down on your nest egg. You can boost your Social Security payout, both by earning more credits with work, as well as by waiting to take your benefits until a later date.

In addition, many companies actively court senior workers. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , for instance, hires many seniors to work as greeters and other positions. In 2007, Deere (NYSE: DE  ) and Principal Financial (NYSE: PFG  ) made AARP's list of best employers for older workers.

Get what you want
Ideally, working during your golden years isn't about needing to come up with cash to pay your bills -- it's about doing what you want to do with your life. Although some may look forward to endless days on the golf course or strolls on the beach, that lifestyle isn't for everyone. If you'd rather put your retirement years to productive use, you shouldn't hesitate to stay employed all the way to age 65 and beyond.

To learn more about protecting yourself in retirement, read:


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Dan Caplinger
TMFGalagan

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on Fool.com. With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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