Americans are often advised to work well into their 60s. Doing so gives them a prime opportunity to boost their retirement savings, all the while growing their Social Security benefits.
Seniors are entitled to the full monthly Social Security payment their earnings history allows for at full retirement age, which is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on year of birth. As a result, many workers aim to keep earning a paycheck until full retirement age kicks in.
But data from ProPublica and the Urban Institute reveals that job security is hard to come by for older workers. An estimated 56% of the workers whose careers they followed were either laid off from a job between turning 50 and retiring or pushed out of a job in some manner. And only 10% of those who managed to find work after being laid off or forced out of a job were able to command a high enough salary to match their previous earnings.
Unfortunately, age discrimination is still rampant in today's workforce, which means no one is immune to it. But if you're worried about being pushed out of a job later in life, here are a few steps you can take to ensure that it won't ruin your retirement plans.
1. Get serious about ramping up your retirement plan contributions
Many workers spend much of their 20s, 30s, and 40s focusing on paying off debt and tackling a mortgage to the point where their nest eggs are largely neglected. The logic is that they'll increase their savings rate once they're older, their salaries peak, and other expenses start to wane. But if your plan is to start really focusing on retirement savings in your 50s, and you're laid off from a job at 55, you could end up seriously out of luck.
A better bet? Start saving for retirement at as young an age as you can manage. And if you're already in your 40s or early 50s, make lifestyle adjustments that allow you to do better on savings immediately. That way, if your career is cut short, or you're forced to accept a lower salary down the line, it won't hurt your long-term savings as much.
2. Don't reveal your age
If you don't want your age to be a factor in your employer's decision to let you go or force you out of the role you're in, don't share what it is. And if you're in the process of applying to a new job, make it difficult for prospective employers to nail down exactly how old you are. You can do so by not listing your year of college graduation on your resume, because that's a clear giveaway.
Another thing -- if you make a solid effort to keep your job skills current, you're less likely to be targeted because of your age. The same holds true if you continuously develop new skills that are useful to your job.
3. Start your own business
You never know when an employer might decide that it no longer has a use for you. The good thing about being self-employed, however, is that you can't fire yourself, so if you have a viable business idea -- one that allows for an annual income that's comparable to what you earn now -- venturing out on your own could offer a fair amount of protection against job loss down the line. Best of all, you'll have the opportunity to carry that business with you into retirement, at which point you can choose to scale back your hours but continue working in a capacity that's comfortable for you to generate additional income.
Let's be clear: Age discrimination is very much illegal. It's also quite prevalent in spite of that. The last thing you want is for it to destroy your retirement, but the above steps will help prevent that from happening.