Millions of Americans retired early. Now they want to work again

A wide range of factors are pushing retirees back into the workforce.

Unretirement is the new retirement. Peloton nabbed a retired CEO to lead the company out of Americans’ storage closets. Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks. And Tom Brady lasted ~40 days in retirement before deciding to return to the NFL (and to a cascade of memes roasting him).

Millions of Americans retired early. Now they want to work again

The superstar quarterback and deep-pocketed CEOs were just following the crowd.

After a retirement boom over the last 2 years, the share of retirees reentering the workforce has ticked up to levels unseen since early March 2020, per The Wall Street Journal.

Money, security, and old age lead people to retire

And after a brief pandemic recession, housing prices and the value of financial assets soared from spring 2020 to late summer 2021.

Plenty of graying boomers, whose savings were shaken by the Great Recession, took advantage.

  • The share of adults ages 55+ who are retired rose from 48.1% in Q3 2019 to 50.3% in Q3 2021, according to Pew Research Center.
  • The share of adults between ages 65-74 who are retired increased from 64% to 66.9% in the same time frame, per Pew.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve estimated that this deluge of pandemic-era retirements meant 2.4m+ Americans retired earlier than expected. And not all of them were ready to take up gardening.

In February, ~3% of retirees started working again. That share has been ticking up from just over 2% at the onset of the pandemic.

Incentives have pulled retirees back

With the NFC depleted of top-shelf quarterbacks, Brady was itching to get back on the field. Schultz came back because Starbucks was tanking.

Similarly, average retirees have realized they have newfound opportunities, too, thanks to the Great Resignation. They can work flexibly from home and earn cushy salary packages from companies desperate to fill labor shortages.

Others need the extra cash. Retirement requires a large nest egg, and many people want to supplement their social security checks with part-time jobs in sectors like retail.

But… the federal government is on the verge of making retirement more appealing. The Secure Act 2.0 would boost employees’ 401(k) plans.

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