"I'd love to be sleeping in," she said, "but I will probably never retire."
Though Marion's finances are primarily what keep her working, she says she enjoys her work, in line with other survey respondents reporting exceptional job satisfaction. Nine out of 10 workers in the study said they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job.
Increased lifespans and a renewed idea of when old age begins are also fueling more work among older adults. Six in 10 people said they feel younger than their age; only 6 percent said they feel older. Respondents said the average person is old at about 72. One in 5 said it depends on the person.
Even so, one-third of retired survey respondents said they did not stop working by choice. The figures were higher within certain demographic groups: racial minorities, those with less formal education or lower household incomes were more likely to feel they had no option but to retire. Eight percent say they were forced from a job because of their age. In interviews, survey respondents cited health as well as layoffs followed by unsuccessful job searches.
David Sandersfeld, 62, of Dayville, Ore., was laid off from his park ranger job two years ago. He had hoped to stay on the job until he was 70, but his search for a new job was fruitless. So almost a decade sooner than expected, he retired.
"It came sooner than I was hoping," he said. "The economy doesn't need me, so I guess I'll just retire."
Others, like Margaret Yarborough, 86, of Scranton, S.C., had their plans thwarted by health. She had hoped to keep working as a department store sales clerk forever, but a car accident and arthritis made it impossible, so she retired a few years ago.
"I sure would like to work," she said. "I enjoy being with people. I enjoy having the income."
The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Aug. 8 through Sept. 10 by NORC at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which makes grants to support original research and whose Working Longer program seeks to expand understanding of aging Americans' work patterns.
It involved landline and cellphone interviews in English and Spanish with 1,024 people aged 50 and older nationwide. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Though a roughly equal share of survey participants reported feeling secure about their retirementsavings as feeling anxious, a significant minority gave signs of financial stress: One in 6 reported having less than $1,000 in retirement savings and 1 in 4 working respondents aren't saving for retirementoutside of Social Security. Some 12 percent of unretired people reported borrowing from a 401(k) or otherretirement plan in the past year. Though 29 percent reported at least $100,000 in savings, some find even that's not enough.
"All too often, people have a lump-sum illusion. They think, 'I have $100,000 in my 401k,' and they think, 'I'm rich,'" said Mitchell. "But it doesn't add up to much. It certainly is not going to keep them in champagne and truffles."
Dolores Gonzalez, 57, of Coalinga, Calif., expects no luxuries in retirement. She'll be happy if she can simply afford her $2,200 monthly mortgage payment. She used to think she would retire from teaching at 65; now she says she'll never stop working.
She had been strained by helping to support her parents. Now she has less than $200 in savings and she worries about sustaining herself in retirement when all she'll have is a Social Security check.
"A lot of people don't save because the cost of living is so high," she said. "Retirement is not going to be comfortable. It's going to be hard."
AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report. Matt Sedensky, an AP reporter on leave, is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a one-year fellowship at the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which joins NORC's independent research and AP journalism. The fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and supported by APME, an association of AP member newspapers and broadcast stations. Follow Matt Sedensky on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sedensky
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