Working too long carries risk

Latest book by pension guru examines the uncertainties of retirement

By Betsy Butler, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

April 18, 2024 – While many believe that working longer makes up for inadequate retirement savings and lessens future financial strains, this approach doesn’t take into account several realities, such as the potential harm to one’s health, limitations of lower-wage occupations and the cost of overlooking well-being in later life, with less time to enjoy the well-earned satisfaction, increased free time and rest that all workers deserve.

While it’s true that working for a few extra years can appreciably increase your OPERS pension, the general concept of laboring longer hasn’t solved our retirement crisis; it’s made it worse, economist Teresa Ghilarducci suggests in her new book, “Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy.”

The majority of older Americans are either retired but living below the standard of living they achieved in their working years, or are still working because they can’t afford to retire – often in much lower-paying jobs that can strain their health. What’s more, 30 percent of Americans lack any retirement savings.

Rather than raising the retirement age or cutting pension benefits, Ghilarducci offers an alternative: a Gray New Deal that supports older workers by improving jobs, maintains their living standards and boosts retirement security. Establishing an Older Workers’ Bureau at the Department of Labor could help steer and support efforts to promote better-paying, age-appropriate work for older Americans. Improved job training and antidiscrimination policies would make a difference in ensuring that seniors are working by choice rather than necessity.

A proponent of defined benefit plans, Ghilarducci believes that workers with traditional, annuity-based pensions that are guaranteed for life experience longer, healthier retirements than do those who either have a defined contribution plan or no retirement savings plan at all. Her plan also proposes to boost pensions through guaranteed retirement accounts, state-sponsored automatic individual retirement plans and other incentives to help people achieve retirement security.

In the meantime, Ghilarducci suggests ways we can live with our current system. For example, we should plan either to maintain our current living standards or to live modestly in retirement. To determine how much money you need to retire, decide whether you would like to maintain your current living standards or to live modestly in retirement. Then, save, invest and work so that you have 10 to 11 times your target spending in retirement. This should cover about 23 years of retirement, Ghilarducci believes.

Beyond a defined-benefit pension, ways to make your retirement more secure include creating a budget to determine how much you are spending, how much you need to spend, and on what you can stop spending. Continue saving for emergencies, ideally increasing your budget by 10 percent.

Also, project how your ideal life would look when you’re no longer working. Protect your increased free time from others’ needs. Establish a routine and a new identity, and determine what would give the most meaning to your new life.

Betsy Butler

Betsy Butler is the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System’s knowledge and issues strategist, researching information on pensions, retirement and health care. Betsy came to OPERS in 2009 after working as a special collections librarian for two OPERS employers: the Ohio History Connection and Miami University.

Betsy Butler

Knowledge & Issues Strategist

4 thoughts on “Working too long carries risk

  • April 18, 2024 at 12:02 pm

    I agree with the author wholeheartedly. I retired at age 54 after 31 years in my opers pension. I have never regretted leaving.

  • May 1, 2024 at 2:41 pm

    This would be great if PERS didn’t change the rules on my after I started. I was invested, then the rules changed, and I got moved to group C. When I started I had insurance paid for, available for me and my family free or a very low cost, and I would be out with 100% with 30 years in. I now have 29 years in and don’t get to go out for another 7 years! I started when I was 18 and now I get to do extra time! So much for me and my family planning I could be done early. I have so much more time in then other co-workers and they get to retire with a lot less time invested. So I get to support them now.

    • May 6, 2024 at 9:17 am


      The changes the Ohio General Assembly made in 2012 that created the groups were necessary to preserve the retirement fund for all OPERS members. There were some people who did have to work longer to reach the unreduced pension benefit. Extra years worked can greatly increase the monthly pension benefit.

  • May 6, 2024 at 8:53 am

    I think many workers are still working longer because of the costs and worries about healthcare. It has kept me working longer than I had to, though the added years helped with the Plan’s monthly healthcare costs. The worry of not having enough to live on for the rest of your life is big.


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