Working Longer, Staying Stronger

By Kristen Consillio The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The baby boomer generation -- the oldest now entering their 70s and the youngest in their early 50s -- are working past the traditional retirement age, many of them out of necessity.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Debbie Morikawa found her passion after becoming an entrepreneur at the age of 58, following a lengthy career in the private and public sectors.

The former director of the Institute for Human Services, Cabinet member for Mufi Hannemann and head of human resources for the parent company of Island Movers, is among the 17 percent of residents between the ages of 50 to 64 who start their own businesses -- double the rate of younger people, according to a study by the AARP. (Only 8 percent of those 25 to 49 are entrepreneurs.)

After decades working for other people, Morikawa started a mobile personal training franchise, GymGuyz, in June to stay in the workforce longer.

"I thought I was just too young to retire," she said. "I do need to work in the sense that you just don't know what the situation's going to be. You never know whether or not you're going to have enough savings. The cost of living goes up, sometimes you have medical conditions. Sometimes there's just a change in your lifestyle."

Redefining retirement age The baby boomer generation -- the oldest now entering their 70s and the youngest in their early 50s -- are working past the traditional retirement age, many of them out of necessity.

"They are not living the same life as their parents. Their lives are generally more active. They tend to start businesses later in life," according to AARP's national Longevity Economy report. "Some like working and continue to work in their jobs or find new careers. Some are forced to continue working as long as they can because they didn't have access to traditional retirement plans like pensions and didn't save enough."

In Hawaii, workers 50 and older earned $20.5 billion in 2015 and paid 50 percent of the state and local taxes ($4.2 billion), according to AARP, estimating that the total economic impact of seniors was $33.5 billion in the islands.

"People in Hawaii want to retire in Hawaii, and that is going to take money," said Barbara Kim Stanton, AARP Hawaii state director. "They need more savings than they have normally. Hawaii always had one of the longest-working populations because we are such a high-cost-of-living state. It is just the realities of the economics in Hawaii."

Seniors with buying power While seniors are 35 percent of Hawaii's population, they pay 50 percent of state and local taxes and account for 42 percent of the gross domestic product, the report said. Local consumers 50 and older spent $25.8 billion, about 57 percent of consumer spending.

Morikawa's most important reason for continuing in the workforce as a senior was finding "something that I could find passion for again."

"I had to love what I do, and I don't believe you should settle for just being in a job," she said. "You don't get as much for yourself as well as you can't give as much back. Now I have something that when I do it on day-to-day basis, it's so fulfilling."

Nationally, Americans between 55 and 64 have had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. over the last 10 years. People 50 or older started one in three businesses in the U.S.

Those seniors who remain in the labor force tend to be more highly educated and productive than their younger counterparts, according to AARP.

Locally, they are more likely to be in management and administrative support positions than younger workers. "People love to work. There's a lot of people who like to work because it is their routine. It is their social connections. It keeps their mind stimulated," Kim Stanton said.

"It's not just for economic reasons that people work. Work also gives them a purpose in life."

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