Joe Biden re-election announcement highlights ongoing problem of ageism towards older workers: Sarah Coles

This week Joe Biden announced that he’s running for a second term as President. He’s already the oldest American President in history at the age of 80, and if he wins, by the end of his term, he’ll be 86.

Meanwhile, we’re getting ready to crown a King who was fresh to the job last year at the age of 73. And while these are pretty extreme examples of later-life working, we’re all increasingly likely to end up working well beyond our mid-60s.

If this is part of your plans, you need to go into it with your eyes open.

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The proportion of those who are still in work at the age of 65 and beyond tends to fluctuate, but has been trending upwards.

U.S. President Joe Biden takes questions from children during an event marking Take Your Child To Work Day April 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)U.S. President Joe Biden takes questions from children during an event marking Take Your Child To Work Day April 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden takes questions from children during an event marking Take Your Child To Work Day April 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Throughout the 1990s around 5 per cent of this group worked, by 2014 it crossed into 10 per cent, and in February this year it hit 11.6 per cent - the third highest this figure has been since records began.

This owes an awful lot to the rise in the state pension age, because millions of us can’t afford to stop work until this kicks in. Right now, it has hit 66 and the hikes are set to continue.

Between 2026 and 2028 the state pension age will gradually shift to age 67.

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At the moment, a rise to 68 is planned for between 2044 and 2046, but although plans to accelerate this have been shelved for the time being, we can’t rule them out entirely.

This is by design, because the population is ageing, and the government is wrestling with the implications. In the 2021 Census, there were over 11 million people aged 65 and over.

This included more than half a million aged 90 or over. Those over the age of 65 now make up 18.6 per cent of the population compared to 16.4 per cent a decade earlier.

Without people working later and receiving their state pensions later, it would mean too few workers paying the state pensions of retirees.

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In fact, even with the changes to state pension age, data from the ONS shows the old-age-dependency ratio - the number of people of pensionable age for every 1,000 people of working age - is projected to increase from 280 in mid-2020 to 341 by mid-2045.

It means the pressure remains on the government to keep bumping up state pension ages and keeping us in work for longer.

For many people this means facing the reality of working later in life. And as Biden will attest, a large part of that will include grappling with ageism.

Almost half of those who are against Biden running cite age as a factor, and an estimated one in three people who are over the age of 50 say they have faced ageism at work.

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They say it impacts their ability to find a new job after this age, and to gain promotion in their current role.

And while it’s a protected characteristic, and employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age, there’s clearly a huge gulf between the rules and people’s real experiences.

If you stay on at work, you may also need to adapt your work as you age. It may mean working fewer hours, and most people who work after reaching the age of 65 will have reduced their hours or moved into a part time role. On average they work for 21.7 hours a week.

It may mean moving into a different role, especially if your job requires physical work or can’t be accommodated on a part-time basis. It may even mean moving industry. We know, for example, people aged 65 and over are around three times more likely to work in health and social care or retail than they are to work in hospitality. In some instances, this means you may need to retrain, or reconsider what your working life looks like.

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Working later isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. An awful lot depends on the kind of work, and whether you’re doing it because you want to or because you can’t afford not to work, but the right role for the right reasons can help boost your social connections as well as your mental and physical health.

However, not everyone is this lucky. There are some who are desperate to stop work, but can’t afford to, for whom it can damage their physical and mental wellbeing.

There are also those who would love to work, who simply can’t. This may be because they’re not well enough, or because they need to care for someone and cannot manage to juggle work and care.

It means that when we contemplate our prospects post 65, we need to consider the implications if we have to work into our late 60s.

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It’s worth considering what you want to do at that age, and what you’re best suited for.

Planning ahead can help ensure you have the skills you need, and you can start moving in that direction, so you’re not faced with a career change out of the blue.

It also gives you the chance to do something you don’t actually mind doing in later life – rather than being forced to stick with a job you’re already barely tolerating.

We also have to consider the implications if we can’t work later. It’s worth checking where you’d stand if you were too ill. This includes looking at what you might get from your employer, in terms of sick leave and income protection. If it’s nothing to write home about you may need to consider personal cover – although this comes at quite a cost. You also need to think about your pension, whether you could make it stretch, and whether you can afford to boost contributions to put you in a better position further down the line.

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Because while the thought of running a country in your mid 80s may strike you as the last thing you’d want to do when you get older, the thought of living off a vastly reduced income because you need to work and you can’t manage it isn’t terribly appealing either.

Beware cost-of-living scammers

Eight million families who claim Universal Credit have started receiving £301 cost-of-living payments this week. The first arrived on Tuesday and payments will continue until May 17.

Unfortunately, each time these payments are sent out, scammers use the opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting victims. They’ll send emails or texts, pretending to be from HMRC or The Department of Work and Pensions, and claiming they need your bank account details in order to make a payment. This is purely a ruse to get hold of your valuable details.

In reality you don’t need to do anything. Payments will arrive automatically in your account if you’re eligible.

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HMRC and the DWP have made it very clear that they won’t be contacting people, and they won’t ask for any details, so any message you get claiming to be from them will be fraudulent.

If you haven’t had a payment yet, it may still be on the way. And if you get tax credits, your payments will arrive between May 2 and 9, so don’t assume you need to act if you haven’t had anything.

Sarah Coles is Head of Personal Finance and Podcast Host for Switch Your Money On at Hargreaves Lansdown