Older workers - those over the age of 65 - don't get much attention from researchers or the media. The reason is pretty straight forward. Historically the vast majority of older people were not in the workforce.
But that's changing. Over the last decade the workforce participation rate for Americans 65+ has consistently risen even as the overall workforce participation rate has fallen to levels not seen in several decades.
Increased longevity, better health and financial need are the primary drivers of the increases. And now that baby boomers are entering this life stage, expect to see even greater numbers of workers past the age of 65.
To better understand this age group, as part of the MBO Partners State of Independence study we surveyed and interviewed a group of independent workers (self-employed, independent consultants, freelancers, etc.) aged 67 and older. We chose 67+ because the oldest baby boomers are 66 and we wanted to exclude the boomers from this study.
Some of the findings of the research include:
There are about 1.35 million Mature independent workers in the U.S: This is about 8% of all independent workers. We expect this percentage to grow as aging baby boomers enter this age cohort.
Mature independents are highly satisfied with independent work: 89% said they were either highly satisfied (80%) or satisfied (9%) with independent work. Only 3% said they were dissatisfied.
Mature independents plan to stay independent or retire: 77% plan to continue working independently over the next 2-3 years and 14% plan to retire. Only 4% plan to seek full or part-time traditional employment.
Mature independents often did not choose independence: 50% of matures chose independence versus 58% of non-matures. Also interesting is 26% said job loss played a part in them becoming independent versus 19% for non-matures.
Most are not working due to financial need: Only 24% reported working because they had to for financial reasons. 38% reported they worked because they wanted to and 26% said they became independent because they had the financial security to do so.
Our interviews with Matures provide some more details. Like younger independents, Matures value the freedom, flexibility and control independence provides.
Most (54%) report working less than 35 hours per week (to be included in the study respondents had to work, on average, 15 hours per week or more) and in interviews tell us they often take multiple vacations a year.
But a major difference is their view of their job and career options.
While most independent workers tell us they are confident they could get a traditional job, few Matures tell us that. The vast majority of Matures believe companies will not hire them in traditional jobs and their only choice is independent work.
They also tell us even if companies were willing to hire them, they wouldn't want to work on the employment terms required by most companies.
We'll have more on Mature independents in the coming months as we finalize our research.