More people keep working after 'retirement' age

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014

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The traditional retirement party at 65 is a relic, as more than two in five pensioners under 70 are still working.

Census data shows 40 per cent of 65 to 69-year-olds and 21 per cent of 70 to 74-year olds remained in fulltime or part-time employment in 2013. The numbers have jumped significantly from the previous census in 2006.

Even before the recent jump, New Zealand had one of the highest employment rates of 65 to 69-year-olds in the OECD.

Labour finance spokesman David Parker said more Kiwis voluntarily working past the age of NZ Super eligibility "compellingly" demonstrated the time had come to raise the age eligibility.

"The spend on NZ Super has gone up from $7.4 billion to $10.3 billion since the Government took office. It's becoming out of whack and we need to ensure the sustainability of superannuation."

Labour said last year that if it got into power it would lift the minimum age from 65 to 67.

It would be phased in over six years, increasing by two months at a time from 2020.

From 1992, a rise in the age of NZ Super eligibility from 60 to 65 was phased in over 10 years.

The party would also introduce an equivalent welfare payment to support those unable to work in their normal occupation over 65, such as labourers, Mr Parker said.

Senior Citizens Minister Jo Goodhew said it was important to allow over 65s to choose whether to retire or continue working.

Grey Power president Roy Reid said his organisation could support Labour's move, providing there was a safety net for older workers in physical professions. "There are people who even struggle to work at 60, let alone 65."

Mr Reid said there were several factors in the choice to keep working.

"The first one is definitely financial. Secondly, there are people who reach the age of 65 and are fit and well and quite capable of work and do choose to carry on. A lot of them go part-time, maybe four days' work a week."

Ms Goodhew said a few more years in the workplace could also put retirees in a stronger financial position, especially as Kiwis were living longer, though healthier lives.

A report issued by the Ministry of Social Development said a labour and skills shortage was a major factor in increasing employment levels for over 65s, which have been on the rise since 2002.

At the same time, pensioners have also seen a large rise in their annual wealth.

The average earnings of people aged over 65 was $20,900 - up more than $5000 annually from 2006.

 

Still in Harness

43 per cent of Wellingtonians aged 65 to 69 worked. On average, they earned $27,800 last year, almost 50 per cent more than in 2006.

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20 per cent of Wellingtonians aged 70 and over were employed. Last year, they earned a median income of $21,900, up almost 30 per cent from 2006 data.

NZ Super pays $21,336 to a single person living alone and for couples $16,137 per person.

 

Case Study: Bruce sees no reason to stop work

Pastor and telecommunications specialist Bruce Harding hasn't bowed out of the working game - but he has taken a step back.

Like 130,000 other Kiwis, Mr Harding, of Johnsonville, continued working past his 65th birthday, then a year ago decided to become a part-time consultant, primarily for his last employer, TeamTalk.

"I love the industry. You get this lifetime of experience and it seems a shame to not do anything with it at all.

"When I turned 65 I got my Gold Card, and nothing much else happened."

On top of part-time work, the 67-year-old is chairman of a mobile radio network industry group and runs a national bible study organisation. "I've got three strings to my bow now - I've probably been busier than I've ever been."

- The Dominion Post

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