What Recovery? Two Thirds of Middle-Age Workers Say They Can't Afford to Retire

An increasing number of Americans plan to work well into their golden years.

Elderly woman looks sad

Older workers may become an increasing drag on some businesses, as their salaries and insurance rates tend to be higher.

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The share of American workers who plan to delay retirement has grown dramatically in just two years, according to a new report.

In 2012, 62 percent of 45-to 60-year-olds reported plans to delay retirement, up from just 42 percent in 2010, according to survey results from the Conference Board, a business membership and research group. Survey respondents cited declines in home prices, job losses, and salary reductions all as factors in delaying retirement. Fully 62 percent of respondents last year said the loss of work or salary contributed to the delay, compared to 48 percent in 2010. Likewise, 62 percent cited a decline in housing values, up from 42 percent in 2010.

In addition, factors such as increasing life spans and an increase in the Social Security retirement age are likely also contributing to workers' plans to retire later.

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That may portend a poorer quality of life for older Americans, as they feel themselves forced to work well into their golden years. It also may mean troubles for younger workers hoping to advance their careers.

"I do hear anecdotally from companies that the promotion lines are a bit logged, and it's hard to promote younger people to senior positions," says Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board and one of the report's authors.

In addition, he says, older workers may be a drag on some business' bottom lines, as they tend to be more expensive both to employ and to insure.

Still, it is easy to overestimate the detrimental economic effects of an aging workforce. For example, there is not yet overwhelming evidence that a glut of older workers is pushing out younger workers and contributing to unemployment, says Levanon.

[READ: 12 Ways to Increase Your Social Security Payments]

In addition, in some industries, older employees remaining on the payrolls may be a net positive.

"In some cases I think it's even good, because in some industries, there's a large concentration of older workers" who are very necessary to operations, he says. He points to power and utility companies as examples of places that may experience a "brain drain" if older workers retire before enough skilled young workers come in to take their places.

Though the uptick in workers planning on delaying retirement has accelerated, it is also important to note that the trend of delaying retirement has been going on for more than a decade. The report notes that the share of people age 55 and older who are working has grown steadily, from around 12 percent in the mid-1990s to around 22 percent today.

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