More Montanans putting retirement on hold - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

More Montanans putting retirement on hold

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BILLINGS - It's doesn't take long to realize Lori Stepper has a routine, the kind built from being in the U.S. Army.

That routine -- and the will to get things done -- has her becoming another statistic. She turns 65 next month and will join 164,000 other Montanans 65 and older, and wiser, still in the workforce.

“Some people ask 'How old are you?' I'm 64 right now. They say, 'Don't you want to retire or something?' No. Why? What would I do? Sit home and be by myself? Do nothing?"

Stepper works 39 hours a week at the Billings YMCA. She walks to work every day, and the weather is never a factor for her.  At an age where most people are considering retirement, she doesn't want to -- and, at another level, can't -- stop working yet.

"I waited until I was in my mid-40s, maybe even late 40s until I started saving. I thought, 'I'm going to have to retire in a little while. I think I should start saving some money.'"

Montana ranks fourth in the nation with 6% of the overall labor force falling into that category.

"In fact, about 19 percent of people who are over 65 remain in the labor market and continue to work," said Barbara Wagner, chief economist for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

There are nine million seniors nationwide who work today as compared to just four million in 2000, according to a recent report from Washington Post.

There are endless reasons as to why that number has more than doubled in less than two decades – shrinking Social Security benefits, a major recession, and the standard of living are just to name a few.

At the workforce center in Billings, consultant John Rife says the Baby Boomer population has plenty of offer employers.

"A lot of employers would love to have an older worker come in," Rife said. "They'll show up on time, they'll be drug-free, they'll be conscientious and honest. They'll be good with the customers. There are a lot of older employers that would love to see 60-to-70-year-old workers come in for part-time work."

Montana's labor force over 55 is also growing by nearly 4,000 people per year.

The state faces a worker shortage in the coming years as people retire, but Baby Boomers staying in the workforce can help fill those gaps.

"There's also other factors," said Wagner. "Certainly with those retirements, we have to think of succession planning and making sure that some of your mid-level managers are getting enough training to fill those higher-level jobs. Also, in terms of Montana's economy, there's increased demand for certain services for retirees."

For Lori, she's retiring thoughts of retirement for now, "I guess an age is just a number. Why can't I work if I'm still able to? It's important to do something."

You can find job opportunities here.

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