In February of this year, Time Magazine reported on 51-year old Rebecca Wells, a government auditor for the county of Los Angeles who died at her desk and, according to an anonymous co-worker quoted by the magazine was always working, always working. Wells' morbid end was made even more disconcerting by the fact no one noticed she was dead until late into the afternoon of the next day.
If a new survey by Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) is to be taken at face value, a quarter of Americans aspire to, like Wells, stay on the job even after they have died.
Twenty-five percent of respondents to the survey termed middle-class Americans said they expect to work until they are 80 in order to be able to retire comfortably. The current life expectancy in the United States is 78.1 years on average, meaning those respondents expect to work full-time two years longer than most people live.
As astonishing as the fact that one in four Americans won't even let a pink slip from the Grim Reaper mark an end to their careers is the fact that nearly three-fourths of the survey respondents also said they expect to keep working in some form even after retiring. Seventy-four percent of the people interviewed for the study said they expect to keep working after retiring from their full-time careers, most of them in order to to make ends meet or maintain their lifestyles.
The fact that the vast majority of middle class Americans expect to work well past the traditional retirement age has significant societal and economic implications, Joe Ready, director of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust said in a statement. Will people be physically and mentally able to work later in life? What will it mean for young people entering the workforce? And, how does our system of retirement savings need to be reformed to help reduce the savings gap?
As if to explain why Americans believed they would need to work so many years in order to retire, the survey also found three in ten people (29 percent) in their 60s have saved less than $25,000 for retirement. That amount was less than a tenth of the $350,000 median figure respondents indicated as the ideal cash amount to have stowed away at retirement.
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from the study, however, might be the cavalier, almost jolly, resignation it found among those most financially distraught about their future. When asked if they agreed with the statement I plan to enjoy life now and I'm not worried about retirement/tomorrow, the majority of respondents earning less than $25,000 (57 percent to be exact), agreed. Only 26 percent of those earning $100,000 or more felt the same way.