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The Widener University 'Elder Pennsylvanian Survey' Finds Pennsylvania's Baby Boomers Anticipate Working Longer, Retiring Later to Help Offset Looming Health Care Costs

CHESTER, Pa., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --- According to data from the 2000 US Census, Pennsylvania's population ranks among the second oldest in the United States behind Florida. Widener University, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, recently released "The Widener Elder Pennsylvanian Survey," aimed at investigating the outlook of this demographic. The survey talked to baby boomers and centenarians about their attitudes toward their futures, work, wealth, and health issues. Overall, Pennsylvanians are very worried about health care expenses destroying their retirement nest eggs. In fact, 67 percent of respondents fear they will spend all of their savings on health care. Other key findings indicate Pennsylvania boomers are concerned about the following:

-- Greater anxiety over medical benefits than their elders faced.

-- Living longer and retiring later, also expecting more flexibility in the workplace.

-- Emotional and financial dimensions that factor into the decision to retire.

-- Increased personal responsibility in planning their retirement outcomes.

Pennsylvania baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, who are aged 43 to 61, reported increased anxiety about health care costs, which indicates that both the state and local governments will face an important challenge in the future. A staggering sixty-six percent of working individuals were either "very worried" (21 percent) or "somewhat worried" (45 percent) about spending all their money on health care. In fact, 78 percent of the workers "agree" or "strongly agree" that they continue to work just to maintain medical benefits. In addition, those who are in "poor health" are much more likely to be "very worried" (40 percent) than those who classify their health as "excellent" (15 percent).

"From changing attitudes towards retirement, to growing boomer anxieties over health care, the statistics uncovered in the first installment of this survey are significant in uncovering the challenges boomers face," remarks Dr. Eric Brucker, professor of economics at Widener University and principle investigator of the survey. "The attitudes and trends revealed in our survey are relevant not only to other aging baby boomers, but to the state, local governments, and employers alike."

A little over half of boomers (52 percent) indicate that they plan to retire at or before age 65, compared with the majority of their elders, (82 percent) who report being retired before age 65. Pennsylvania boomers plan to work longer than their elders but they also expect more flexibility in the workplace. A reported 42 percent of those working would hope to phase out their full-time job by working fewer hours. Other boomers (70 percent) see working part-time, or being self-employed, as a transition strategy. Shockingly, 25 percent of all those working expressed an interest in never retiring.

"This statistic is especially pertinent to Pennsylvania's employers and public policy makers, and will impact new employer strategies as boomers plan to extend their working lives," says Brucker. "In addition, as the state plans for future aging, it will need to anticipate the trend of older retirement."

The survey also reveals a shift when and why elders chose to retire. Retirement has evolved into a decision that takes into account both emotional and financial factors. This survey reveals many boomers in early retirements are associated with poorer health and a lesser sense of emotional well being. Ninety-seven percent of non-retired workers age 62 to 70 and 86 percent of working boomers reported that their emotional well-being was either "very good" or "excellent." Conversely, only 63 percent of the retired boomers and 78% of those boomers over age 70 reported "excellent" or "very good" emotional well-being.

As defined contribution plans continue to grow and traditional employer provided lifetime pensions are steadily decreasing, boomers are feelings an increased pressure to manage their own retirement sayings plans. The majority of non-retired people (92 percent) have defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, while only 63 percent of those currently retired do. Nearly half of boomers who had not retired had developed a plan (48 percent), while only 34 percent of the retired group had developed a financial plan with specific goals for retirement, indicating an increased understanding in the need to plan.

"As trends shift away from employer provided plans and health insurance, personal responsibility becomes even more pressing," said Dr. Brucker. "I would urge all boomers who haven't made a plan to address these issues do so as soon as possible."

Brucker has served as a dean at four different universities, including Widener's School of Business Administration, and currently serves on several national committees, including a task force sponsored by the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), and a task force sponsored by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) Office of Academic Affairs. He received his doctorate from Duke University and his undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware. In the second volume, which will be released in the spring of 2008, Brucker will specifically research the health care and health insurance concerns of elder Pennsylvanians.

About the Survey

The information in this release is based on survey research conducted by Dr. Eric Brucker, professor of economics at Widener University. Brucker is the principle investigator on a Pennsylvania Financial Gerontology Survey funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, as well as co-author of "The Widener Elder Pennsylvanian Survey: Baby Boomers to Centenarians Volume 1." The telephonic survey, conducted in cooperation with Mathew Greenwald and Associates, was undertaken in May 2007 and was restricted to 750 randomly selected Pennsylvanians who were at least 43 years old--the youngest of the "baby boom" generation. The findings from the first volume are the first in a series of four.

About Widener University

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate's, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,700 students. Visit the university website,

SOURCE Widener University
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