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Oct 31st, 2013

Though year after year, we see studies that show just how unhappy most Americans are with their jobs, that statistic doesn’t apply to every age group, according to a new survey. Older workers are much more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than younger workers.

Why So Happy?

Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workforce study painted a picture of unhappiness in the workplace, where 70% of employees are partially or actively disengaged from their job. Only 30% of workers felt engaged, up 28% from 2012. These numbers are discouraging, considering unproductiveness causes large financial losses to any company. Despite cushy perks like free beer at work, a pool, a gym, or other amenities, most people still didn’t feel satisfied at work.

For older workers, perks don’t seem to be much of a concern. Instead, the reason why older workers are happier seems to be they simply value their own productivity. An AP-NORC survey found that 9 in 10 American workers above the age of 50 reported feeling somewhat or very satisfied with their current jobs. Despite a few reported negative aspects of working in old age, like some unwelcome age-related comments and a lack of promotions or raises, most people felt more positively than negatively about their experience.

Older Workers

6 in 10 older adults felt that more people asked them for advice because of their age, and 4 in 10 reported feeling more respected at work due to their age. Satisfaction with a job seems to increase with age, as well, likely due to an increased value in the workplace, compared to young workers, most of whom have not yet reached their career or salary goals.

Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, which is conducted with NORC at the University of Chicago, explained this change over time. "It increases with age. The older you are, the more of all these job-related benefits you're going to have."

Only 38% of young adults reported feeling deep satisfaction from their jobs, while 63% of adults aged 65 and older felt the same way, demonstrating the huge difference between workers across the age spectrum.

Working Keeps You Engaged

As Walter Whitmore of Arkansas points out, working a job can help keep you more active and engaged than you might otherwise be in retirement. "It wasn't a goal to live to do nothing. You live to accomplish things," he said. "You have to maintain that functionality or you turn into Jell-O."

The fear of needing long term care sparks a desire to stay active both mentally and physically in many American workers, who continue to delay retirement for a number of reasons. Many people retire only to return to work after months of boredom. If you plan to retire on time, make sure you have thought about how you plan to spend all of your newfound free time, otherwise you, too, might find yourself looking for a way to keep busy.

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