Retirement: A Change Of Plans

Owners and employees face rising age of retirement.

The economy has made it harder for business owners to part from their businesses, and the gases and welding industry is no exception to this trend. When Welding & Gases Today spoke to members for the 2011 Business Forecast, several business owners said they couldn’t even think about taking a vacation. Where business owners are hard-pressed to take leave from their companies, the thought of retirement is quickly becoming remote.

Welding & Gases Today Survey
How is the rising age of retirement impacting the gases and welding industry? Read the results of the Welding & Gases Today survey in the follow-up article, “Retirement Survey: The Results Are In.”

A recent survey by Gallup/Wells Fargo points to the rising age of retirement for small business owners. Not only is the age of retirement going up, but increasingly, owners say they may never retire—at least not until forced to do so for health reasons. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed responded as such, up from relatively steady numbers of 38 and 40 percent in 2005 and 2007 respectively.

For those who do plan to retire, the numbers speak for themselves: 69 percent of respondents said they don’t expect to retire before 65, a significant increase from 2005, when only 41 percent planned to stick around as long. And the “older” in “65 and older” may be going up as well. According to the Social Security Administration, only those born before 1938 can receive full social security benefits at age 65. The normal retirement age is 66 for anyone born between 1943 and 1954, and progresses to 67 for those born after 1960. Even in the past three weeks, the Senate has debated raising the retirement age even further.

A Young Man’s Game
As the economy forces many employees to stick around longer than they originally planned, the gases and welding industry faces a unique challenge. Given the physical nature of many of the tasks an employee performs, from driving trucks to handling cylinders, staying hands-on becomes increasingly difficult as employees age. In “Behind the Wheel” (Welding & Gases Today, Spring 2010), Keith Lafemina, store manager at Arcet Equipment Company (Richmond, VA) told WGT about finding truck drivers, “Unfortunately, in our business, it’s a young man’s game hustling those heavy cylinders.”

Despite the challenge, some companies simply do not have younger employees to take over for experienced truck drivers. Says one owner, “It is a young man’s game, and we all sit around at drivers’ meetings getting gray hair and talking about how it’s a young man’s game, but in the end, it’s the middle-aged guys who are getting it done.”

Can’t Buy Me Love
The economy has caused many business owners to change their retirement plans—60 percent of those polled, according to Gallup/Wells Fargo. There are many obstacles making it harder to retire, ranging from social security and lost investments to being understaffed. But when owners were asked what they would do if money were no object, 51 percent said they would continue working, and another 18 percent said they would start another business. When it comes down to it, there are many reasons to keep working—but perhaps none is better than loving what you do.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association