More older women are returning to work or continuing in jobs for a variety of reasons, including retirement-savings shortfalls and surprise expenses.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of working women age 55 and older rose 4.2 percent over the past year to 17.4 million, compared with a 1.8 percent rise for all women and a 3.3 percent increase for men 55 and older. Women represent 47 percent of workers in the 55-and-up bracket.

The BLS projects the labor force participation rate of 55- to 64-year-old women will climb to 62.9 percent in 2024, compared with 51.9 percent in 2000. For women age 65 and older, it projects this rate to reach 18.4 percent in 2024, compared with 9.4 percent in 2000.

Financial demands prompt many older women to seek jobs. Others choose to work to stay active, achieve professional goals or fulfill dreams they put on the backburner while caring for their families.

Less than 10 percent of Presley Wealth Management’s women clients who return to work have to financially, said Christy Smith, the founder and principal of the Baton Rouge-area firm. Their situations have often changed in a way they didn’t anticipate, she said, and the number one reason is they have to support grandchildren.

One client, a 63-year-old widow, has been raising three grandchildren since her daughter got divorced, became deeply depressed and started taking drugs. The client took a job answering phones at a local insurance company. “Never in her planning process did she think she’d be raising grandkids,” said Smith. Fortunately, Louisiana’s TOPS scholarship program might fully cover tuition and books at the state’s community colleges and smaller public colleges, noted Smith.

She is helping another client, a hair stylist and salon owner who wants to become a motivational speaker, figure out how much she can afford to spend on training, advertising and travel for her new career. The client is joining organizations to help her build credentials and she plans to work from home.

Several months ago, a 52-year-old widow came to see Smith. The woman paid off her home and debt using her late husband’s work-sponsored 401(k) plan and life insurance policy. “Now she has to go back to work to build a plan for herself,” said Smith. Another client who is 10 years younger than her husband is returning to work so the couple will have health insurance if he retires.

Smith stressed that couples should work together on financial planning and create a back-up plan. Women, who tend to live longer, should look at their Social Security retirement benefits, debt and monthly expenses (factoring in inflation), guaranteed income (such as pension payments and annuities), health care costs and taxes, she said.

Establishing higher Social Security benefits is one reason women return to work, said John Hagensen, the founder and managing director of Keystone Wealth Partners in Arizona and North Dakota. A minimum 40 work credits (10 years of work) is needed to qualify. The Social Security Administration calculates benefits by averaging an individual’s highest 35 years of earnings.

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