More older women are returning to work or continuing in their jobs past retirement age for a variety of reasons. They might run into shortfalls in their retirement savings, for one thing, and they also face 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% over the past year to 17.4 million, compared with a 1.8% rise for all women and a 3.3% increase for men 55 and older. Women represent 47% of workers in the 55-and-up bracket.

The BLS projects that the labor force participation rate of 55- to 64-year-old women will climb to 62.9% in 2024, compared with 51.9% in 2000. For women age 65 and older, it projects that this rate will reach 18.4% in 2024, compared with 9.4% 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 back burner while caring for their families.

One of the firms that has seen older female clients return to work is Louisiana firm Presley Wealth Management, in the Baton Rouge area. Less than 10% of the firm’s female clients returned to work because they had to for financial reasons, said Christy Smith, the firm’s founder. But for those that did, their situations have often changed in ways they didn’t anticipate, she said, and the number one reason is they have to support grandchildren.

One of her clients, 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, Smith said.

Several months ago, a 52-year-old widow came to see Smith. The woman had 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 backup 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.

Another reason women return to work is to establish higher Social Security benefits, said John Hagensen, the founder and managing director of Keystone Wealth Partners in Arizona and North Dakota. It takes a certain amount of earnings to qualify for benefits, based on a credit system (you must earn $1,360 per credit, get four credits per year, and work a minimum of 10 years, for a total of 40 credits). The Social Security Administration calculates benefits by averaging an individual’s highest 35 years of earnings.

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