Want to work after retirement age? Plan ahead.

Many people plan to work past average retirement age, by choice or by necessity. However, most people aren’t taking the steps that could increase the odds they’ll be able to do so.

When asked what people are doing to ensure they can continue working past 65, fewer than half of the employees polled in the 2019 Transamerica Retired Survey of Workers say they’re trying to stay healthy.

Similar numbers cited performing well in their current positions (43%) or keeping their job skills up to date (40%). More than 1 in 4 workers say they aren’t doing anything to ensure they remain employed longer.

The fact of the matter is that bad health, layoffs, and age discrimination can sideline many people who expect to work longer. Surveys show that anywhere from 37% to 56% of retirees leave the job market earlier than planned. That can be catastrophic for your finances and your retirement plan.

Few companies offer age-friendly policies that could keep people in the workplace longer, such as formal phased retirement programs. Even employers that have diversity and inclusion policies rarely include age as one of the demographic characteristics they’re trying to promote, a previous Transamerica survey found. Meanwhile, study after study shows that it’s much harder for older workers who lose their jobs to find new ones.

“There are all these stereotypes about older workers, and you want to be the antithesis of them,” says Laurie McCann, senior attorney for the AARP Foundation.

Workers 55 and older are more likely to be enthusiastic about, and committed to, their work than younger generations, according to a 2015 AARP poll. Older works need to put that engagement on display.

“You don’t want to be viewed as the person who’s coasting to retirement,” McCann says. “So you want to remain productive, to volunteer, and be assertive.”

Being assertive doesn’t mean talking down to younger co-workers. Instead, McCann suggests volunteering for projects and age-diverse work teams with the attitude that you have something to contribute.

Go in with the attitude, ‘I think I could add a different perspective to that team; if there’s an opportunity for me to work on it, then I would like to.’

Continue to Learn

We’re living in a world where nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to automation, and many occupations of the future haven’t been invented. So it may not be enough to be “good at what you do.” You’ll want to learn more about what your company or industry needs.

Try asking your boss or Human Resource representatives about what skills are currently hard for them to find. Stay up to date on your field’s technology, consider adding credentials, and always seek out new experiences.

Barbara Mistick, co-author of Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace and president of Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania says to attend at least one conference a year that’s outside of your field to meet new people and learn new things. She creates a plan every year for her career growth and urges others to do the same.

Keep Looking

Our social and professional circles can shrink as we age. If we want to stay engaged, we should continue to diversify our network with people of various ages and in multiple industries. Networking “can help you meet new people, build professional relationships, inspire new ways of thinking and identify career opportunities,” says Catherine Collinson, CEO, and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

Another excellent recommendation that Mistick and Collinson both agree on: create a social media presence. They recommend picking one or two avenues – LinkedIn and Twitter, for example, or Instagram – and focus your efforts there.

“You don’t have to do them all, but you can’t do none,” says Collinson.

Even if you’re happy in your current job, you should pay attention to who’s hiring, what skills are in demand, and the trends affecting your field, so you’re not caught unprepared by change.

“People are so focused on the task that they’re doing that they’re not looking up or forward,” Mistick says. “You need to plan ahead.”