A significant number of older workers 50 or older, 44%, have decided to delay their retirement age, and 34% overall have upped their target date for leaving the workforce, Watson Wyatt found in a February survey of 2,200 employees. By comparison, only 25% of those under age 40 have changed their plans for years in the workforce.

Nonetheless, among all workers 65 is still the average age at which they expect to retire.

Among the older workers, when asked what factors have impacted their decision to delay retirement, 76% said declining 401(k) balances, followed by 63% citing high healthcare costs and 62% pointing to high costs of living.

“The economic crisis has affected many workers’ retirement plans and nest eggs, but those nearest to retirement have been especially hard hit,” said Dvid Speier, senior retirement consultant at Watson Wyatt. “Older workers do not have the time to offset declining retirement account values, either by recouping their investment losses or significantly increasing their savings rate. For many, the only choice is to delay retirement.”

With older workers remaining on the job longer, that could present hiring issues for employers along with higher benefits costs, noted Lisa Canafax, another senior retirement consultant at Watson Wyatt. For that reason, employers might want to reconsider defined benefit plans.

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