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September 21, 2021

Physically demanding jobs hamper retirement prospects: report

When someone looks like they may be coming up short in reaching their retirement goal, the easiest fix – aside from boosting the expected returns or severely cutting the desired retirement income – is delaying the retirement date.

Work a couple of years longer and you should be alright, you’ll hear.

After all, what’s the big deal? We’re all living longer, you’re a knowledge worker, and you’ll miss all your friends at the office anyway.

But many workers with more physically demanding jobs simply won’t be able to work longer than they currently do.

What’s worse, writes John Leland in the New York Times, is that workers with blue collar jobs are likely to have been employed much longer to begin with than people their age with less labour-intensive jobs.

It figures. If you go straight from high school to the workforce, you're getting at least a four-year head start on those who finish a bachelor's degree before starting full-time work – and that’s a lot of wear and tear.

A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 punches in at a physically demanding job. And while this is U.S. data, it’s hard to see why the situation here would be much different.

In all, the researchers found that 45 per cent of older workers held such difficult jobs. “For janitors, nurses’ aides, plumbers, cashiers, waiters, cooks, carpenters, maintenance workers and others, postponing retirement age may mean squeezing more out of a declining body,” Leland observes.

For 60-year-old Peter Mamolis, the story has a happy ending, however. After working in a restaurant as a cook his entire adult life, the relentless stress and hectic pace of restaurant work took its toll on his health, and he had to get out.

But a year later, he had to sign on for a retraining program for older workers, eventually landing a job as a cook at a prep school. He’s working and, according to reports, is happy – which makes him one of the lucky ones … but for how long?

Are you working in a ‘tough’ job? Can you see yourself there well into your 60s? If not, what’s the plan?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...